• HumanKind: A Voice for the Inside


My name is Catharine Nordby. I'm 33 years old and currently incarcerated at South Idaho Correctional Institute for possession of a controlled substance.

This certainly is not where I imagined myself to be at this point in my life. I don't think anybody does. Most of us have no idea what we're getting ourselves into when we take that first hit, or snort that line or put a needle in our veins.

I was very naive to all of it. Growing up in a very strict, religious household and attending a private Christian school I had no exposure to drugs or alcohol. It wasn't even spoken of. We didn't watch television or movies or even listen to secular music. I was very sheltered from the outside world. So, at 23 when my friend brought me some pills to help me with my anxiety I wasn't even the slightest bit concerned about it. They weren't prescribed to me but they came from a doctor so surely it was alright. I started taking them daily. They helped me sleep at night & manage my debilitating panic attacks that I'd been having. Before long I was physically dependent on them & I realized that I would be terribly sick if I didn't have them. Turns out that I'd been taking Oxycontin. That was how my opioid addiction began. Over the years getting high became the only way I knew how to manage life. When the pills became more difficult to get I switched to heroin and started shooting up. My life quickly spiraled out of control. It was a vicious cycle of getting high to avoid feeling pain & anxiety & shame which only added to more of those same feelings. It's a scary, hopeless way to live.

Naturally, I didn't have the resources to admit myself into one of the few rehabilitation centers that Idaho has to offer so I attempted on many occasions and with the best of intentions to get clean on my own. Unfortunately, those attempts didn't work. I didn't know what I was doing and was too ashamed to reach out for help from people who did. My longest periods of sobriety have been while I've been incarcerated. I did a rider 2 years ago and managed to stay clean for a few months after being released but I made some seemingly innocent mistakes that lead to me relapsing and subsequently being arrested again. I'm now 12 months into a 14 month sentence and am looking forward with hope and a little trepidation to my release. I've learned a lot from my mistakes and have a plan to do things differently going forward. Progress not perfection.

The one thing I know for sure is that no one can force you to want get clean. You can be forced into periods of sobriety but for there to be any real change, you have to genuinely want it for yourself. Being incarcerated has given me a much needed time out to reflect on my choices and gain some perspective that I wouldn't have had otherwise but without my own desire to learn and grow, being here would be a total waste of time and tax payers dollars. There isn't much offered in the way of tools to learn how to manage life on the outside. My hope would be that Idaho would come to offer more in the way of rehabilitation so that people with a desire to get clean have affordable options to do so. Also, that laws surrounding related offenses would be changed and mandatory minimums become a thing of the past. In any of the surrounding states my charges would be misdemeanors and I wouldn't have to go through life with the added stigma of being a felon. We're not bad people, just hurting, broken people who've lost our way and made some poor choices in the process. They say that we fear what we don't understand. If more people would educate themselves on addiction and maybe listen to the stories behind the addict, perhaps they would gain a little compassion which would go a long way in the healing of this particular epidemic.

That's my story. Thank you for listening.

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