Done. And Done.

My040 Done and Done

Two posts ago, in Decisions, Decisions (Life On The Inside – Part 4), I shared that I had a decision to make concerning a program offered at another institution.  When I wrote that posting I said I’d have made my decision by the time you read the post.  That turned out to be wrong.  Today, April 15, I made the decision.  Why did it take so long to make my decision?  Reservations on my part mostly having to do with things other than the program.

My biggest reservation has to do with the fact that it has taken my two years to carve out a ‘life’ within this institution.  Putting together a circle of acquaintances and friends is not easy for me.  I’m introverted, and I am not the one to walk up to someone and introduce myself and then make small talk which would lead to making a new acquaintance or friend.  When I think of my small circle of people here they are primarily those who either approached me or introduced me to someone with whom I might share something in common.

Next is a fear that I will be put into an unsatisfactory living situation.  When I first came where I am today I was placed in a cube with a ‘hater’ who also happened to be the primary drug supplier for my housing unit.  A ‘hater’ is someone who, because of your crime, hates on you with verbal abuse and, in extreme cases, physical assault.  The one I was placed with was verbally abusive and threatened to have me beat up by those in the unit who relied on him for their drug fix.  Of course, I alerted the unit counselor of the situation asking him to move me before anything happened but he left me there for a month to the day.  During that month I lived in fear for my safety while putting up with name calling and insults as well as the exclamations of hatred and predicted harm if I didn’t move out.  That experience has kind of scared me.  (You can read more about that situation in Love Thy Enemy and Love Thy Enemy – Concludes.)

After this come the more minor fears such as finding a decent job in the new institution, learning the policies and procedures, using the showers per inmate standards, finding radio stations and programs, establishing an exercise routine, and the list goes on.

Imagine being plucked from the society in which you now live and being dropped into a whole new society, culture, and geography.  If you sat and contemplated this in its fullest measure you’d have an idea of what an inmate faces when changing institutions.

Having said all this, you might think I’ve decided against applying for the program – but no, I’m turning in my application this coming Wednesday, the 18th.  Why did I decide to do this?

In talking about the program and its benefits with my wife, while also sharing my reservations and fears, she said she’d support me whatever I chose to do.  However, she also shared a perspective I had not considered:  Maybe I was actually more afraid of change in general.  I had to admit to myself that yes, change does frighten me because with change comes some loss of control and comfort borne of familiarity.  She also pointed out that my Parole Officer may look on someone coming out of the program more favorably than someone coming out of general population who hadn’t made the effort to better themselves.  My wife is wise and observant.

Secondly, I’ve been praying for the Holy Spirit to talk to me and give me guidance in my decision, and I believe it has come in two ways.

The first way is through my study Bible.  I’m reading Colossians and the way my Bible is laid out is the top half of the page is the Bible passages and the bottom half is made up of teaching notes about the verses above.  Well, the teaching notes recently have been about trusting God and knowing that through Him all things are possible.  So, I’ve decided to put it in God’s hands because there’s a chance I won’t be accepted.

The second way happened yesterday as I walked the track.  I was walking along contemplating my decision and literally asking for the Holy Spirit to talk to me; to make it obvious to me what I was to do.  As I thought this, a guy I know only by sight and name came up behind me and put his arm around me.  As he did this he said, “Have you put your name in for the Life Connection Program yet?”  I was dumb founded.  I asked him how he knew I was thinking about it and he said, “I didn’t but you’re a spiritual person, so I figured you’d be interested.”  I’ve spoke to this guy maybe a half dozen times and there he was, putting his arm around me, and in essence, telling me to do it – in fact his last comment was, “Better pull the trigger on that,” as he walked away.  Couldn’t be more obvious could it?  Doesn’t that sound like the Holy Spirit speaking to me through others?

Finally, making this move would put me within a half hour of my two oldest children, within two hours of my youngest child and shave three hours off my wife and mother’s drive to visit me, while also saving money in travel expenses.  Sadly, it will add three hours onto my sister’s drive to see me which does sadden me for she’ll go from half a day’s drive to all day.

So there you have it, my process for making my decision.  I’d be interested in your stories of difficult decision making and whether you felt God had interceded by given you a sign in some form.

As things progress around this I’ll keep you informed.

My advice:  Listen, for God does speak to you.

~jdoe

Decisions, Decisions (Life On The Inside – Part 4)

My040 Decisions Decisions
Photo by rawpixel.com on Unsplash

I have a decision to make; by the time this posting hits the blog I will have made my decision but I think posting it will help others to see at least one program in the BOP (Bureau of Prisons) that is helpful.

As you all know, I’m on a spiritual journey as I serve my time. This time has given me the opportunity to concentrate on my faith in a way I would not have in the world. And now I have an opportunity to take the next step in my spiritual maturity.

The BOP offers a program called “Life Connections” wherein you have the time and assignments helping you grow in your individual faith, while also learning about other faiths. It’s an 18 month program offered at two institutions, neither of which is the one I’m in currently.

So why am I interested? Beyond growth in my faith, I feel that having a broader understanding of other religions will aid me in accepting others and not being as judgmental as I am. Also, I see my faith as foundational in my relationships with others. Finally, I see my faith and the lessons from this program as tools in my efforts, once out of prison, to avoid recidivism.

I’ve been given the application to fill out, which I have done. There’s a chance I will not  be accepted. But first I have to decide if I’ll turn in my application.

So why am I hesitating if my faith is so important to me?

Worldly concerns and fears.

I have carved out a life where I am. I have a bunk I like, have good cellmates, have friends and a routine I follow weekly. It’s taken me two years to achieve what I have and now I’m contemplating giving it all up.

Additionally, I’d have to go through the BOP’s transfer process which is VERY frustrating and I’m fearful for my safety in the transfer. In the process every level of security and crime is placed together in general population thus exposing people like myself to violent offenders. The way it works is every prisoner being moved is taken to Oklahoma City and warehoused there until an opening in their destination becomes available and the prisoner is then flown to their destination. It seems wasteful and unnecessary but it’s the government, so to be expected.

Once in my new location I have to worry about a new cellmate, developing new friendships and adjusting to a new prison’s operations.

Essentially, I’m giving up my comfortable existence now for an uncomfortable period at the new location. I know the discomfort is transient but it’s hard to put into words the stress and tension experienced in prison when trying to carve out an existence; especially for a sex offender.

So what to do? I feel a pull to make the move which is countered with my worldly fears and concerns. I’m about 80% certain I’ll apply, it will take some assurance within myself and through others like my wife. She’s supportive of whatever decision I make but has been instrumental in helping me to see the benefits of making the move.

There’s also a personal gain in making the move: I’d be closer to my wife, children and mother which is positive in terms of visitation. On the other hand, I’d be farther from my sister whom I love dearly and whose visits I value greatly. Right now I’m halfway between my wife and my sister and this move would add about three hours onto my sister’s drive when she came to visit.

I’ll let you know my decision in my next posting. Until then be well, be happy,  be YOU!

~jdoe

The 2012 Life Connections BOP Memorandum

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

A New Perspective

I like to read daily devotionals.  Here, in prison, they are readily available.  I see a great number of people reading them.  One I read is Daily Bread and a second is Living Faith which is Catholic based. 

In Living Faith I recently read a devotional that suggested reading, and contemplating, Christ’s miracles though His eyes; doing so would bring a new perspective claimed the write of that day’s devotional.  Coincidentally, I was reading about Jesus’ miracle of the loaves and fishes (Mat 15:32-38) and I decided to give looking at that miracle though Jesus’ eyes a try.

My040 A New Perspective

I asked myself ‘How could I ever claim to know them mind of God?’  I couldn’t but I could attempt to know the human part of Jesus’ mind, right?  After all, Jesus was God and man in one person so He must have had human thoughts and relations to the situation.  Perhaps, I could tap into these thoughts and reactions and create in me a new perspective and/or a new understanding.

In (Mat 15:32-38) we read that Jesus had compassion for the thousands who had come to Him because they had been with Him there days and had nothing to eat.  So Jesus called His disciples to Him and instructed them to feed the people.  At this point the disciples explained there was little food left to eat, “seven loaves and a few little fish.” 

How did Jesus look at this problem and how did He look at the disciples?  Were it me, I’d feel some level of frustration with the disciples because they should have relied upon their faith to provide all the food necessary but instead they turned to Jesus with some expectation that either He would solve the problem or send the people away hungry.  Jesus didn’t hesitate to call upon His faith in His Father and He gave thanks for the bread and fish and told the disciples to distribute the food.  And all went away filled leaving seven baskets full of leftover fragments.

I think the man part of Jesus would have reacted with disappointment that so little food was available.  I also think He would have had some level of frustration with the disciples because He had shown multiple times that all was possible through faith.  Jesus must have thought, “Why haven’t they learned to exercise their faith?”  Matthew doesn’t record any of Jesus’ reactions, only His action which was to do what He wanted man to do.  He behaved in a human way; He took the loaves and fish, gave thanks and broke the food.  This was what He expected man to do.  He acted as a man.  In so doing He gave the disciples another lesson.

So what new perspectives did I gain?  That in every miracle Jesus behaved as He wanted man to behave even to the point of physical demonstration.  I also learned that life’s obstacles were meant to test our faith and through faith we can overcome.  Another perspective was to be patient with those who aren’t as far, as mature, in their walk into becoming true Christians.  And something else…

When I really thought about the lessons Jesus tried to teach the disciples in this miracle I saw an extension beyond faith in the moment;  I saw faith over time.  In this single miracle Jesus foretold of how the disciples would work to spread the Word of God.  How?

If we look at the miracle of the loaves and fishes as an allegory for spreading the good news of the living Messiah then the disciples are the messengers, the food becomes the Word, and the multitude becomes mankind hungry for eternal life.  Just as Jesus sent the disciples to fee the multitude hungry for food He would later send them to care for the spiritual hunger of tens of thousands.  The miracle of the loaves and fishes was a small lesson foretelling the true mission of the disciples.

And so it is with us.  We are asked to take our little bit of faith and feed those around us that don’t know Jesus as our Lord and Savior and to spread God’s Word.  And in so doing our ‘baskets’ will never go empty and in fact we will end up with more than when we started.

After trying to look at this miracle as if I were Jesus I can honestly say I do indeed have a new appreciation for His way of preparing the disciples for their future role and I will now attempt to look at other miracles in the same way.

Won’t you join me?

~jdoe

Locked

My040 Keys

Keys

We all have them.  Keys to: our car; our house; our desk; suitcases; diaries; the shed in the backyard; and the list goes on.  They are simple tools that we use to facilitate our lives.  They come in many sizes and shapes and even colors.

But have you ever really thought about what they also represent?

Authority.

Power.

Control.

Those in authority have the power and exert control.

If not, then everyone would have access to everything. 

Imagine total strangers walking into your home or office or other place you hold important and private.  All those places where you keep things that others are not to touch or use or read or or or…

And keys are things we can become sensitive to and develop envy of those who have them.  In prison, exile, the guards all have keys and exert their authority and power over we inmates by controlling our movements and access to things like showers, laundry, socialization rooms, exercise and even food.  And of course freedom.

With all this authority, power, and control comes all responsibility.  We don’t really think about keys giving us responsibility because we’re lulled into a sense of security, but what if you left your cleaning chemicals available to small children and an ‘accident’ were to occur – who would be responsible?  You.  So in reality you accepted the responsibility of keeping the child safe when you accepted the key to that cabinet of chemicals.  And so it is with every key we’re given – we assume, and accept, all the responsibility that ownership, possession, of any key we hold brings.  But there’s even more to owning keys…

Trust.

How do we come by most keys?  Someone of higher authority provides them; that someone places their trust in us to be responsible and cautious and careful and caring and and and…

When we are given a key we are entrusted to use our authority to exert our power and control justly and fairly and responsibly; because if we don’t, there are consequences.

So, what of Jesus’s words in Peter’s Confession of Christ?  [Matthew 16: 13-19]  Jesus says, “I will give you the keys of the kingdom of Heaven; whatever you bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and whatever you loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven.”  Matthew 16:19

My040 Locked

Jesus is giving us the keys to His Kingdom; the keys to salvation and eternal life.  Jesus is giving us authority, power, and control.  Jesus is trusting us to be responsible, just, and fair.  Yet He’s also telling us there are consequences associated with possession of these keys.  This then, requires us to be cautious, careful, caring, and and and…  It’s a Big Deal to accept these keys because it’s a Big Deal that Jesus would entrust them to us – we humans who are so imperfect.   He knows we are likely to stumble and drop, or even lose, the keys He’s given.  That’s why He warns us of the consequences – what we bind on Earth will be bound in Heaven, and what we loose on Earth will be loosed in Heaven.  Matthew 16:19b

Accepting the keys is accepting, and assuming, a great deal of responsibility.  It can be scary though.

Why?

There are unspoken stipulations in Jesus’s offering of the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven:  that you give your life over to Him by accepting, and confessing, Him as the Christ, your Lord and Savior; the ultimate authority.

Giving our life over to Jesus isn’t something to be done lightly because it’s a huge step in one’s spiritual journey.  And it’s worrisome to give control of your life to Him because our path isn’t shown to us in its entirety but is instead revealed to us step by step.  This then, reveals that there’s yet one more stipulation to our accepting the keys Jesus offers us.

Faith.

Faith does not always come easily because it is believing with conviction and without evidence or proof.  (Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary).  Therefore, accepting the keys to the Kingdom of Heaven requires an act of faith on our part.

Give your life over to Jesus and have faith that He will lead you into the Kingdom of Heaven – these are the unspoken conditions, in Matthew 16:13-19, that are placed on us in order to receive the keys He offers – the keys to eternal life.

Where am I on this journey?  I’ve given myself over to Jesus and working on the outwardly confessing of Him as my Lord and Savior.  I stumble every day, dropping the keys and fumbling around looking for them and picking them up.  It’s comforting to know though that He is there offering me a new set of keys should I lose the ones I’ve already been given; of course they come with His warnings and stipulations – and it’s a daily, hourly, moment by moment challenge because I am but a man.

Yet He trusts me.

Which means I have to have faith in Him – and in myself.

I hope you’ll pick up your set of keys and join me on this journey; together is better than alone.  ~jdoe

This Way

Sometimes I walk the track with a friend who does not believe there is a God.  This often leads to deep discussions concerning our individual faiths; he follows Buddhism while I follow and practice Christianity.

During a recent walk my friend made some remarks concerning God allowing suffering and discomfort in the world.  For him it’s proof that God does not exist; for what God would allow such suffering in the world?

I laughed.

I asked him if it were true that, “Buddhism teaches that suffering is inherent in life and that one can only be liberated from it through mental and moral self-purification?”

He said yes and asked me what my point was.  I said, “You follow a religion that acknowledges suffering exists in the word and through efforts on your part to purify yourself morally and mentally you are delivered from that same suffering.  Can’t you see the parallels to Christianity?  God asks us to lead sinless lives (mental and moral purification) so that in Heaven we will be liberated from suffering.”

He responded, “Yes, but we don’t follow a God who could, if He wanted to, prevent the suffering; A God who takes credit for all the good and washes His hands of all the bad.”

I laughed again.

I told my friend that I didn’t see God that way.

But then I had to stop and think.  I had to admit to myself that  my prayers often, almost always, asked for relief of some form of suffering while thanking and praising God for something good in my life.  So wasn’t I behaving as though my friend’s statement were my belief; that I followed a God who took credit for the good and ignored the bad?

I told my friend that I didn’t follow God to be relieved of all my suffering but that I did believe God had relieved me of suffering many times in my life.

My friend then asked me a much more serious question, “If you don’t follow God for comfort and convenience, then why do you?”

I told my friend that I needed time to figure out how to best answer his question.  I was disappointed with myself for not having an immediate answer for him.  Plus, I had to admit that my interactions with God were primarily times of asking for help and times of worship.

My friend’s question didn’t ask why I believe in God, he asked why I follow God.  One can believe but not follow, right?

Over the next few days I spent my mediation time on answering the question “Why?”  Lots of answers came to mind – shallow answers.  I started thinking that maybe the Bible held the answer.

When I thought about the Jews of the Old Testament it hit me – they followed God for relief of oppression and deliverance from Egypt.  In essence, they were following God for comfort and convenience.  God asked for more though.

God asked for love, devotion, and obedience.

And therein lay my answer; I follow God because I love Him, am devoted to Him and cherish my efforts in obedience to Him.

Yes, I still ask for relief of suffering but I’m now expressing my love for Him and re-examining my efforts at obedience.  It’s an act of purification and growth.

Why do you follow God?  ~jdoe

My040 This Way

Disclaimer: I have very little knowledge about Buddhism.  What I do know has been communicated by my friend.  If there are inaccuracies in my writing concerning Buddhism I apologize.  jdoe

The Good Inside

Over the past few weeks I asked about twenty fellow inmates the following question: 

What’s the best thing about being inside and/or this location specifically? 

I asked because I wanted to write a posting saying something like, “It’s Not All Bad Inside.”  I thought that by asking others I’d hear perspective and views differing from my own.  What surprised me was that all the responses fell into one of three categories, each garnering about one third of the total.

The first category is:

“There’s nothing good about being inside or at this location.” 

Even when I pressed them to be more thoughtful they couldn’t come up with any positives about being here, inside.  Perhaps this response isn’t surprising on its own however it came from some of the people I’d thought were most pragmatic about their incarceration.  Don’t misunderstand, I’d rather not be here either, yet I am and I try to make the most of it.  When I fall into this line of thinking it slows time down and makes this experience more burdensome.

The next category is:

“It’s relatively violence free here.” 

I’m at a low security institution and I’d have to agree with this assessment.  It’s not that I haven’t witnessed, or heard of, fights but you generally don’t have to be constantly looking over your shoulder to know who’s behind you.  You do have to be aware of your surroundings but as long as you keep your nose clean you’re relatively safe – it is still a prison and you’re still dealing with people who may have been violent in their past.  One person even described this location as, “A highly dysfunctional community college campus.”  I don’t think I can agree in total but it is highly dysfunctional here. 

These first two categories made me think of all the people in the world, maybe billions, who would gladly trade places with we inmates – the homeless, the hungry, those in war torn countries, and those without sanitation or safe drinking water.  Would they say there’s nothing good here inside?  And wouldn’t they appreciate the lack of violence?

The final category is:

“Time is the best thing wherever you’re imprisoned.” 

Time to reflect and be introspective.  Time to look at your own history and envision a new future.  Time in these ways is the school of thought I think is indeed the best thing about living in exile.

My040 The Good Inside
Photo by Murray Campbell on Unsplash

When I was on the outside I took time to think but I concentrated on worldly things like material belongings, money, success, and feeding my addiction.  It’s not that I didn’t ever think about the truly important things in life like family, faith, and health but it was out of balance.  I thought too much about the former and too little about the latter.

It took being stripped of all the good things in my life to show me where I should have been focusing my thoughts and introspective time.  Now I can say without hesitation that there’s nothing more important than my faith, family, and health.  Think on it a while and I’m sure you’ll find this to be true for you as well.  I know it seems obvious that these are the important things in life but if we’re honest with ourselves we’d admit that we let other less important items cloud our thinking and take our eyes off the truly critical facets of life.

Keep your eyes on the true prizes of life.  ~jdoe

Roots of Faith?

I know in my mind and have faith in my heart that Jesus was born, died, and rose in triumph over sin that I may have eternal salvation.  I also know in my mind and have faith in my heart that God is active in my life every moment of every day.

Yet, my active involvement in my faith has changed.  I can attach this change to my starting medication to address the hallucinations I have and the depression I battle.

This brings into mind a question: 

What, if any, link exists between psychometric drugs and faith?

My040 Roots of Faith.jpg
Photo by Joshua Earle on Unsplash

My first reaction was there is no connection between psychometric drugs and faith, after all my belief in Christ as Lord and Savior remains solidly planted in my heart and mind.  But that’s not what changed.  So I needed to look more closely at what I felt had changed, that is, my active involvement in my faith; those things that bring faith into practice as praise and worship.

I feel I still live as a Christian – loving God with all my heart, soul and mind and loving my neighbor as myself.  (Mark 12:30-31)

I’m still attending church and singing in the choir.  But… other things I used to do like praying the rosary, reading the bible, and privately praying three times daily have turned into occasional activities.  Also, participation in the choir has turned into work and no longer fulfills me. (I must add here that there are also other issues with choir that feed my ambivalence.)

To answer the question of linkage between my medication and active participation in my faith I had to look at the roots of that which drives participation beyond attending church.

I feel I can eliminate the antidepressant as the cause of change.  I was once on antidepressants while on the street (outside this prison) and experienced a positive impact on practicing my faith by becoming more involved, not less.

Yet, what of the anti-hallucinogen?

I’ve learned, through work with psychologists, that hallucinations can spring from the part of the brain associated with creativity.  Once I learned that, it became easier to deal with those hallucinations the medication had not driven away.  But the implication is clear:  If the anti-hallucinogen quiets the creative center of the brain then how I see and feel and participate in my faith is indeed connected to the creative center in my brain.

This brings a new question:

Do I see negative impacts on other creative activates undertaken?

Absolutely YES!

My writing for this blog has become challenging and for my short stories has ceased altogether.  Also, the journaling I did on a regular basis has stopped.  Next, my passion around music has waned to the point that I don’t care to sing anymore.  Finally, and most importantly, I’ve found that I can no longer envision a future for myself once released from prison; from exile.

In summary then, all the creative activities that were alive in me have withered or died just as my active participation in my faith has also all but ended.

So a third question now arises: 

What role does the creative center of the brain play in one’s faith?

I once took the MMPI (Minnesota Multiphasic Personality Inventory) survey and scored 100% for both schizophrenia and delusional disorder.  I recall a fair number of questions around belief in an omnipotent entity (God).

Apparently, I’m not the first person to see a direct link between one’s faith and the workings of the mind – the creative mind.  The implication of that survey is that your faith is something manufactured by your mind as opposed to a belief, a knowing really, in an all-encompassing deity.  And aren’t hallucinations and delusional beliefs manufactured by the mind?

This suggests then that the part of the brain that creates hallucinations and delusional beliefs also creates faith, or at least some portion thereof.

It’s a scary thought really – that my faith is no more real than a short story written for pleasure.

Where does this leave me? 

With more questions than answers.

What to do?  I’ve decided to adopt an attitude of “just do it’ and renew, even if by habit, my participation in praying the rosary, thrice daily prayer times, and reading the bible daily.  My hope is that by doing these things as tasks I will rekindle the part of me that carried these actions as an integral part of my faith practice.

I’m curious.  I’d like to know if any of you that are on psychometric medication have seen a change in how your creative self manifests.  Am I alone in seeing a direct link between the creative center of the mind and faith?

I look forward to hearing from you.  ~jdoe