Learning From ‘Orange is the New Black’

Accountability Books Well-being


Key Point: When we get ourselves in hot water… Only we can get ourselves out. The book, Orange is the New Black, follows Piper Kerman’s true story about the year she spent in jail. Kerman is a Smith College graduate and by most standards, a privileged young woman. Under the foolish umbrella of adventure, she illegally participated as an international money mule for a drug cartel. She quit the narcotics business, moved on to a “normal” life, only to be jailed on a federal offense some five years later. (The book is now the basis for a very popular original Netflix TV series as well). This is a story that goes behind the scenes of incarceration, but in the end it is about Piper’s resilience and determination to get out of the mess she created for herself. While many people can help, the answer to redemption is always most dependent on ourselves. We are accountable.

Have you heard of San Patrignano? It is a renowned drug rehabilitation center in Italy.

Its philosophy: “People grow by facing daily challenges with their colleagues and their sector manager (professional educators). This is how critical situations and the fragilities of the individual emerge so that they can be analyzed and dealt with. During rehabilitation, each resident is given more and more responsibility, in both their specific sector and in the many activities they carry out at the community (sports, artistic and cultural activities). Over time, they in turn become tutors for others in need of help. In this way, community residents rediscover, day after day, the pleasure of feeling useful for themselves and for others, experiencing new forms of gratification that are the very opposite of the illusory gratification offered by drug use. The rules of community life are those of normal civil coexistence, in respect of oneself, others and the environment.”

Admission into this incredible facility (which is totally free) is essentially based on the commitment of the individual to address the root cause of their addiction and follow a reliable path out.

Character Moves:

  1. For most of us, thank goodness, the challenges we face are much less daunting than prison or addiction. But on a smaller scale we may find ourselves in our own definition of “hot water.” While we must and should seek guidance and help, we all know deep down that the answer to getting out of our hot water is in our own acceptance and resolve. And science gives us a little guidance for getting out: (See step 2).
  2. Steps after you determine you want “out:” A. Start small: Break your goal into bite size chunks. B. Step small: Start with manageable and attainable victories… Build on each. C. Make habits: Turn small steps into a routine. D. Get up after you fall: It is usually an iterative process of trial and error. E. Focus on your goal: Don’t work on too many things at one time.
  3. Be thankful your and my hot water is not forcible incarceration (prison)… Or voluntary (rehabilitation center)… But most of us have our own personal hot water that requires our resolve and commitment. Sometimes stories like Orange is the New Black or the memoirs of recovering addicts in San Patrignano are just the push we need to get off our own little pity pot and do something we’ve always wanted to.

No hot water in The Triangle,