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Keri Blakinger @keribla
, 19 tweets, 3 min read Read on Twitter
I stopped doing heroin eight years ago today, in the Tompkins County Jail. People ask me how I did it, like I have some magic silver bullet. I don’t. But here are some thoughts abt getting sober, and Christmas in jail.
My first Christmas in jail, I would have still been detoxing. I don’t remember it at all; I only know this holiday happened bc the calendar says it did, and bc we got a Salvation Army gift bag with pens and paper.
But surely it did not feel festive; when you’re detoxing on the floor of a county jail cell, it is so easy to remember all the reasons you want to die, both in that moment and generally. It is so hard to remember what there is to live for - and even harder once you sober up.
It’s a dark moment, not just the immediate pain but the realizations that come with it, the memory of every wrong turn and misstep that got you here. The knowledge that you’ve pretty irrevocably fucked up your life.
But people always ask what kept me sober. It wasn’t prison. You can have heroin delivered to your bedside in prison. Instead it was this: I was ready. I’m not in 12-step program but when they say sick and tired of being sick and tired, yes, it was that.
It’s not that my life had gotten so much worse before my arrest; that wasn’t even close to the lowest point in my addiction. It was just the end of my rope, the point at which I could not take any more.
And there were moments that were turning points for me. Moments like this: My significant other coming to visit me in jail, high as a kite, telling all the same lies I would have told.
“No, that’s not a track mark on my arm - I fell into a pot plant and it scratched me. Yes, coincidentally it scratched me on my veins and only my veins!”

Sober, looking through the visiting room glass, I finally realized I didn’t want to be that person anymore.
But I also wanted to be a writer. I started journaling, I started taking notes. I wasn’t sure if I would be a reporter or what, but I would at least take notes just in case. I felt like there was something valuable to document, I just wasn’t sure what.
And I didn’t really know how this would play out, but I really wanted to stay sober and figure it out. Eventually I even started wondering if maybe it was possible to pull something useful or positive out of what felt like an absolute shipwreck.
So that’s how, by my second Christmas behind bars - this time in state prison – I was sober, and ready to piece my life together. But just not yet: First, I just had more than a year left in prison.
Another year without my dog, without my family. Another wasted year of nothing but waiting for time to pass.
The holiday itself was completely forgettable. I didn’t even bother to write anything down about it. It was regular prison life, with a few prison-made ornaments and no tree.
But one day right before Christmas I was on a call home and my significant other (different one at that point) had some news: “I looked you up in the inmate search - and your release date changed.”
In prison, it’s a big deal to be able to say, “I get out this year.” Doesn’t matter if it’s January or December. THIS YEAR is huge.

There’s even prison slang built around it; when you are getting close to release - maybe w/in a year - people say you’re “getting short.”
And suddenly, in just a few days, I could say that. My release date had suddenly changed in the computer system - and now it was almost 5 months earlier; the prison had calculated it wrong the first time. Best present ever.
For the first time in a long time, I felt a fleeting sense of hope.
So now for the holidays, it’s a little bittersweet. This time of year, I always think about getting arrested and detoxing in jail. And I think about all the women who are still there, my friends spending Christmas behind bars yet again.
But on Dec 20, I also look at the calendar and pause. And I think about hope, and this incredible sense of relief that I am not where I was eight years ago today.

It’s almost hard to describe. But people who’ve been there know what I’m talking about.
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