By: Penelope, P-Rae Jackson


It Could Have Been


I had nothing to offer anybody, except my own confusion – Jack Kerouac

So, there I am, sitting in the recliner at my therapist’s office.

He smiles. “What do we say when we meet new people, Penelope?”

“Welcome to the shit show,” I reply.

“He glares and spritzes me with a water bottle.”

OK, OK. That didn’t really happen, but it might have. The answer I gave is honest. Until a few years ago, my life was a train wreck. 


What It Was Like – The Early Years


Hello, my name is Penelope Rae Jackson, and I am an addict. My recovery date is 12/16/16. I was born the second oldest of 12 children to a woman who was an addict herself. Only four of her kids have the same father, and two of them are twins. 

My father was not there when I was born, and other than having results from a DNA testing site, I might never have met him. He was an addict as well and a major-league criminal.

It’s difficult to imagine my life unless you lived it. My mother was violent and strap handy. She beat us daily and some days more than once. She also made us fight each other for the amusement of herself and the flavor of the moment (whatever guy she was screwing.) I learned early in my childhood to survive by stealing and fighting. 

I was born in 2001, just before the attacks, and by the time I was 12, some people were trying to fix what they felt was wrong with America by ushering in a new age of Aquarius. I met some of them in a park, and they were much older than me. My early life would have been far worse if I hadn’t met these people who began explaining to me about Dr. Leary, Carlos Castaneda, and other psychonauts. Soon I was trying mushrooms. By the time I was 13, I had tried acid and fallen in love with it.




The idea of sitting naked, or mostly so, with others never seemed that big of a deal. Neither did having sex. I drank when I was alone and smoked pot, but it was in these guided meditations that I found escape from my desperate life.

At 13, I was kicked out of my home. My mother didn’t want any attention from the police, and with me coming home in the wee hours, there was a good chance that I’d be picked up on suspicion even in Brooklyn. My older sister had already been thrown out, and my brother was in a psych unit. To say that my life was unmanageable is to state the obvious. I was powerless over everything, and life was beyond unmanageable.

My sister was now in high school and rocking it. She was clean and sober and introduced me to the people who had unofficially adopted her. They asked me to live with them in their condo. However, there were conditions. I could not use drugs, and they stressed that alcohol was a drug, and I had to attend school. 

My response was a series of words and phrases you shouldn’t use when referring to the wife of an Italian man – not my wisest move, but move I did, into their condo. 


What Happened


I was terrified. However, I also had food, clothes, a warm bed, a shit ton of attention. My sister was a lot more caring than she’d ever been. These people who told me they cared about me actually proved it in their actions.

Although I had been whipped and paddled by my mother most of my life, there was something different here. These people weren’t going to let me go on living as I was. Yes, they turned my ass fire engine red, and a couple of times, my sister did, too, but afterward, they comforted me. I began doing school and four meetings a day. School was easy; I have that kind of mind.

Recovery was more challenging, even though they explained why they were asking me to do particular things that they learned in meetings – things that at first I didn’t understand. I also didn’t understand why people at the meetings gave a fuck about me.

The lady who took me in said she was going to sponsor me; I said fine. My higher power is John Lennon, and I believe in free love, psychonautics, and inner exploration. This lady said that this was OK with her. I was shocked.           


Finding My Tribe and Using My Sponsor


Over a few months, I began to find people who studied Leary and Castaneda but without drugs. They had group encounter sessions, introduced me to isolation tanks, and taught me about Buddhist and Taoist philosophy. I thrived, but something was missing. When I went home, took off my clothes, got into my pajamas, I was still me. I hated myself. I didn’t see anything good inside of me.

I finally caved and started the fourth step. I made a list of what a piece of shit I was. Every bad thing I saw in myself. Every loathsome thing I had ever done. And my sponsor asked me, “Where’s the good part of the inventory? What are the good parts of you?” 

I began to cry. I cried for three days until I was sick. I couldn’t answer her because, dammit, I just didn’t know, I saw nothing good. My sister began pointing out that wherever we walked, if I had a few bucks, I gave it to some homeless person or another. She pointed out that when I saw a kid in the park fall and skin his knee, I ran toward him to help. She showed me all the ways that I cared about people—cared deeply.


Starting To Care About and Value Me


When I did step 5, I had a list of good and not-so-good qualities. I agreed that the not-so-good would take years to fix if they could be fixed. I asked John Lennon and every angel of peace and harmony to change me. They did. It wasn’t immediate, but I stopped being so angry. I stopped blaming the world for my problems. I took responsibility for the fact that I was a slut and that I was a thief. I thanked them for all the good I felt toward others, though.

When it came to make amends, I couldn’t do much. My life was so messed up that there was little chance of finding the people I owed. Instead, I started over. I wiped my slate clean and agreed to live a life better than the one I had been given. So far, I have stuck to that. I especially like step 11, as meditation is important to me. 

The cops finally took my siblings from my mother. My younger sister was born addicted and had a violent temper that made mine look like kid stuff. Her struggles were different, more challenging. 

I used everything I had learned, and with my older sister, we started helping her. However, she needed to be away from us, for her good and ours.         


What It’s Like Now


My life is very different today. I met a girl three years ago, and we fell in love. We have boyfriends as well, but we are engaged to be married to each other. She’s also recovering from hallucinogens and is into lighting incense and meditating to the music of Strawberry Alarm Clock and Enya. 

I am healing. My mother died a while back of cancer, and I finally found my father. He’s in bad shape and dying as well, but I helped him find a studio apartment after his release from prison.

Bottom line:

  • This disease isn’t easy. 
  • Recovery isn’t easy. 
  • It’s manageable one day at a time. 

I help others now, and I am in college studying to be a counselor.

Thanks for letting me share.



Bio: Penelope, P-Rae Jackson


P-Rae is a 20-year-old flower child with five years of recovery. Born under a bad sign in a housing project in Brooklyn, she currently resides with her fiance, Jeanie, in The East Village of Manhattan and attends college. P-Rae works part-time as a mannequin dresser for a department store when not sponsoring others or handing out homemade sack lunches to the homeless. 

She is a G5 Krav Maga practitioner and is training to move up to E1. She also studies ballroom dancing, Tantric Yoga, and drug-free psychonautics using: 

  • SSD ( Samadhi Sensory Deprivation) tanks
  • Holotropic breathing with a teacher.
  • Recorded guided meditations 

When not studying The Big Book and The Basic Text of NA, she enjoys the works of Marilyn Davis (Finding North), Ben Rose (Everybody But Us and The Long Game), Timothy Leary, and Carlos Castaneda. 

Follow her on Facebook as Penelope Rae Jackson.





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