On a very personal level, reading The Prison Within by Don Cummins was a real treat. I say this because I know from first-hand experience how much courage it takes to “come out” in print on a very private but painful subject. What makes Cummins’ achievement in writing this memoir even better is the importance of his subject: the heart-breaking struggle with drug addiction faced by far too many people of all ages.
What readers look for in any memoir, and one of the reasons I believe so strongly in this genre, is not just the narrator’s story complete with its rather unpleasant details, but seeing a happy ending. Readers need to come away not just informed, but wanting to celebrate the writer’s victory over his or her demons.
In his simple, friendly approach to telling his story, Don Cummins gives us all that, and so much more. Cummins moves smoothly back and forth between his present and past, which incidentally included many long years in prison and once out, several failed attempts to stay clean. So many times I found myself thinking “Oh no...not again!” I became almost as desperate as he must have felt to see him finally kick the habit. Well he not only did that, but today Don has both a happy marriage, several children and a very successful career. And like so many of us who have successfully overcome adversity, he is ever understanding of others going through the same hell and wanting to help them.
Again, on a personal level, when Don finally nailed how and why he had become an addict, I was struck by his recognition of the primary issue. I realized that his feelings of inadequacy, of somehow being undeserving were deeply rooted in his childhood. Some folks find the inner strength to get on top of such feelings as they mature; others need much more help, and when they can’t get it through friends, family or therapy turn to chemical or alcoholic escape. It can take decades, as Don’s recovery did, and even then, one can never be sure there’ll be no further relapses.
I highlighted sections of this book to share with members of my own family. While their “addictions” are different, the long-term effects can be just as debilitating. But reading Don’s story will help them see explanations they might never have considered otherwise. Like any well-written memoir, The Prison Within deserves a wide readership. It could save your life of the life of someone you love. Thanks for writing this memoir, Don Cummins. 5 stars all the way!