Learning from Laura

Have you ever had one of those days when nothing goes right? You become the office battering ram for anyone that is angry; everyone wants to share his or her problems with you; and nothing gets accomplished? That’s the day I was having until someone I will call “Laura” walked into my office and helped put things into perspective.

As I sat feeling absolutely defeated, I realized that I had a meeting scheduled with Laura to talk about planning for our annual board meeting. Through a series of tangents, the conversation took a turn, and Laura began sharing her life journey with me.

Laura came from a good family with lots of happy childhood memories. As she grew older, her feelings of inferiority were always predominant and the dark, empty feelings that occasionally plagued her came from what she later learned was depression. In her early teens, she discovered that drugs and alcohol gave her temporary relief from those gloomy feelings and made her able to be outgoing and fun — or so she thought.

Over the years, the substance abuse progressively worsened and her life was totally out of control. She became homeless, miserable and ashamed. Now she was not just using to be someone that she wasn’t, but also to numb the feelings of guilt and shame that stared her in the face daily.

She was in and out of rehab and eventually was arrested, receiving a 20-year sentence for selling drugs. Laura spent four years at Tutwiler, which started the process of turning her life around. Upon arrival at Tutwiler, she enrolled in an intense six-month treatment program where she learned the details of addiction and how it controlled her mind and body.

Upon graduation of this program, she realized that the prison system offered secondary education. Two years later, she graduated with a 4.0 GPA and an associate degree in office information systems and was paroled out the month after graduation. The education she received enabled her to secure a good job with the State of Alabama Department of Rehabilitation, where she worked for four years. For the first time in her life, she felt like she had purpose. Laura’s family saw a change in her and began coming around, and life was good.

See next week’s column to learn more about Laura’s story.

Kelli Keith is director of marketing and development for Easter Seals of the Birmingham area. You can reach her at 314-2187.