How Prison Helped Get Me Sober

How Prison Helped Get Me Sober - Page 2

By Seth Ferranti 06/21/12

I was a privileged kid from Virginia when a single joint pointed me down a path of drug dealing, addiction and a 25-year stretch behind bars. It was in federal prison, of all places, where I finally found sobriety.

Ferranti made the U.S. Marshals Most Wanted

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I spent the next decade getting high. Drugs became my one comfort, the one way to face a 25-year sentence. I bought marijuana, I smoked it, I chased after it every day. And I never considered myself a drug addict. I never used needles, and didn't even like to have my blood taken. To me, drug addicts were junkies or crackheads. All I did was smoke some weed. But marijuana controlled my life.

Then something happened. I was 31 years old, and I just woke up one day and decided I wasn't going to be an addict any more. There was no triggering event, no Great Awakening or sudden epiphany or even a profound wake-up call. I just made the decision to resume my life, which had been in suspended animation since I started using at age 13. I wanted to become my own master.

10 years later, I’m still in prison, but I have been clean and sober since that day in 2002. I still think about getting and or drunk. I have had plenty of chances. Drugs are still not hard to find in prisons. 

In recovery, I have earned three college degrees—Associates, Bachelors and Masters. I have authored four books with more on the way, founded a publishing house and a popular blog, had hundreds of articles published in magazines. I have gotten married to my longtime girlfriend, and I’ve done everything I can to prepare for my release in 2015. I have come to grips with who I am, where I am going and what I want to do in life. Most importantly I have filled that awful void inside me that I needed drugs to placate and sedate. I have filled that void with life, love and accomplishments. These are all things that I could not have achieved if I was still actively involved in the prison drug lifestyle.

But my recovery is not complete. I have almost two decades in prison, and the world has changed a lot since I came in. For instance, there's something called an internet now.  And when I was on the street, the cell phones were real big, not sleek like the smartphones people are using today. I've watched all that from behind a prison fence. I am doing all I can to prepare myself for my eventual return to society, and that means working on my recovery. I'm enrolled in the Bureau of Prison's Residential Drug Abuse Program, which is an intensive and extensive 500-hour, 10-month program geared to get me ready to transition back to the world. I know I need all the help that I can get.

I wasted a tremendous amount of time getting high. It's took took a lot to get me to recovery: a 25-year federal prison sentence, 18 years of drug addiction, 10 years of sobriety and a lifetime of self-destructive behavior. But I made it. To me recovery means more than simply staying drug free; it means staying free, period. I count myself lucky that I can take advantage of the Residential Drug Abuse Program. I'm ready to go home and resume my life. I'm ready to go home and take care of my loving wife. I'm ready to go home and see my family. But most of all I am ready to introduce the new, out-of-prison, drug-free Seth Ferranti to the world. Because even though I've served all these years in prison, I like who I am today and wouldn't change it for anything.

Fix columnist Seth Ferranti last wrote about the plight of convict Clarence Aaron, who's serving three life terms for his part in a cocaine deal. To learn more about prisoners, check out Seth's new book, Gorilla Convict, a compilation of his writing about prison gangs, the mafia, hip-hop and hustling, is now available.