By Randy Anderson, as told to Emily Andrews
Randy Anderson will be speaking at Prison Fellowship®'s annual Second Chances 5K in St. Paul, Minnesota, this spring. The 5K raises awareness for those in need of a second chance. Randy hopes his story of struggle and recovery will inspire others—in and out of prison—to believe that no life is beyond restoration.
Mark Twain once said, "The two most important days in your life are the day you are born and the day you find out why."
I'm proud to say I found out "why," but not until I had hit rock bottom.
A DEA task force raided my home in 2004 and found over more than a kilo of cocaine. I'd been selling it to support my own habit, and I went to jail.
I spent nearly 10 months in a 60-day treatment program. But even after making so much progress, I still had to face consequences for my criminal activity. Nothing could prepare me for what would happen next.
I was sentenced to 87 months in federal prison on July 6, 2005. As a first-time non-violent drug offender in recovery, I was shocked. "Why me?" I asked myself. I had never robbed, assaulted, or killed anyone. I was even paying my taxes. What I needed was more time in treatment, not prison. But often our criminal justice system doles out lengthy sentences without considering the positive changes in a person's life.
That August, two dear friends drove me to Waseca, Minnesota, where I would serve my time. It was the scariest, worst day of my life.
WHATEVER IT TAKES
I still believed my life would be better without using any mind- or mood-altering substances, and I maintained my recovery while in prison. Released in 2009, I was required to be supervised for a period of 48 months. I did everything that was required of me. As a result, I was released after only 20 months of supervision.
The first day of college was the second scariest day of my life, after the day I went to prison. I enrolled to become an addiction counselor, a dream of mine since receiving the gift of recovery.
I believed that what happened to me should never happen to someone else.
That belief led me to join causes like the Minnesota Second Chance Coalition. There, I was able to testify in front of a variety of state legislators and legislative committees for drug sentencing reform. Minnesota did end up changing state sentencing guidelines. As of August 1, 2016, around 700 fewer individuals in Minnesota will be going to prison each year.
Soon I felt compelled to do more. I was asked to sit on the board of directors for the Steve Rummler Hope Foundation (SRHF). There, I've had more opportunities to share my story of recovery, as well as to educate law enforcement and first responders about life-saving opioid reversal medication. I also volunteer for Minnesota Recovery Connection (MRC), Fed Up Coalition, Hennepin County Sheriff’s Office, and the Minnesota Association of Resources for Recovery and Chemical Health (MARRCH).
A LIFE I NEVER IMAGINED
With my associate's degree in addiction counseling, I now work full-time as a counselor at the very same facility where I found recovery.
I never imagined that this life would ever be possible. I often ask myself, When will I wake up from this dream? Well, the truth is, this is no dream—it's the life I'm living because I got a second chance.
If you would like to support the 5K in St. Paul, you can get started here. You can also check out The Second Prison Project, a campaign of Prison Fellowship, to learn more about supporting second chances.