A (Proposition 36) Christmas story

Tammy Bardwell is a local graduate of a Proposition 36 treatment program who currently works for Volunteers of America

This year, I will be spending Christmas at home, making a turkey dinner for my son, my grandson, and my fiance, John.

It sounds unremarkable, as many people will do something similar, but it could have been a very different holiday for me. To be blunt, I could be in jail or, even worse, dead. This may sound melodramatic, but it is the truth.

The reason that I am at home is quite simple: I owe it to the voters who approved Proposition 36.

Five years ago, I was in jail during Christmas and in the full grip of drug addiction. Family, Christmas—all came second to my addiction. When I was re-arrested four years ago, I figured I would just go back to jail, a place that I’d been in and out of for years. However, since my last time in jail, the voters chose treatment over jail time, and things worked out very differently for me.

I went into treatment and began the long path of getting my life back in order. I was 40 and had been using drugs, including heroin and methamphetamines, since I was 14. After going through inpatient treatment, I became an outpatient and took part in a sober living program. I began taking college courses at American River College and have completed the units to be a state-certified drug- and alcohol-abuse counselor.

Though life is pretty good, there have been some hard times since getting clean. Still, Proposition 36 gave me the life skills to deal with these problems, and help to beat temptation.

Proposition 36 funding is due to expire this year, and some politicians already are trying to make funding cuts and add jail time for those who backslide. Yes, Proposition 36 programs can be improved, but cutting mental-health-service funding and adding short jail sentences are definitely not good ways to do it.

The clear message from California voters is to make Proposition 36 work. Apparently, some of these politicians don’t get it. I know, because I’ve lived it.

For me, the simple act of spending Christmas at home, free of substance abuse, is both a blessing and a miracle. I owe it all to Proposition 36 programs and to my fellow Californians, who voted to give me another chance.