I have taken AA meetings to jail and prison before but it’s been years. This time I didn’t feel the curiosity of the place and its practices—security, the clanging doors, the inmates orange slip-on Keds. And I didn’t feel, as many folks report, the sense of relief of being let out when the meeting was over. I knew that I did not belong there.
But I did feel tremendous gratitude for the miracle and lucky accidents of my life and recovery. The women we talked to were not terribly different than I was 30 years ago. They had all the sincerity and all the denial that I had. And they had all the circumstances—bad boyfriends, dumb decisions, family hassles that I would have claimed to be my problem back then too. And each one of them reported that someone in their life—mother, friend, minister, counselor had begged them to get help, to change. I had that too and kept drinking and “making bad choices.” But maybe I had that one extra intervention or that one extra person who somehow penetrated my fog.
I did feel the privilege of being white and literate. We forget that social privilege is also a kind of intervention and a kind of cushion for women who “make bad choices.” I might have humiliated myself many times back in the day but I wasn’t arrested.
I am so glad I went to jail and I’ll go again. This morning I prayed for the nine women I met last night. I hope what they heard was one more tiny piece of info they can use to make a different choice.