Reflections from Inmates


************************************************************************

Something Different

Greetings PPR Readers, thank you for taking the time to learn about needs that must be addressed by those with and without issues. As a new writer for the PPR Site, I hope I can do justice to those who precede me.  As an addict and an alcoholic I have always suffered from the idea of "Terminal Uniqueness"" Although, the longer I work a program of sobriety, the more I find that I'm not so different.
For the longest time I felt alone and separate from the people that surrounded me for years. I looked around all the time trying to see what everyone had that I did not. All the while I only succeeded in making myself feel more and more isolated. I wanted to be as others presented themselves; I want to be different than I was. Soon enough I discovered drug and alcohol"changed" my feelings of insanity and inadequacy.
All I wanted in life seemed to become clear, I thought I had conquered my greatest problem. It wasn't until after many failed experiments that I discovered that all i did was make my problems worse. Somewhere along the way I discovered my drug and alcohol issues were just symptoms of my larger addiction to self-harm. I didn't like who I was, or what I had for life.
I made many bad choices involving drugs,, alcohol, sex, suicidal tendencies, self-mutilation, relationships, and violence. All of thee actions are progressive diseases on their own, and I combined them all. Time and again, I believed the next action would give me the fulfillment I desired. None of them gave  respite to the emptiness I felt.
Eventually, I hit a breaking point. Shattered, I realized I couldn't change the world; I finally knew what it was to be without hope. Something had to change, I had to change. I reached out for a hand, and luckily for me there was one.
I made a bit of progress and my life got a little better. I made some friends, things got a bit better. But, as many addicts before me, I went back to what I do best, hurting myself and others.
In doing so, I found that the bottom just gets deeper, and harder to climb out of. I also found that when I came back, after yet another tragedy, there was the same program waiting for me to reach my hand out. The hand that came before me, belongings to someone just like me, was never retracted. It was still extended to people just like them for people just like me.
I found that "something Different" I had many people who think and feel the same way I do. I found what it's like to be a part of something greater than myself; to believe in something greater than myself today, I am not alone.
Today is different because the difference in myself is attitude of change. I embrace who I am today because I now know I am not  really any different from anyone else in this crazy, mixed up world we all share. If you want something different all you have to do is ask.

By: Thomas Atkinson # 20987



**************************************************************************

The Paradox of Knowledge

By Matt Wedekind

The paradox of knowledge
It cannot be named
As blessing or curse
Lies that have given
Language, its life
A monolith of words built
Upon itself.
 Knowledge is names, for what is felt
and seen, original value
comes from what can't be
defined, a labeled world only
intrigues an analytic mind

Power is given
to symbol, only to define
what is thought
From mind, with no symbol,
what is sought?
Such ponderings, I think will come
to naught, for all
is changed when it is named,
no longer can we see it true
Tho we began with honest eyes.
No longer can we see it through
For it was built with Lies


************************************************************************

A Lonely World

By James Andrews

I know so many men inside the prison that don't trust anyone. What a lonely life. I think. Unfortunately, I too was a man who believe the barbaric lie. Trust no one. I suppose if you trust no one then you will never experience betrayal; but think of all those beautiful relationships you would have to miss out on. Vulnerability is scary, but can you really love without trust. A big part of vulnerability. What would this world be without love?

It is better to suffer wrong then to do it, and happier to be sometimes cheated then not to trust.
(Samuel Johnson)





***************************************************************************

From Madness to Meditation
By James Andrews

When I came to prison. I was torn from my alcohol and drug addicted world into a sterile environment without drugs or alcohol. I soon found out that I  was ridden with anxiety and paranoia from all the bad choices. I had done in the past to get my drugs and alcohol. I was full-blown anxiety attacks that lead me to the mental health unit.
Some where along my path I began a history of violence because I was  afraid of other people trying to hurt me, that I would commonly attack other men for no reason. these behaviors soon lead to trouble  with administration, going to the hole or disciplinary action. Therefore my mind thought it was only a matter of time until I was put into isolation. So logically, I needed to learn hobbies that I could do in one room like yoga, tai chi and meditation, shortly after my uncle sent me a book on meditation.
The day I started meditating my anxiety and paranoia started leaving. After a couple weeks they all disappeared from that point forward my life began to change drastically! Old problems started to fade and fights because less frequent. Today they are non-existent as well as other problems like money, and drugs. My relationship with my Mom and my Dad approved. With all my problems shrinking I did not feel like I had to lie to  them anymore about money or what trouble I was in. "Meditation saved my life!



***************************************************

Dealing with Dual-Diagnosis
(My story of Personal Struggle)

By: William Conway


Mental illness and drug addiction are two of the most stigmatizing social issues of our time. Even through there have been great strides on both of these fronts since the beginning of the 21 century, there are still many general misconceptions about the causes, effects, and practical treatments of these diseases. On their own these ailments are complex and difficult to understand. So when they are intertwined it often leaves those who suffer from Dual-diagnosis feeling ostracized and even hopeless.
For decades mental illness was beyond taboo. Those who suffered from moderate to severe mental dysfunction were often quickly institutionalized in an effort to minimize the shame families felt due to a relatives illness. Once hospitalized, treatment would begin. However, in most cases, especially severe lobotomies were among some of the worst. Neglect and abuse also ran quite  rampant in these asylums, fracturing even further the psyche of those who were already fragile and broken.
For those whose dysfunctions would be considered mild by today's standards, their sufferings was great as well but in a much different way. Many would go perhaps their entire lives without ever being diagnosed or treated. It is difficult to speculate but some experts believe that as much as 75% of the nation suffers from some form of mental illness. When a person goes untreated there is a startling ripple effect.
Fast forward to today. I would like to play out a modern day scenario that comes from my own personal experience. As someone who has been institutionalized on nice  different occasions in a facility and who has also went through drug treatment six times I know very well how dual-diagnosis can be a self feeding, self defeating, revolving door of despair.
There is no doubt that I possessed hereditary characteristics of both addiction and mental illness. My environment during childhood also added to my dysfunction; being exposed to alcoholism and every kind of abuse, mental ,emotional, physical, neglect, and incestuous molestation. At the age of 11 I began to drink of my own accord. The one thing I still remember from that first drunk was the  absence of pain. For the first time in a long time I didn't hurt. Self medication had begun. In less than a year I was required to see a counselor once every two weeks and put on medication due to my increasing erratic behavior. Denial, deception, or self and others, and defense mechanisms became my way of life.
By age 13 I was a full blown alcoholic, drinking four or more nights a week. I also began to experience fits of rage so extreme that at times I would blackout. I went from being abused to being the abuser. I was becoming  what I hated and that added to my hurt. The more I hurt the more I used. The more I used the more erratic my behavior became which led to more and more bad feelings that I wanted to escape from.
My first experience in the mental health facility was traumatic. It was a state ran facility with a fairly open campus. There I was exposed to some extreme levels of psychosis as well as interactions with patients that would most likely spend their lives in hospitals. This made me  terrified to talk honestly and openly with my doctors. This caused treating me to be a guessing game that was highly ineffective. I continued to compound my problems by using. What made things worse what that now I had access psychotropic medications. I wanted to get better but instead I was getting worse.
From July of 1999 to M  arch of 2002 I went to treatment or a mental health facility over ten times, only twice being forced to go. In between I went to 12 step meetings, saw counselors, took medications as prescribed, etc. Without follow through, I could not put together more than a few months off of illicit   drugs and on my medications. Getting better was the trick my mind played on me.
I would get clean, meet with doctors and counselors, get regulated on medications, attend 12-step meetings, and begin doing step work. As I got more and more comfortable in meetings I'd see the counselor less. then I'd begin to think that all the problems in my head were just the drugs. So I'd question, how can drugs be the answer then? How could my brain possibly tell the difference between what a doctor prescribed and what I took on my own?  So I'd stop taking medication. Then the thoughts and feelings I saw as unbearable would return and then I would us. This insane rational repeated over and over.
So what changed? How did I get the loop to play on so to speak? Remember those three D's I mentioned before? Denial, deception, and defense mechanisms. That's what it came down too. I had to admit that I suffer from mental illness. That no matter how good or normal I may begin to feel, I will  always need to take medication. Getting over my denial requires me to rid myself of deception.
It doesn't matter how much help a person has available to them, if a person refused to be honest bout what is wrong there can be no hope of getting better. I had to start telling the truth. I started with myself. Then bit by bit I got more honest with my counselors, my doctors, my sponsor, and my family. And I had to stay honest and that took work  because my defense mechanisms have gotten well honed over the years.
It is hard to grasp the idea of what you thought had been protecting you was actually keeping you sick. There was a part of me that didn't want to know or see the truth about myself and I certainly didn't want to share that truth with others. Also, the illnesses themselves had their defenses and rationales. My PTSD and Borderline Personality Disorder nurtured false perceptions and some very wrong ways of thinking. One of the biggest breakthroughs was a seminar that introduced the idea of putting my thoughts and emotions on trial,  to stop feeding the automated monster, slow down, and assess those thoughts and feelings clearly, honestly, and as objectively as possible.
Having dealt with the three D's, which must constantly be maintained, the next crucial step was finding the illusive balance of medication that keep the imbalances in check yet do not trigger the addict mind to use. For me, this proved to be an impossibly small window to find, especially due to my persistence to maintain my faculties at a high level. I held the view point that reaching emotional stability was pointless if I were not able to have my wits about me.
Again, this is not possible without maintaining the three D's. Without acknowledging the real issues, being honest and open about how to deal with them, and being diligent to not rationalize or justify wrong behaviors and ways of thinking mental stability is not going to be achieved. If mental illnesses persist the dually-diagnosed will use and their problems will increase and compound to the bitter ends that 12-step meetings so fittingly define as jails, institutions, or death. To know the truth of such a statement all one must do is look into the numbers. But there is hope. Solutions can be found. But you must be Honest, Open, and Willing. This is the only way I have found to live a better life. I still sometimes have to remind myself, I am not a bad person trying to become good. I am a sick pers trying to become well.






Breaking Through the Change Barrier

By: Joe Castaneda

We commonly hear about "change" when authority figures in our life do not  approve with our behavior. "Change" the word to me has been used too often. To the point that some people go to an automatic response mode go through. The motions agree to whatever will get them through the conflict and return to previous behaviors. Some people go through events such as tragedy, addiction, conflict, arrests, threatment(not necessarily in that order). With a strong determination to stay clear. Yet with tons of information (about the consequences of drug addiction, alcoholism, violence, Etc.), Groups (with members in the millions),treatment facilities, financial ruin, etc. They return time and again to the same behaviors. so what's the answer to these "sado-masochistic" tendencies. Yes, sadi-masochistic is a strong description. I find myself wondering what it took for me to stop doing Meth. The truth is that it was a combination of things. I do believe for each person there is a perfect storm of consequences that have to come together at just the right time for that "Aha" moment to happen. When some need more consequences than others.

In another aspect there are some traits of our character that when applied to positive  behaviors may be beneficial. So the change occurs when we turn ourselves and put our energies in something else. An example maybe an addicts determination to get high one more time. We can use this same determination to help others, shovel snow at an elderly persons home. We can use it to get us ahead financially, maybe save more money. There are many more examples. I guess the place where the tipping point comes from is deep down in ones gut. What you know, I meant truly deep down you know you screwed up. Its make or break time.

My truth is tht people can be complicated. A convicted killer can be the nicest of guys sharing and being friends with other convicts. My truth is that people aren't all 100% bad but neither 100% good. I have learned to have a common respect for all people I meet. Even people that just really annoy me.

Change to me does not mean you got to completely turn around. Nor is it a gauge perilous journey. It does take courage. It does mean you will be vulnerable. As long as you take slow, methodical steps to make life better for others and yourself. You will make progress. Allot of times change is not 180%, its one degree at a time.


**************************

Make a Difference Choice

By William Conway

If I knew of someone on the path to prison, what advice would I have? First, I'd say find out wo you are. Then, I'd say don't let the past define you. Finally, evaluate yourself honestly. If you're going down the wrong road, redirecting your course early is your best chance at avoiding serious consequences to bad behavior.

As I said, start with finding out who you really are. I've found that a lot of the wrong decions I made were becase no thing really mattered to me. I never took the time to figure out what I valued or what I wanted to do with my life. I had no plan or no direction, soI did whatever I felt like in the moment. Trust me, that led to a long list of hut poeple and bad choices.

At the same time, don't live in the past. I'm not saying forget about it, or don't take responsibility for what you've done. What I'm saying is don't dig a pit of guilt and shame. Failures have a way of burying you if you let them. It's easy to ge trapped in the idea that you can never be anything more than the dissappointment tnat you've been. That's not true though. Each new moment brings with it the ability tochoose differently.

Lastly, I believe that in order to find true peace and happiness in life you have to be honest. If you're going to change anything about your life you must first know what's wrong. Also, if anyone is going to help you try and change, then you should be honest with them too. For me, I have to ask myself regularly if my behavior and attitude is in line with who I want to be. If it's not, then I must do what's needed to correct my course. In not, then I will soon feel lost, alone and afraid and this a recipe for disaster.

For many reasons prison is a miserable experience. When I think of how easily I could've a voided coming here it sickens me. While it's true that there were many warming signs that prison was highly likely for me, iti s equally thrue that I had many opportunities to change. I just never took full advantage of them. Thant's the real heartbreak of my situation. Realizing that it didn't have to be this way, yet that's the way it is.



Surface Recovery 

The Right Thing for the Right Reason


We as people are known for our wrong thinking. thus it is important that we be ever mindful of our motives. It is easy to do what is right when we know some reward is likely. The true  test of our character is doing the right thing simply because it is the right thing to do. Reward seeking is a still a form of manipulation. It is an especially dangerous one at that, because it open will allow us to believe we have stifled this particular defect even though it is alive and well.
Another aspect of this flaw is doing the right thing to avoid the consequences of wrong behavior. While this is often a good starting point, it is imperative that we move beyond this stage. Changing only to avoid consequences robs us of the freedom that true inner change offers. It is also a breeding ground for future resentment. Resentment is a well-known stumbling block to those who are trying to change.
Lastly, when we begin doing the right thing for the right reason we will know that we are well on our way to becoming true men of character. Self-realization should be all that we need to be satisfied with this accomplishment. We need not tout it  because when this trait is truly a part of our character humility will follow. That is how we will know. we will find ourselves doing the right thing and not caring whether or not somebody noticed.


By: Bill Conway


*******************************************************************************


By William Conway


We've all saw it. If we've been around recovery for long, all we know what "Surface Recovery" looks like.  chances are we have been guilty of it ourselves a time or two. With phrases like "fake it till you make it", its going to happen.

My own experience has shown that this can be a disastrous type of recovery to hold on too. It can serve a purpose for a time. Perhaps early on it instills hope a little deeper. I've learned though that a surface recovery won't  keep me clean for long. At some point it must be upgraded for these to be any real hope of lasting change.

You see, I was once fooled into thinking that those initial changes and improvements most addicts experience when first getting clean, meant that I w as better. Although I had read and heard about recovery being an inside-out job, I failed to grasp that for myself. I thought that I was just getting it faster tan others. When the truth was that I wasn't getting it at all.

As time went on my knowledge of recover grew but because I lacked true application, I did not grow. Inside I was still in disease mode. My addiction was still eating away at me. Only now it was harder to recognize because I was holding a job, making friends, and not using.

Soon enough through, life happened and I wasn't ready. A storm came along and its winds carried me right back into active addiction. This happened because I was not rooted in my recovery. Things looked alright but in truth I was just going through the motions.

Today I know better. Today I know that looks can be deceiving. Today I know that I need to be real and honest about where I'm really at in my recovery. Otherwise I run the risk of deceiving myself into thinking I'm doing better than I really am.

Now, with almost 6 1/2 years in recovery, my recovery reaches deep below the surface. I'm constantly learning more about the value of true change. For me today, it's not about how my recovery looks. It's about how it really is..

No comments:

Post a Comment