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Recovering addict from Olympia seeks to inspire female inmates

Olympia resident Kay Christy has self-published a collection of spiritual affirmations called “Gift from Guidance” and plans to donate the book to female prisoners.
Olympia resident Kay Christy has self-published a collection of spiritual affirmations called “Gift from Guidance” and plans to donate the book to female prisoners. The Olympian

For 32 years, Kay Christy has been walking a sober path without drugs and alcohol.

It’s been 32 years since she reached rock bottom — a time when life was all about partying at the center of the addiction-fueled action.

In her ongoing recovery, Christy has found strength in the power of affirmation. She started by writing inspirational phrases and prayers to herself on notecards. She left these messages everywhere to retrain her mind to focus on positive thoughts.

For example: “I am exactly where I need to be, doing exactly what I need to be doing. My inner voices are voices of love and patience, kindness and forgiveness. All I have to be is what I am right now. And so it is.”

The notecards began to pile up, and her self-esteem grew along with them. Now, Christy has turned those words of encouragement into a mission to lift the spirits of other women — specifically female prisoners.

The Olympia woman has self-published “Gift from Guidance,” a collection of affirmations and prayers that has been organized under the categories of comfort, encouragement and possibility.

Christy says her messages are spiritual, not religious. While the latter adheres to a specific dogma or set of principles, she prefers the former because the term spiritual focuses on the core universal need to connect with something bigger than ourselves. That connection brings a sense of hope that can help people handle feelings of loneliness and despair — two states of mind that can hinder recovery, she said.

“Spirituality to me is a big umbrella that is over all of us,” said Christy, 61. “You choose for yourself where you find divine presence in your life.”

Christy has launched The Encouragement Project to bring that affirmation to incarcerated women as well as women going through addiction treatment or living in safe housing. She is raising money to buy books at wholesale prices with the goal of donating them to women who need some spiritual affirmation.

The project was inspired by a social worker who suggested that Christy’s book would be well received by female inmates. Last weekend, she donated 200 books to the Coffee Creek Correctional Facility in Wilsonville, Oregon.

“They might just open it randomly to a page that makes them feel better,” said Christy about her hopes for the book. “If it heals, you can’t put a price on that.”

Emily Brault, chaplain at Coffee Creek, said the books are a welcome donation for the inmates, many of whom are seeking a sense of comfort in their lives. The prison chapel provides services for a variety of religious traditions that promote healthier behaviors, especially for recovering addicts.

Brault said spirituality can provide concrete tools — and a sense of trust — for inmates who are learning how to cope and address their problems without running away.

“Spirituality can help women create a new narrative for their lives,” Brault said. “It gives them a way to think about things differently, it can help plant seeds, it can help provide some comfort, and it can help remind them that they can keep going and that change is possible.”

Christy, who has a master’s degree in behavioral science, now works as a life and addiction recovery coach after 20 years as a consultant for the state Department of Labor & Industries. Even after more than three decades of sobriety, she acknowledges that one bad decision could lead her back to addiction.

“I’m an inch away from being them, but they’re an inch away from being me,” she said. “Once you’re in an addictive state of mind, it’s very hard to get out of.”

Check it out

To learn more about Kay Christy and The Encouragement Project, visit giftsfromguidance.com

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