Like many of nonprofit organizations RELEASE has covered in the past six months, the Bridgeport Recovery Community Center starts at a table. Tables are a place of varying emotions. Some people sit quietly, and look into their palms as they retrace the steps that led them in a path of self-destruction. Others raise their voices, pound their fists, and let their frustration and anger get the best of them. No matter what the cause that may have gotten a person to seek help- addiction, finding employment, searching for housing- the table is the start to finding a better future.
Four long tables are angled together to form one large rectangle. Chairs are plentiful, and by 12 p.m. on 49 Cannon Street, are mostly occupied. The thirty or so participants of the addiction recovery-counseling meeting are uniformly quiet, and a single voice is allowed its turn to speak.
“Fuck this,” a middle-aged man says. “Fuck ya’ll. I love you guys, and you’re great. But for today, I need to focus on myself. I’m having a hard time getting through this, so sorry, but fuck your problems. I got mine.”
He finishes, and nobody is taken aback. When it’s somebody’s turn to speak, they’re free to speak their mind and their heart.
Michael Askew is the program director of Bridgeport Recovery Community Center. Michael understands the issues that men and women face in their challenges against addiction.
One of those issues is dealing with a history of incarceration while battling addiction. It’s no surprise that over twenty-five percent of convictions in the United States are drug related, and this statistic doesn’t count those convictions such as robbery and manslaughter that are fueled by drug use.
The group meeting sessions, which are held between noon and one p.m. everyday, attract a variety of people: young and old, white and black, male and female, clean and washed up. Throughout the meetings there is a reoccurring topic of dealing with prison and release from incarceration.
One young man, no older than 25, attended that meeting on that frigid Thursday afternoon. Addicted to drugs, though he didn’t specify his addiction, he did tell the group that two nights prior he had been arrested with possession and faced breaking his parole and being placed back into prison. Fortunately he was given another chance, and sitting at the corner of the table, shoulders slumped and head down, he was thankful for having another chance at life outside of bars.
Until we completely erase the perception of ex-offenders being ‘different’ from other people, we will continue to have this subset of people who don’t have opportunities and remain steeped in poverty.