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Are You Willing to Go to Any Lengths?

Issue 29

A question that’s been posed to people in recovery for many decades now is this daring call to action, “Are you willing to go to any lengths?”

Any lengths?

Some of us come into recovery pretty ambivalent, some come rushing or tumbling in, ready to do whatever is required to transform our lives. Tell us to stand on our heads and sing Happy Birthday and we’d do it.

We remember the lengths we went to before we came to recovery: begging, borrowing and stealing from others and from ourselves, from our own lives, for years.

Were we — are we — willing to bring the same level of determination to this new path?

The new path, the path of recovery, looks different for each of us. And the way we begin it does, too.

In 2013, a woman by the name of Etta Mae Lopez slapped a police officer to ensure she’d go to jail. She wanted to stop smoking, and she knew that if she struck a law enforcement officer, she was guaranteed jail time. She waited for hours outside the Sacramento Jail for an officer to exit in uniform. When Deputy Matt Campoy came out the door, she stepped directly into his path and slapped him in the face. When he brought her inside the facility, she slapped him again on his arm, for good measure.

Just 5’1″ tall, 31 year old Etta May Lopez was a small but determined bundle of energy. Her strategy was pretty wacky — we wouldn’t endorse it! — though it got her a sentence of 63 days and, in that time, she got free.

Many people who are incarcerated for reasons other than Etta Mae’s await the day they’re released and can smoke again. Instead, she treated jail as her own recovery center for smobriety, and she found her own unique way in.

What creative, wacky, willing-to-go-to-any-lengths things have you done to get and stay on your own unique and individual path of recovery? And who have you invited or recruited to support you in your transformation? And how can you thank them for the unique way they’ve showed up?

Matt Campoy joked with friends and the media that he had a new name after that event: Nick O’Derm. He didn’t know he was going to become a catalyst in Etta Mae’s unique path to freedom.

I want to say Thank You to both Etta Mae Lopez and to Matt Campoy, aka Nick O’Derm. I’ve shared your story with friends and fellow buttkickers, in and out of recovery, for a decade now. It’s a delight to share it here, too, in the spirit of inviting each of us to stay creative, to stay connected, to hang on to our sense of humor, and to keep asking ourselves and each other the vital question — are you willing to go to any lengths?

Joanna Free
Joanna Free
Joanna Free is the (grateful) author of BUTTKICKERS: Twenty Ways to Leave Tobacco and a (proud) writer for Journey Magazine.

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