I’m A Winner

Have you ever called yourself a loser?

I have and sometimes still do.

It’s a harsh label and one I wish I didn’t use.

How many times have you looked at another person and said to yourself, “At least I’m not as bad as that person.”?  Isn’t that really the same thing as calling another person a loser; at least situationally, only to find yourself doing the same thing?  For example, I find myself saying it daily as I walk the compound here.  People can’t seem to get the idea that you should walk as you drive – on the right side of the walkway.  And minutes later I find myself walking on the left.  Then I justify it within my head by saying something like, “At least I don’t do it when there are people walking toward me.”  That’s when I find myself gently chiding myself with a, “You’re just as bad as those who walk on the wrong side of the sidewalk.”  In essence I’m calling myself a loser.

When I think of having landed in prison I also call myself a loser.  I knew that what I was doing was against the law, yet I chose to risk prison to satisfy my addiction.  Only losers do that, right?  So by that definition, I’m living with about 2000 other losers.  Yet I know people inside this place that I would not label that way so why do I still generalize the way I do?  Perhaps it’s to make myself feel better about myself – at the expense of others.

On the lighter side, I sometimes lose my train of thought in conversations, lose my reading glasses and ballpoint pens (though I suspect they’re actually stolen).

When I think about being separated from family and friends I also call myself a loser; a loser of time and interaction.  I’m also a loser of my career and income important to my family’s well being and security.

Fortunately, I have a family and some friends who do not label me as a loser and I wish ardently that I could see myself through their eyes.

Recently, during a time when I was really down on myself, I started thinking of famous losers.  Those who perhaps appeared successful or were actually successful in some measure or measures.  I figured that if I could find one or two maybe I could look at myself differently.

The first person I thought of was Elvis Presley (yes, I’m a fan).  Elvis had it all; fame and fortune but he died of a drug overdose losing everything.

The second person I thought of was Jesus.  I know that today we don’t see Him that way but in His day many would call Him a loser.  Think of it – having no earthly possessions, rejected by those in power, betrayed by one of His disciples, scourged, and dying the tortuous death of a criminal with unbelievers surrounding His crucifixion with taunts of “Save yourself if you’re the Messiah!”  Pretty much the description of a loser.

And yet …

Today we see Jesus for who and what He is – our Lord and Savior who lost His life that we may live.  By losing His life He turned us into winners – if we turn to Him.  With this new perspective I can redefine myself as a winner, right?  Think of it!  By accepting Jesus as Lord and Savior, asking that the Holy Spirit fill me and doing my honest best to live as God wants me to live I become a winner!  Sure, I may lose some day-to-day battles and have lost a lot in my past but when thinking of the race that truly matters I may come out a winner.

My040 I'm A Winner

Won’t you run this race with me?

~jdoe

To My Love

My040 To My Love

Valentine’s Day.

A day to celebrate the one we love. I’ve sent out my cards. Yes, I said cardS. Why more than one? I have four significant women in my life – mother, sister, daughter and wife. Each is important to me in unique ways but it’s my wife I want to write about now.

My wife and I met in high school while out ice skating with mutual friends. I thought she was stunning. She had, and still has, the most beautiful smile I’ve ever seen. When she smiles I go weak in the knees.

About three months after meeting her we went on our first date and we’ve been together since. That’s not to say we haven’t had difficult times but through them all we always returned to each other.

So how long ago was that first date? That was 37 years ago. I’m now 55 so well over half my life has been spent with this amazing lady. It seems like only yesterday I was asking for her at her front door while being scrutinized by her father.

Words. What words can do my wife justice?

She’s loyal, dedicated ,earnest, reliable, true, wise, inspiring, faithful, honest, helpful, kind, sincere, a terrific mother, a good friend, daughter, sister, aunt. She’s intuitive, smart, dependable, funny, serious, creative, complicated and simple. She’s fun, competent, talented, achieving, tireless, brave, independent, admirable and the list goes on. Words are simply inadequate to convey what is in my heart and on my mind when it comes to this lady.

I can’t imagine life without her. I wonder who I’d be had she not entered my life. My successes are, in large part, due to her unwavering love and support.

She is my rock and my light.

I love this woman with all that I am or ever will be. She completes me and fills the voids in my heart and soul.

If I could say just one thing to her I would say, “thank you.” Thank you for choosing me to give yourself to.

I love you babe.

~jdoe

Thank you Dierks Bentley, Josh Kear, and Ross Copperman for writing such a fitting song, lyrics follow

Woman, Amen

Performed by Dirks Bentley https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mXOTJ-tluUU

I’d lose my way and I’d lose my mind
If I faced one day on my own
I know I was saved
The night that she gave this drifter’s heart a home

Every night I should be on my knees
Lord knows how lucky I am
I’ll never say near enough
Thank God for this woman, Amen

This world has a way of shaking your faith
I’ve been broken again and again
But I need all the cracks in my shattered heart
‘Cause that’s where her love gets in

Every night I should be on my knees
Lord knows how lucky I am
I’ll never say near enough
Thank God for this woman, Amen

She gives me faith
She gives me grace
She gives me hope
She gives me strength
She gives me love
Love without end
Thank God for this woman, Amen

Thanks for the moon and the stars up above
Forgiveness’ a sin in your undying love
Every twist every turn for the way you made sure
All my roads led to her

So tonight I will fall down on my knees
‘Cause Lord knows how lucky I am
I’m gonna shout at the top of my lungs
Thank God for this woman, Amen
And thank God for this woman, Amen

She gives me faith
She gives me grace
She gives me hope
She gives me strength
She gives me love
Love without end
Thank God for this woman, Amen

 

Life On The Inside – Part 2

My040 A Leg Up

A Leg Up

In the first entry of this series I wrote about the ways I spend my time.  In this, the second installment I’ll write about rehabilitation opportunities and their effectiveness.

If you’re in prison and have a drug case or if you have a documented drug or alcohol problem and it contributed to your crime, there is the Residential Drug Abuse Program (RDAP).  This program requires the inmate to reside in a dedicated housing unit that serves about 160, about 8% of the population, inmates at a time.  The housing unit, coincidentally, sits directly below my housing unit.  I’ll explain the significance of this later.

The RDAP program is 40 weeks long.  During this time the inmates are required to attend Cognitive Based Therapy (CBT) sessions aimed at changing the way they think about drugs and addiction.  When taken seriously CBT is quite effective.  The issue is it’s not taken seriously by many of those in the program.  The recidivism rate for those that have taken the program is only a few points lower than those who do not go through the program.  The recidivism rate for those not attending is roughly 80% at five years verses 72% for those taking the program.  So why do inmates go through the program?

To get a year off their sentence.

Yes, if you successfully go through the program you are granted a year off your sentence.  This is, of course, envied by those who are not here for a drug related crime.  What amazes me is the number of people in the program that continue to use drugs while in the program.  As I’ve written before, drugs are readily available and used by many.  Those in the RDAP don’t use in their housing unit.  Instead they come up to my housing unit and get high with those using drugs in my housing unit.  In fact, there are three people in my unit that were ejected from RDAP for using drugs.  So getting high was more important than the year off.  That’s how addiction is though.

So with a recidivism rate as high as it is, why does the Bureau of Prisons (BOP) offer RDAP?  Because congress requires it.  Even though it is ineffective and churns people out every 40 weeks.  The majority of people are not rehabilitated.  The majority are in the program solely for the year off.  The BOP could save money by simply cutting a year off every drug case.

For sex offenders there’s the Sex Offender Management Program (SOMP).  The SOMP program here is non-residential so there’s no dedicated housing.  It also does not offer a year off of your sentence if you should participate.  It is also a CBT based program.  The effectiveness is not known because the recidivism rate for sex offenders is among the lowest of any crime at 3-5% at three years.  The SOMP program also serves about 8% of the population.

In researching SOMP prior to coming to prison I couldn’t find anything written by professionals in the psychology field supporting SOMP as a positive, effective, program.  I know very few people taking the program that weren’t ordered to do it during sentencing.

Am I doing SOMP?  No.  Most states require sex offenders to go through a similar program after release from prison and you’re given no credit for having done it during prison.  Additionally, part of the therapy is group based where you’re required to talk about your transgressions.  I understand the value in group therapy but there’s a problem.  What?

You’re encouraged (read that required) to talk about things you didn’t actually do!  That leads to new charges.  So why do people admit to things they never actually did?  Because if you don’t you’re listed as uncooperative and risk being ejected from the program.  This in turn causes issues upon release from prison because being ‘uncooperative’ is entered into your record which goes to your parole officer (PO).  It’s better to start with a clean slate with your PO.

Finally, most psychologists outside the BOP condemn the SOMP program because it negatively impacts the participants and has no basis in the reasons sex offenders offend to begin with.  It does not address root issues but instead tries to alter current thinking.  For example, I was sexually abused as a child and that would not be addressed even though there’s a correlation between that abuse and my crime.  So no rehabilitation in SOMP either.

Finally, if you have psychological problems there are trained psychologists here.  However, by their own admission, their role is to provide stability, not rehabilitation.  I see a psychologist once a month for about 6-10 minutes.  How on earth am I to gain any help in 6-10 minutes?!  Literally, the session goes like this:

PSYCH: “How are things going?”

ME: “Overall, not too bad.”

PSYCH: “Great! Thanks for coming in.”

The above was literally how my last ‘session’ went with the psychologist.  So I added:

ME: “Medical increased my Geodon dosage.”

PSYCH: “Okay, from what to what?”

ME: “From 80mg a day to 120mg a day.”

PSYCH: “Thanks for letting me know.  Is there anything else?”

ME: “I guess not.”

PSYCH: “See you next month.”

So no real rehabilitation through psychological treatment.

In essence, 84% of the population has no opportunity for RDAP or SOMP and for those of us willing to pursue psychological help we instead receive treatment to keep us stable instead of helping to improve our situation.

Prison is not what Congress or the BOP advertise.  It is simply a way to warehouse people for some period of time and from what I can tell, there is no real rehabilitation available anywhere in the system.  Their goal is to keep people stable so they’re easy to manage.

Rehabilitation rests in the hands of the inmates.  It’s up to the inmate to rehabilitate themselves.  I do this through teaching a class, reading a wide range of literature, writing this blog, and participating fully in my faith.  And where my crime is concerned, I spent the 15 months prior to my incarceration in intense psychological therapy.  I came into prison already rehabilitated because I knew there was little to no chance of true rehabilitation inside.

When you think of prison you have to know that most people go through prison essentially unchanged simply because there’s no real, effective, effort by the BOP to rehabilitate.  It’s no wonder the overall recidivism rate is over 80% at five years.

It’s sad really.

~jdoe