No matter where you are in life you can find people that are willing to go to some extreme measures to escape their pain, to escape reality.
Prison is no exception.
Instincts tell us to flee from pain instead of looking for its source. Rather than search introspectively for the root cause of the pain, one often diligently searches for ways to numb themselves so they no longer have to feel, so they no longer have to deal.
At closer examination I recognized that much of our everyday choices are made by the impulsive pain, fear, and insecurity. Never addressing the problem but constantly reacting to it and creating a web of much more pain, fear, and insecurity.
When one is forced to face themself, they are often conditioned to see the blemishes and not the blessings that we take for granted and if that disillusioned person stares long enough they may even begin to hate the person they see.
But what will hate cause one to do? What fruit will the seeds of hate produce when it is fully mature?
Will ones hate for self be projected as open, outwards hatred for others?
Will ones hate bring them to the point where they will self-destruct and destroy the lives of others or will they go on a quest to find the deepest and most profound emotion, love, which has been eluding them?
I witness on a daily basis men who in an attempt to escape they find themselves in the downward spiral of addiction. Men whose addictions lead to them coming to prison. Men who continue to sit back as bystanders and watch addiction consume and destroy them and their families.
I have encountered countless men who turned to drugs so they don’t have to face reality or the consequences of their actions.
They can’t forgive themselves to begin the healing process, so they see to annihilate themselves because they already feel all but dead.
The Department of Corrections may have given them a release date but addiction has them feeling the weight of a life sentence in the solitary confinement of an empty life, devoid of the possibility of a better tomorrow.
For those with these struggles the holiday season is the worst. With its constant reminders of life moving on without you.
Addiction does much more than burns bridges, it obliterates them.
So, it is no surprise when the cards that once were received in abundance are now coming in sparingly. When the cards being sent to those on the outside that were once received with open arms are now being handed back at mail call with the gut wrenching…
“RETURN TO SENDER”, “ADDRESS UNKNOWN”, or “NO FORWARDING ADDRESS”.
Need I mention the increasing rarity of phone calls or holiday care packages.
The holidays are a constant reminder of the void that is left behind in our absence. And the gift that matters more than any is to be included in the lives of those we love. To remain close no matter how far apart we may physically be.
While men inside come to grips with the consequences of their actions, their families are stuck looking at the vacant seat at the dinner table as a constant reminder. Praying, that one day their loved one will make it home to occupy their rightful seat once again.
So, while it is typical for one to beat themselves up in one way or another. Everyone deals with the pain differently. I may choose to do a rigorous workout, while another may turn to substance abuse.
That’s why I was highly upset when a staff member told me to check “my boys” about their drug use.
So I responded back “Tell your boys to stop cutting funding to the programs that help deal with the root causes of addiction and recidivism.” More upsetting than any of this is the “us vs. them” mentality that plagues any comprehensive solutions to stop not only people from coming to prison but returning. This mentality expands on both sides by staff and offenders.
Would not it make the most sense to collaborate together to work towards a common goal? Then again this all can be viewed as a life sized political/judicial chess match. And we are the pawns.
Now drugs by no means are an acceptable outlet. Though I personally prefer to be sober and clear minded, my heart hurts for those whose greatest escape from the realm of reality is through substance abuse because there is so much more to life then to miss out on life through an altered state of consciousness.
The holidays remind those on the inside of the intricate roles played by them in society and in their home.
Roles that were ignored and abused. Roles that were seen as obligatory and a hindrance. Instead of a privilege and honor. Failings that may have overflowed into society but started first in the home.
The holidays truly are a time of celebration and commemoration. A time for loved ones to get together to share in each other’s company and not only reminisce about past holiday memories but to make new ones.
But while our families are making new memories they are making them without us, until we find our way home.
Q: Why do you think the Department of Corrections is not addressing the issue of substance abuse on a larger more proactive scale?
Q: Why do you think offender change programs have been some of the hardest hit by budget cuts?
Please email your thoughts!