Jail Cell at Age 22 to Emotional Healing Coach at Age 39

I was in my stagnant jail cell, and I was looking out the window into the courtyard of the municipal complex where people were walking from building to building or sitting and having lunch. I knew it was summer by the calendar and by the sun shining on the green grass below, despite the cold cinder block walls of my cell, the metal bed and the stainless steel toilet and sink. The grass and the few trees in the courtyard were the only green I would see for many months [aside from the dark green of the inmates who were residing in the jail because of having been detained by the Immigration & Naturalization Services (INS)]. Later on, I would be baffled by how I was supposed to share a cell with a woman who did not believe in bathing and still be able to breathe myself…but I digress.

The f***ed-up part is that when you are in jail for a lengthy period of time, you literally have no choice but to think…about your life, what got you there, your past, your belief or lack thereof in a higher power. You may wonder about the future and dream about how wonderful real food will taste and about what freedom will smell like and what you will do or who you will see. What’s more is that there are some really strange aspects of this time that I occasionally miss — like having no real responsibility other than bathing and wiping your ass and the occasional having to clean your jail cell. Without the responsibility of everyday life, you actually have an opportunity to just really think or to pray your ass off for long periods of time, because there is nothing else to do and if you are going to survive this, you can probably use all of the help you can get. You can afford to read book after book after book without much interruption (of course your choices are quite limited, but I accomplished Gone With the Wind, which would NOT have happened any other way due to my inherent lack of focus). You can obsessively clean your cell and make it immaculate on a daily basis, because you have nothing else to do and it might as well be clean if you are going to be there (Ok, I may have sometimes confiscated extra cleaning fluids and hid them in empty leftover travel size lotion bottles that I’d bought from the commissary so that I had enough cleaning fluids to obsessively clean throughout the day whenever I wanted, and God forbid the corrections officers didn’t bring the cleaning supplies one day, you would have enough to last an extra day or two!!!!) Again, I digress.

In everyday life, making my home or my work space immaculate is not a common reality. Making my spirituality a priority is hard work sometimes, because I do have plenty of regular distractions (for which I am truly blessed). But there is a part of me that still holds gratitude for knowing that in any circumstances I really can survive and even thrive, if I put my mind to it. I know I can because I had to. I didn’t have a choice. No, I didn’t have access to a therapist, and I didn’t really have any “emotionally healthy” friends to help work through my spiritual and emotional pain. But you damn well better believe I made friends with the other “criminals” who were from all different walks of life, and I learned a lot about just how alike a lot of us really are when it comes down to our core. We have all suffered. We have all been vulnerable. We all have a place deep inside of us that we are not sure we even want to look at let alone go into with a flashlight and start poking around in. Some of the most heinous things that people do on this earth are done because they are hurt and suffering. I’ve heard it said before that “hurt people hurt people”, and I think this is a good description.

While I didn’t make a conscious decision on the poor choice I made while I was drinking to the point of alcoholic blackout, I have still been responsible for it in too many ways to count. Taking responsibility wasn’t the hard part — forgiving myself was. I have been through layer after layer of emotional healing in the 20 years since my accident, and I don’t expect that the healing will ever end. (This is a good thing).

Photo Credit: Jeremy Bishop

What I couldn’t have possibly fathomed back then is that the very nightmare that I was going through was the one thing that was going to allow me to provide an avenue of healing work for thousands of other people. It is painful to even think about what I would have missed out on and what I wouldn’t have had to offer in service to others if I had “quit” or “given up” when I wanted to. Sometimes the mission that we are on is about healing work for ourselves, but many times it is so much bigger than us.

I have no doubt today that the speaking events I did in my 20’s, the customer service work I didn’t in my 20’s and early 30’s and the therapy work that I did in my 30’s was about me giving service to others in a way that I could truly empathize with their struggles and their pain. I was blessed with a real comprehension of emotional pain, but I firmly believe that there was a purpose that was far greater than me, and that I still have a lot of work to do.

Now, as an emotional healing coach, I have an opportunity to do this in a whole new way. I get to continuously step into my next level version of myself by saying “Ok, so what am I meant to be doing now, and who am I meant to serve next?” but in a way that I truly enjoy at a spiritual level. When I see my clients having an experience of emotional healing in themselves, and I am filled with gratitude for being a part of that process, I know at my core that I have come full circle.

Lauren Zolecki-Polzin, MA Clinical Professional Psychology, Online Emotional Healing Coach at Soul to Substance