4 out of 4 stars
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Patricia Steele, author of The Gift of Second Chances: When Shame Isn't Enough: Seeking Freedom From Addiction, hit multiple "rock bottoms" before she was involved in a tragic accident. While driving under the influence of alcohol, she hit another vehicle, killing the driver and badly injuring the passenger of the other vehicle while injuring herself as well. This accident led to the eventual arrest, trial, conviction, and sentencing of Patricia to 7-15 years in prison.
The Gift of Second Chances: When Shame Isn't Enough: Seeking Freedom From Addiction is a memoir of Patricia's addiction to alcohol and her time in prison. She explores the winding path of an innocent girl growing up in a home where alcohol was always present to her own alcoholism. Seeing just how easily social drinking can transform into a life-altering addiction was so subtle and gradual that it was frightening. It was also terrifying watching a woman with a leg injury enter the menacing world of prison. Despite her injury and crime, she was put in Level Four security alongside murderers and violent criminals merely because of the number of years she was sentenced. She learned to accept the constant shame and judgment she received from guards along with the lack of concern from the medical staff.
In reading Patricia's memoir, my eyes were opened to two major things. First, it's astounding how difficult it is to break an addiction, but not for the reasons I'd originally thought. Patricia was so ashamed of her past actions for decades that she would drink more to numb the shame, leading to worse actions. The cycle seems infinite as loved ones harshly judge actions without kindness or understanding. Second, prison is an awful place, also for reasons I didn't consider. Prisoners are only given medical attention when absolutely necessary, so it was months before Patricia received the medicine she was getting regularly in the hospital and even in jail before she was moved to the prison. She was strip-searched frequently, and while prisons are places of strict rules and harsh punishments, they're also unpredictable. Prisoners were frequently moved, resulting in new cellmates, and chaos lurked around every corner. At one point Patricia was blamed for something she didn't do, and it was so bad that another inmate warned her that she was marked for death.
I was so drawn into Patricia's book that I almost felt like I was in prison myself. For nearly three hundred pages I smiled when Patricia found herself a good cellmate, feared for her when the chaos of prison inevitably struck, and felt proud of her when she worked to better herself. Patricia managed to not only spend years in AA meetings while in prison, she learned a great deal about the law and helped other prisoners prepare for their parole hearings. She was so good that everyone she mentored received their parole! Yet despite these wonderful things she did, she never hesitated to admit the bad things she'd done. She fully admitted her role in the death of an innocent driver, she openly discussed her divorces, the way she failed her children, and even admitted to her suicide attempts. By the end of the book, it was easy to understand why: Patricia learned that shame often leads to craving alcohol, and the only way to avoid shame is to be truthful and forthcoming with what she's done. With that said, it's incredibly noble to state these things to the whole world.
The Gift of Second Chances: When Shame Isn't Enough: Seeking Freedom From Addiction is an easy recommendation for anyone interested in seeing what prison is like and the challenges that an addict faces. It's also perfect for the friends and loved ones of addicts to get an inside look at what Patricia went through. Above all, I'd highly recommend it to anyone struggling with addiction. Not only does Patricia show just how far a person can sink, but she also shares the stories of countless other inmates. These stories aren't meant to be depressing or scary (although they often are!), they're meant to inspire readers, to show them that anyone can make something better of themselves. Patricia's biggest struggle with AA was learning to rely on other people even though she was so quick to help other inmates, and I'd imagine lots of people can relate to that. I loved that the book was largely positive and that Patricia has such a friendly writing voice. Reading her words was like listening to her tell her story to her kids. With only three minor grammatical errors in the entire book and nothing else negative to speak of, my rating of The Gift of Second Chances: When Shame Isn't Enough: Seeking Freedom From Addiction is 4 out of 4 stars. I'll never look at prison or addiction the same way again, and I couldn't be more proud of Patricia for overcoming her challenges.
The Gift of Second Chances
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