Don Cummins’ memoir THE PRISON WITHIN is an uncomfortable read, full of painful and desperate struggles leading to failure, over and over, to catastrophes that seem both self-inflicted and irresistible, failures that might have caused a weaker man to give up entirely. The author does not flinch from describing his worst moments, moments of despair, self-hatred, and the crushing feeling of having let down people who loved him dearly and always would. And yet, every time, after every collapse, he finds his way back to stand on his feet again, even if only for a little while, to rebuild things and move slowly but surely to a better, healthier, more stable life. Time after time, he finds family and friends willing to offer a hand and help him back up, help him get the resources he needs to heal, hoping each time that this will be the final recovery. There is no sugarcoating here, no pretense that all one needs to recover from drug addiction is to “just say no” or to follow one particular treatment regimen to the letter or to have a magical revelation from God – while the author does have a spiritual breakthrough that provides him with emotional sustenance when he needs it most, he still has a lot of work to do even after that to achieve his ultimate healing. But his sheer stubborn unwillingness to stay down gives the book a core of hope and optimism that may serve as a beacon for other people trapped by the same sort of issues, teaching them to see themselves not as failures who keep falling but as fighters who keep getting up again.
THE PRISON WITHIN is told entirely from the author’s point of view, letting readers walk in his shoes for a time and understand, as well as anyone who hasn’t actually been there can, what addiction feels like. For those watching children or other loved ones struggle with addiction and its consequences, this may be an agonizingly difficult book to get through, but it also offers a promise, the promise that a person can rebuild a good life even after relapse after relapse, lost jobs, damaged relationships and years in prison. As Cummins puts it in the talks he now gives to teenagers and young adults, “if I went from the absolute gutter to the person I am today, then absolutely anything is possible for them.” This is by no means an easy read – but it is a priceless resource, an offer of light for people fighting their way through what seems to be hopeless darkness.
Don Cummins’ memoir THE PRISON WITHIN is a gripping, heartbreaking and ultimately hopeful true story about the author’s struggles with addiction, prisons both external and internal, and the long and painful road to recovery.
~Catherine Langrehr for IndieReader