Growing up, I developed self-discipline through ice-skating. Because I was overweight and naturally clumsy, ice-skating was particularly challenging. Starting at the age of eight, I learned how to really work hard for something. By the time I was thirteen, I joined the team representing my rink here in Georgia. I discovered what it meant to sacrifice and work towards a common goal. My team, Peach Frost, took second place at Nationals in Lake Placid, New York in 2002. Practicing dedication and adhering to the principle of commitment are just a few positive attributes I acquired through ice skating. I also learned to accept losses and strive for realistic goals, traits that would prove beneficial for years to come.

As I went on to high school, my focus began to shift and I worked on improving my academic record. I applied all the principles I learned from my years as an ice-skater and was met with success. It was at this time that I acquired an interest in law. About midway through my career as an undergraduate student, my interest turned into passion, and I knew that I would be pursuing a degree in the field after graduation.

While hard at work as a student, I went to the typical college parties and drank alcohol. In a very short period of time, my drinking turned into a significant substance abuse problem. I was able to exercise some control during the school year, but upon graduation, my addiction took over. The next few years would be characterized by darkness; I lived like an animal, homeless in three states, merely existing. I lied, played the victim, and manipulated to survive; it ate at my soul. I knew something needed to change, but I was stuck in a self-destructive cycle with such clouded views and twisted priorities that I did not see a way out. Thankfully, God kept showing up in the form of a man with a badge and a pair of handcuffs. On April 17th, 2014, I was arrested for the final time. I knew I needed to get sober, and that I had to change my life or lose it. While I was incarcerated I went to AA meetings and was told that if I really wanted to stay sober, that I should go to The Extension. In May of 2014, spiritually, emotionally and financially bankrupt, I was released from jail and was granted admission.

I was welcomed with open arms and I slowly started to gain a sense of stability again; it was then that the hard work began in earnest. Knowing my recovery depended on it, I faced my fears of rejection, inferiority and failure, and I took a moral inventory wherein I identified my character flaws and committed myself to becoming the person I was meant to be. Besides the slave labor required to maintain an addiction, the work I put in for my recovery was the hardest work I have ever done.

Lack of willpower was never my problem; my problem was a thick head. I had to be completely broken so that I could be put back together in a meaningful way. I was not an easy client for the counselors, but as they persisted with the treatment plans, so did I. Slowly, I learned what it really means to take responsibility for my actions, to live life on life’s terms, to practice acceptance, to give without expectations, and most importantly, to stop lying and playing the victim when things go wrong. Pursuing my recovery with the same tenacity I had practiced in my previous endeavors brought me clarity and a new perspective about myself and the world.

By the time I transitioned in 2015, I had developed a truth: avoidance of responsibility only deprives you of the liberation acquired by addressing wrongs and making amends. My amends are far beyond what any court would be able to order, and will be a lifelong process. Today, I give back to The Extension, and I share my experience to make a difference. My spiritual, emotional and social gains are immeasurable. Freely giving the assistance that was given to me is only a part of who I am today. What I seek from life has changed. Rather than pursuing only self-serving opportunities, I prefer to assess how I can be of service. My passion for law has never diminished, but the reasons for pursuing the education, and my plans for the future certainly have changed.

In 2016 I decided that I would pursue my passion and apply to law school. Atlanta’s John Marshall Law School extended an offer with a partial Academic Scholarship. Since matriculation, I have encountered conflict in my personal relationships and struggled with feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt. Thankfully, The Extension has taught me how to reach out, persevere, and overcome. When offered an opportunity to mentor members of the incoming class, I enthusiastically accepted. As a student and mentor at AJMLS I have been enriched immeasurably and have grown exponentially. I do not possess any superior intellectual ability, yet I am ranked in the top 10% of my class. Recovery has taught me to take life one day at a time, to do my best and to help others along the way without excuses.

I am grateful for all of the strength that came from my struggles. Experience, not knowledge is my greatest asset. Recovery has given me an ability to recognize and empathize with the struggles of others. My continued work in the community gives me strength and perspective. I am not selfish enough to think that I was given the benefits of a life second to none, without sharing it with others. Through knowledge we transmit advice; through experience we transmit hope.

The pain was necessary, but the suffering was optional. Today I am grateful the journey eventually led me to acquire the emotional peace I have been looking for my whole life; my only regret is hurting people along the way. It is, and will be, my duty to transmit hope for as long as I live.

Tracy