A conversation between a Felon and a Judge

The idea of the war on drugs was to lock up drug dealers, save lives and create safe communities. Sounds like the perfect plan to make drugs go away, and hold those accountable that were creating the problem. But it didn’t work. Supply and demand was not taken into consideration, and the problem is worse than ever. 

We locked up a few dealers, and tons of users. We quickly became the most locked up nation in the world. 5% of the world’s population….25% of the world prison population. 

Below, you will read a letter to a judge describing the life of an addict. One that is normal but not heard often due to the shame and stigma associated with addiction, and felony backgrounds. Parent, educated, good life. Can that be ingredients for addiction? Today, as I write you, I have no idea where addition comes from. There is too much variety of the chaos for us to identify if it is hereditary, environment or anything.

It.Just.Happen.

Its beginning to look as if, this isn’t a criminal problem, but a justice problem for those affected by addiction. Imagine if we had the right resources fully available to those with drug problems just like those who have insurance for treatment and community connections. 

Imagine if those woman was given a chance to truly prove herself, just like those who don’t have to go to court to plead for their freedom. Imagine if we gave treatment instead of handing out felonies like candy. Imagine.

This is a letter from one of the women that used to live in a F5 House and has transitioned out into her own place. Her own lease. Her own life. 

 

Honorable Judge (Name taken out),
Thank you for allowing me to personally talk to you through this letter. I realize how many different people you must see and I appreciate the opportunity to be able to explain a little about myself as an individual; in regards to the case that brings me before you.

An unusual blend of emotions stirs within as I try to find the appropriate words to start. Gratitude, remorse; humility make strange bedfellows, but I can’t think of a better way to explain myself then through these very prominent emotions I’m feeling. Gratitude for the fresh start at a better life this legal issue ultimately brought me. Remorse because I knew my behavior was wrong, and continue to feel ashamed that I had fallen so far below my own standards for myself. And finally, humility, as an addict in recovery, it’s a very humbling experience to have to re-build a life for yourself. I’ve spoken of it often in NA meetings; with friends that while most people develop a bitter resentment towards police and the judicial system when they find themselves in trouble, I’ve come to believe my latest brush with the law, this indictment, is more than me simply losing a cat and mouse game with the police. It brought an abrupt halt the chaotic addiction fused lifestyle I had fallen into. It forced me take responsibility for my actions; acknowledge that I am a direct reflection of my choices. And at that point, it’s safe to say was my rock bottom. Up to that point I was a hopeless drug addict – dealing drugs to support my habit, sleeping in hotel bathrooms, no family to turn to and unable to really look at my reflection in the mirror. This, a far cry from how I was raised. I grew up in a middle-class family with hardworking parents that loved me and I didn’t want for anything. Addiction; drugs were a foreign language in my family. Good grades were expected as was hard work and self-responsibility. I did well in school, found my place in drama; debate. The only out of ordinary experience I had was getting pregnant at 19. While it was nerve-wracking to tell my parents and they made it known they weren’t
pleased with my indiscretion, they provided the love; support I needed to have my daughter Anna.
Without missing a beat, I enrolled at NDSU and between going to school full-time, raising Anna; working in-between I graduated with a Bachelors in Hospitality Management. I moved back home after graduating at which time my dad put the bug in my ear to continue on to a Masters Degree. I wanted Anna to have everything I had growing up; wanted to show her that nothing is impossible if you apply yourself. After a visit to the University of Mary campus in Bismarck with my Dad, I enrolled for their online Masters of Business program, so I could continue to work full-time. I enjoyed the experience and take pride in knowing that is an achievement that can never be taken away from me. It’s opened doors that I never thought possible and allowed me to take advantage of my future. I got married, then divorced, moved to Williston and took on progressively larger careers until at my peak I was making a roughly 6-figure income w/ bonuses, bought a home, two cars and felt comfortable with life.
Looking back now, I believe it was being comfortable in life that brought with it an ignorance that ultimately was my downfall. I felt confident in who I was and never believed I was capable of losing control, losing sight of what was important. But when my boyfriend at the time started to show signs of drug addiction, it was completely new territory for me. I knew what I had learned in school; I knew that drugs were “bad” – but that was it. I tried for a year to get him help. In and out of rehabs and jail until one night I caught him going into the bathroom; cornered him with a syringe in his hand. I made the biggest mistake of my life and asked him to show me what was worth tearing our family apart. I asked him to inject me with heroin. He resisted for quite awhile and even started crying begging me not to do this. He told me it was a terrible idea and I should just leave him; forget all about him. But I insisted, in my ignorance I didn’t think there was anything I couldn’t handle. And so, he finally injected
my arm, and the immediate feeling of a warm/fuzzy peaceful floating struck me. I remember grabbing the side of the sink and staring at the drain, hoping that feeling would never end. To make a long story short, that was all it took, I was a heroin addict. Of course, I didn’t become a homeless junkie overnight. I managed to hold on to my job for about a year after that. But over the course of the next 3 years, I sold my home (all that profit went to drugs), I lost my job, I lost my vehicles; my drivers license. I became familiar with the local jail, and most regrettably, I asked my daughter to go live with her step-dad because I was homeless; didn’t want her to live like that, but really, because I chose heroin over her. To this day that is the hardest thing for me to admit, but I have to. I have to live completely honest; open in recovery and I have to remember that heroin is an all-powerful drug, it will make a person
choose drugs over family in a heartbeat. I cannot stress enough that an addicts mind is a chaotic, senseless place. And unless you’ve been an addict, its completely unrealistic to try to understand it. We will choose to get high over food, shelter, family, love in a heartbeat. Not necessarily because we want to – I don’t think I’ve never met an addict the WANTS to be an addict, but because that is the amazingly strong hold heroin; drugs can have over a person. I’m not suggesting that we (addicts) get any kind of special treatment due to all this, because even though I have come to see addiction as a disease, I feel at its very core it does boil down to making a choice. For my 8 years of being a heroin addict I unfortunately chose to continue a path of self-destruction and I chose self-pity over self-responsibility.
That’s why at the end of the day, when I reflect on my current legal situation, I feel a sense of gratitude. The night I was arrested on this federal warrant, I felt at peace with it. I didn’t know what was in store for me, but I knew I had to finally take responsibility for what I had done; I knew that it was going to take me away from any opportunity to use drugs for a while. And that’s all I had wanted for a very long time, a chance to sober up and find my strength again without the crippling support of heroin. I readily accepted terms to be released form jail to attend in-patient treatment; from that point forward I haven’t looked back. I made a mistake in August and choose to get high on a whim, but the
overwhelming guilt; loss of trust that happened immediately with my PO officer, friends; within myself, was a reminder of how far I had come and how fragile recovery can be.
As Alice says in Alice in Wonderland “I can’t go back to yesterday because I was a different person then.” While I cannot change all the wrong choices I made, especially the one that brings me before you. I can however accept whatever sentencing you feel is appropriate and fulfill it with my head held high, knowing it’s bringing me another step closer to atoning for my years I knowingly failed to act responsibly. I feel an overwhelming amount of remorse for my failure to act as a mature, law-abiding citizen. As I mentioned previously, my parents raised me well, I know what’s right and I know what’s wrong. I make no attempts to place blame on anyone but myself, what I did was wrong. I think back to those days I was dealing to support my habit and am appalled that my actions directly affected so many other people. Not only my family; friends, but the lives of the people that bought drugs from me as
well as their family; friends and so on. While I never forced anyone to do drugs, I now realize I wasn’t helping the situation at all. I was, unfortunately, helping the vicious cycle of addiction stay in motion for many other people, including myself.
As I close this letter to you, I’m proud to be able to say in these short eight months I’ve been allowed to live and work in society awaiting this sentencing date, I’ve begun to make new life for myself. Starting quite literally with the clothes on my back; pair of flip flops in which I was arrested, I now have a full-time job, bank account, vehicle; my very own apartment to come home to; but by far the moment I’m most grateful for is when my daughter began calling me regularly and told me “mom, you’re not a bad person, you just made a bad mistake; I’ve missed you!”. There’s no grace more beautiful than when a child extends forgiveness to a parent. While I’m still not sure I deserved her forgiveness so easily, I don’t waste a single day getting to now her again. Through video chats and daily texting my daughter Anna has been with me on my journey back to the top! To live and laugh with her in my life again is truly a
blessing I had thought I lost forever to heroin. It’s that sense of inspiration I carry with me in my recovery as I attend NA meetings and encourage those newly sober to stay the course; as I meet weekly with the kids at the Moorhead Juvenile Detention Center and talk to them about correcting their course while their still young; don’t have to make the mistakes I did; as simply wake up every day able to go to work and earn a responsible life for myself that I can be proud of. 

Thank you, Your Honor, for allowing me this opportunity to share with you a little about myself and how I came to find myself in your courtroom. I’m prepared to accept what you feel is best for my situation; continue to move forward in my recovery.
Sincerely,

Elizabeth Yost