Prison Service

I Look Forward to Going to Prison

How lucky we are to have been given the opportunity to recover from this seemingly helpless state of mind and body called alcoholism. Before I had the brief window of opportunity to reach out my hand for help and call AA, I was an inwardly fearful type of guy. On the outside I was fearless to excess, I believed I was above the law and could get away with anything. I was always having scrapes with the law and often found myself waking up in police cells all over the world: Plymouth, Columbia, Gibraltar and Cyprus come to mind. Whenever I got arrested I was always intoxicated and in there for a crime of violence.

I was a very dishonest guy and was good at helping myself to things that didn’t belong to me. I considered myself to be a very good criminal because I never got caught, but throughout my life I had an extreme fear of being sent to prison. This did not stop my crimes.

I was petrified of going to prison. So when I came to AA and got myself a sponsor, I allowed myself to be sponsored and embarked on my road to recovery. I never thought for one minute I would be as happy and crime-free as I am now and have been since taking the 12 Steps. I’ve had a spiritual awakening as a result of taking the Steps, I was set free from my old way of life.

I am a firm believer of the Three Legacies: Recovery, Unity and Service. Service is a big part of my structured recovery, having been through the service structure at group level. I found myself taking a newcomer to an AA meeting in Tavistock back in July 2006. The lady who was the secretary at that meeting was a friend of my family. I think we were both surprised as each other to see one another at an AA meeting. I was asked to do the main share of which I would never have refused. After the meeting she commented to me that I would be great for prison service and my name was put forward to Dave B, Prison Liaison Officer at the time. Within a month I found myself entering HMP Dartmoor with Dave. I must admit it was slightly daunting walking through the main wings of the prison to make the announcement that the AA meeting was due to start.  Facing my fears comes to mind.

It was a special experience carrying the AA message to the 4 prisoners attending the meeting. Within a couple of months I attended the security induction lesson and was given the role as a Prison Sponsor with my own ID card. I was put on the AA rota to take meetings once a month on a Saturday morning. I never once missed a meeting and remember those winter mornings with snow everywhere, hardly making it up across the moor to get to the prison. Because I was keen, because I carried the AA message as laid out in the basic text and most importantly because I was reliable, I found myself being put forward for position of key holder. This meant that I was trusted to draw keys for the prison. I began to be asked to sponsor inmates, increased my attendance at the prison, and started to do the odd evening meeting on a Tuesday in the Vulnerable Prisoner Unit.

Dave B rotated out as Prison Liaison Officer in December 2007 and I was duly nominated as the new PLO. This was an all new experience for me, and I had begun to attend Plymouth Intergroup. A proud moment for me personally was getting the vote of every Intergroup officer for this position. I have now been PLO for three months and have two and a half years left. The meetings are structured, with inmates taking the meeting with our guidance. We are experiencing increased attendance. My position is not easy at times. I have to adhere to the Traditions, whilst trying with the help of our dedicated team of prison sponsors to carry the message at Dartmoor.

My personal feeling on what we do at the prison is that if we can get an inmate to an AA meeting on his release, then he has a good chance of recovering. If he sticks at his recovery then there is a ripple effect throughout the community. This is because, if he is like me, he will never commit a crime again.

Service in AA is essential – it keeps you at the heart of AA. It has been vastly rewarding to me personally, and when I’m let out of the main prison gate, I often think back to those days of lying low, witness-intimidation and sheer dishonesty, all because of my immense fear of prison.

Yours in service

Andy P, Road to Recovery Plymouth, Sept 2013