Today, the President commuted the sentences of 46 prisoners convicted of non-violent crimes many years — or even decades — ago. The message, at its heart, is clear: America is a nation of second chances, and these are Americans who deserve that second chance.
That’s incredibly personal for me.
Despite the fact that nearly every family and community in America is affected by substance use disorders, those fighting to overcome this disease are too often hidden in the shadows of shame or stigma. As a result, many do not get the treatment they need.
That’s why it is so powerful to hear the stories of Americans who — like me — are in recovery from substance use disorders.
I wanted to share one of those stories with you today.
Conner, a young woman in recovery, wrote President Obama about the importance of second chances and access to treatment.
This Administration is committed to evidence-based solutions that recognize substance use disorders as a medical condition that can be treated — not a moral failing. These advances are not enough, however, unless we fundamentally change the way we think about people with addiction.
The courage of people like Conner plays a critical role in driving that change. Their stories put faces and voices to substance use disorders, and give hope that recovery is possible.
Millions of Americans in recovery are building meaningful lives. Conner is one of them, and this is her story:
The President responded personally to the letter and congratulated Conner on her determination. Just as important, he urged her to continue sharing her story to help inspire the millions of Americans with substance use disorders.
The voices of people across America inform the President and give him invaluable perspective on the progress we’ve made — as well as the work we’ve got to do. If you want to write the President yourself, you can do so here.
April 8th, 2015
Dear Mr. President,
My name is Conner Adams and I am a 26 year old woman in recovery from heroin and crack cocaine. I write to you today in regard to your recent pardons that were granted to those imprisoned with out-dated drug laws. I wanted to thank you and let you know how much it meant to me to hear you express that people deserve a second chance.
When I was stuck in active addiction, I received second, third, tenth chances from family and friends. People didn’t give up on me when I had lost hope and given up on myself. Even the Washington D.C. court system gave me multiple chances. I had been arrested for multiple possession charges, but luckily my case was diverted from going to trial. I ended up in Mental Health Court. There, I turned what was meant to be a three month program into a case that lasted for over a year.
I think the judge understood I genuinely wanted to stop but couldn’t. she would tell me I was too smart and too kind to throw away my life and forever have a criminal record. I was told to stop worrying about whether I was going to “beat the charges” and instead worry about whether I’d even be alive long enough to see the case through. Every time the prosecutor wanted to retract the diversion agreement (that I was failing at) and go to trial, the judge would refuse. She saved my life.
Ultimately, I got the treatment that I so badly needed and I moved to Asheville, NC. My whole life changed. Today, with over a year and a half sober, I am back in school, I have an internship with a local non-profit, and I am an active volunteer in my community. I’ve been able to return the love to my family that they always showed me regardless of my behavior. I love my life today and I would have never believed this all could be possible – I had been so hopeless and defeated in active addiction.
I know your administration also supports diversion programs and I wanted to say thanks. A diversion program saved my life, returned me to my family, and gave me fulfillment. I used to be so angry at the cops who arrested me in D.C., but now I feel nothing but gratitude for them and their part in leading me to a happy life.
There is much more work to be done on the addiction front, but for today it is my hope that you will smile knowing that you likely just gave a young addict somewhere in America hope. Second chances are necessary because human beings are not a moment, we’re a process. Thank you, Mr. President, for all you’ve done and continue to do for our great nation.
The President's Response
May 29, 2015
Ms. Conner Adams
Asheville, North Carolina
Thank you for sharing your powerful story. I admire how committed you are to your recovery, and it sounds like your determination to chart a new course is paying off. Your family must be tremendously proud of how far you’ve come – your president is, too.
Hearing about experiences like yours motivates me to ensure people with substance use disorders get the second chances and support they need to reclaim their lives and reach their full potential. My administration is committed to reforming drug policy in a scientific and evidence-based way. This approach recognizes the important role played by law enforcement while also understanding that reducing drug use and its consequences requires both a public health and public safety response. I trust that as you continue on the road of recovery, you will use your story to help lift up the lives of others struggling with substance use disorders.
Again, thank you for writing. Continue giving back to your community, cherish the love of your family, and never lose your optimistic spirit!
All the best,