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My story begins 18 years ago with the Caesarean section birth of my oldest son. Prior to this, I took no medications of any kind for anything. If there was an instance I needed to swallow a pill, it posed a serious challenge as I had trouble swallowing them.

It was troublesome enough that after his birth, I requested liquid Motrin as my choice of pain medication. It did not help much, but the fear of attempting to swallow a pill was enough for me to suffer through the pain during my five-day hospital stay.

Things were different when I was sent home with 15 staples in my stomach. Although my bedroom was in the basement, I was forced to take up residence in my brother’s bedroom until my stomach healed enough for me to be able to climb the stairs. But even without the stairs, the pain was so intense that I was desperate to find relief by any necessary means.

And that is precisely what I did. I was discharged with a variety of pain medications. I chose one — Percocet. I was unaware of the addictive side effect. Had I known that the medication I chose to numb my physical pain would also become the same one I would eventually use to numb my emotional pain later down the road, I would have chosen otherwise. 

I can still remember the pain I felt from my stapled wound. It felt as if my stomach was on fire. Each time I looked at my baby boy, I knew that it was worth it, but I decided to try to find some relief. 

At first, I took half of a pill because I was unsure of how much was necessary to take away the pain. The results felt instantaneous. Immediately, the fire in my belly had been extinguished and I was grateful, grateful for this magic pill.

Not only was the burn gone, but a feeling of complete euphoria engulfed my body — engulfed, and now addicted, unbeknownst to me. But I found out soon enough. The very next day when my pain wasn’t as intense and I could have done without the magic pill, I took it anyway. And on it goes.

Chapters began to unfold into what eventually became my own personal horror story. Before I knew it, I had taken the entire bottle of a 30-pill prescription. I cannot recall in what time frame this occurred. But what I do know is that the window was way too small.

When I reached for the bottle to submerge myself in my new magical universe and found it empty, I began to panic. I did what I thought was logical. I called my doctor and asked for a refill because I was still in an enormous amount of pain and had taken them all.

At this point, I cannot recall if I was given a refill or not. However, that is irrelevant. What became relevant was the fact that I had unintentionally developed a drug addiction.

Not only was that the one thing I hated the most, but also the most detrimental. That thing I hated ultimately led me to do many more things I hated. And on it goes. I’m so thankful the addiction ended before the addiction ended me.

Paul’s struggle in the Bible provides great inspiration for me because it demonstrates that although he was one of the great leaders, he battled the same afflictions as the rest of us. Paul was only human, and it’s helpful to see this side of someone God chose to help fulfill his purpose. 

Paul understood that if he could stand against his flesh, his body would be quickened at the coming of Christ. He also understood that the riches of God promised for him in heaven far outweighed his earthly pleasures. This should serve as our example, but this is much easier said than done. My own experiences are definitive proof of this fact. 

Many more times than I would care to admit, my actions were not aligned with the will of God. I lived after my flesh. I lived in sin for my own reasons, which at times seemed logical, yet at other times, illogical and irresponsible. 

Regretfully, as ignorant as it was, I was still not ready to begin my spiritual journey and develop a relationship with my Creator. Unfortunately for me, I chose to continue down the wrong one. I never took the time out to pause when I reached the fork in my road. I honestly gave it no thought at all. I continued until that road became a hill and I descended downward inevitably hitting rock bottom.

Luckily, I was favored enough to be picked up and dusted off like the hurting child that I was. I was then carried by strong arms and gently sat down. Set down in the confines of a much safer place where He would have my undivided attention: the correctional center where I have resided for the past 14 years of my life. He spoke to me, told me to get up and fight because I had now hit rock bottom and there was nowhere to go but up. Not raised to be a quitter, I got up. Stood up and brushed my knees off. It was time.

Some think me strange when I say I am grateful for my incarceration. At a low moment in my life, I was unaware that my thoughts were my problem. I am now blessed in knowing how to allow the enemy to remain an enemy. Blessed to know that my ally is the Ultimate Physician. He heals all because He knows all. My advice is to keep Paul’s struggle in mind. Change your thoughts, change your circumstances. 

Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.

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Chanell Burnette

Chanell Burnette is a writer incarcerated in Virginia.