Among his last acts as president, Obama has commuted the sentences of 17 more federal prisoners from Florida and pardoned another four Floridians. In total, he has commuted the sentences of more than 200 people in Florida, the highest number of commutations of any state in the nation by a long shot.
Though some have denounced some of the choices for pardon and commutation, the highlight of the story is that a number of these people were sentenced to harsh sentences for drug-related, nonviolent crimes long before Obama became president. As part of a criminal justice campaign that was a main focus of his presidency, Obama’s last wave of commutations and pardons comes after eight years of working to make legislative changes that decriminalize addiction and promote healing treatment as the appropriate community response to the problem.
Florida’s Drug History
Well known for being the entrance point for a good portion of the illegal drugs in this country and also the destination of choice for people seeking illicit substances – or seeking easier access to legal substances – Florida has a long history with drugs and addiction. Because federal law enforcement agencies have placed a heavy focus on identifying drug entry points, stopping drug traffickers and gangs, and busting illegal pill mills in Florida over the past few decades, a number of Floridians were sentenced harshly for their crimes. Many are serving life sentences or long-term sentences that made them ineligible for parole until they were in their senior years.
A Second Chance
Forgiveness and hope are two key components in recovery. The moment you decide to enter treatment and every day after that you wake up sober and ready to face the day without relapse, you are embracing both concepts. Actively practicing forgiveness – both to yourself and others – and pursuing hope in recovery are key ways to stay on track. Here’s how you can celebrate the hard work and commitment you have to your own personal recovery:
- Forgive yourself. We all make mistakes, and in recovery, one of the things we do to begin to heal the wounds of addiction is make a genuine effort to repair the damage. This can be a practice in hope if it is a successful endeavor, but when it is not so easy to rebuild bonds or “fix” what has happened in the past, it can be discouraging. It is at these times that forgiving yourself can be helpful. Recognize that your mistakes were associated with a medical disorder and you did your best to make things right. If that is not possible, there are other ways to give back to the world and help to create balance for yourself and the people around you.
- Forgive others. It is easy to get our feelings hurt in recovery. We are often overly sensitive, especially in the first weeks and months of sobriety, and tend to translate little things into huge problems or perceive inconsequential looks or comments as insults. It can help you to feel better if you work on giving the people around you a little bit of leeway and understanding that they may not necessarily have intended to be rude, and even if they did, it only has as much bearing on your life as you allow it to.
- Make hopeful choices in your life. Eat healthfully and work out with the idea that you have a long life in front of you, and you will need a healthy body to get the most out of it. Be generous with people, working on the assumption that kindness breeds more kindness. Enroll in classes believing that you have the ability to do well. Apply for jobs with the idea that you are perfect for the position. Hope can turn positive things into a reality.
- Give hope to others. By giving back to your community, you can make the life of someone else a little bit brighter, and in turn, they will have more generosity of spirit to give to the next person. You can have a great impact on the people around you and by giving of yourself, you bring more hope into the world.