“When I first joined the White Collar Support Group, I was nervous and not committed. I heard there were other women on the call but they were not on the first couple of calls I was on. I felt anxious as the only person of color on the calls as well as the only woman. Over time, I developed more trust and became more vulnerable to the group. I have never felt pressured to share or be anyone different on these calls. I now look forward to our weekly time because it is the one time a week when I feel whole regardless of whether I am having an “up” day or a “down” day. There is nothing like a shared experience with people who have walked your walk and know exactly what you are talking about. When new people come to the calls, I am eager to put a metaphorical arm around their shoulders and remind them of what they already know but have temporarily forgotten: “You will survive. You will have some up days. You will have some down days but we are all here for you. And…. Yes, you will survive. Life will never be the same again but you will survive. You will discover that you are really an amazing person in the process. You will survive.”
So many people come to the call in a complete state of panic. Their situation is not what they bargained for. They are losing everything they once knew. They want to know how to make it all go away. They want to know how they can regain everything they are afraid of losing. The calls become a place where your entire humanity, not just your mistakes, are affirmed and upheld as valuable. The calls are the one place of refuge where we are reminded that we are NOT, in any way shape or form, our crimes. The calls are one place where our whole humanity is affirmed. We do not give legal advice but we give soul support that helps build resilience. And in the long run, it is a game of resilience.
The best part of these calls over the last couple of years has been taking relationships off-line. I have met several of the men and women that have been on the calls. They are more than friends. They are Anam Cara, the Celtic word for “Soul Friend.” I love our transparency. I love how we are all striving to be our best selves. I love the support and love I receive. I love the celebrations of our successes no matter how small and I love the encouragement I receive when I am down. Most of all, I have turned this into an accountability group. I still wrestle with why I made the poor decisions I made and committed a financial crime. I do not want to be that person. I want to be a person that makes smart decisions. I want to be a person that is fully aware of the ethical impact of my decisions on other people and also on institutions. On the calls, I continue to get help in the areas that I feel the weakest. I know that because of these calls and the support and non-judgment that I receive, that I am able to grow beyond the limitations that my crime has placed on my life.”