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

Blessed In Exile

Here we are at the final installment for this series of postings.  It has been, for me, an arduous task of writing about very difficult topics.  My plate of spaghetti has many other strands that I have to chew through in my healing process, but after today we can sop up the sauce of this topic, as I have forgiven and moved on. 

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Finally, I imploded and pursued illegal pornography.

It may be hard to believe but for me, my case is a blessing.  

There is joy in the tribulation.

How can I say that when I’ve left my wife to deal with life all alone?  It opened the door for me to get the help I needed, still need.  I do not recommend my path as the path to healing but if it hadn’t happened I’m sure I’d be dead today due to suicide.  Sounds dramatic but it’s true.  And sad.

Help for me came from a talented and competent psychologist well trained in sexual recovery as well as addiction.  I have to admit that admitting I was an addict and hearing the diagnoses of PTSD, Delusional Disorder, and Dissociative Disorder was scary because it also meant out of control psychologically.  Yet once I knew what was wrong I could face it head on and use my intellect in a healthy, productive way.  The thing I valued most had a different purpose: uncover and heal verses cover up and hurt.  Another blessing!

Where am I today? 

my040_blessed_in_exile_blessed

I’m proud to say I’m a rehabilitated addict.  I’ll always be an addict – that’s the nature of the beast, the monkey, yet it’s under control for the first time in over 45 years.  You might say, “of course it is, you’re in prison,” but I assure you that pornography is readily available and cheap.  I see today the horror in addiction and use and in fact its very existence.  I read of younger and younger (children!) people viewing it on the internet and so developing ill-defined views/beliefs/perspectives on human sexuality and intimacy.  It is a scourge.

As for addressing the hurts of my childhood, I feel I’ve done pretty much what I can.  There are no answers for all the ‘why’ questions.  The relative that abused me is gone yet I still love and miss them – I hold no ill feelings.  I do however have a new understanding of their role in my life.  Now I know them to be someone as broken as me, suffering their own hurts, who acted inappropriately and in so doing aiding, driving, my ill developed views and beliefs around human sexuality and intimacy.

My childhood was far from normal and holistically healthy in many measures.  That is not to say there weren’t times of true childhood though.  I had loving parents, siblings, fights, resentments, laughs, and healthy love.  Separating the good from the bad has not been easy but I believe I finally have.

What’s left? 

The PTSD, its associated depression, the hallucinations and much of the work to overcome and/or manage their effects.

What help is available in prison? 

Honestly, very little at my location and other non-medical locations.  Unless you’re horribly non-functioning and/or a danger to yourself and/or others you won’t get the help you really need.

They work to keep you stable, not heal. 

I’m blessed that the psychologist, Julie, I worked with outside is still working with me by letter while I’m here.  She is as committed to my full recovery as I am.  The challenge is in the trying to do this kind of work through writings with weeks between responses.  But I write.

I want out of the mental illness prison.  I do understand though that much of it is about management and understanding.  Recovery may mean I think differently and manage the left over.

I began my first medication in July of 2014.  It is a mood stabilizer to help with the suicidal thoughts and has helped some.  I also began my first medication for the hallucinations in August of this year, 2016.  I had to go off due to the side effects.  I began a second medication but it’s too early to judge effectiveness or side effects.  More to come.

I wonder what life without all the people, voices and noises will be like.  I wonder if I’ll feel more human or lost without them.  I do know they are all unhealthy coping mechanisms and I, like a child, have to learn appropriate and healthy coping mechanisms.

Can you teach a 53 year old dog new tricks? 

I’m committed but I wonder, am I capable? 

Time will tell. 

~ jdoe

The Healing Continues

If you didn’t read Part 1 last week, start here It’s All About The Healing

Let me be clear.  I am not saying prayer is a waste of time!  I say pray without ceasing!  But do I believe prayer and faith alone will always prevail?  Yes and no.  Let me explain…

First, those statements made to me are egocentric.  By this I mean that they assume that my prayer for healing involves only myself and God.  Second, they’re limiting God!  People’s statements presume God’s plan is that my healing is between Him and me alone.  Third, they implicitly condemn God’s work in others.

How?

Answer these questions:

1) Why did God lead Julie to become a psychologist if not to be part of His plan for healing?

2) Why were so many others (wife, kids, family, friends, lawyer, etc) called to witness my healing?

3) Why were we given medicine and science and both doctor’s offices and cathedrals?

So “Yes” in that prayer and belief bring God’s plans and for me healing, but how arrogant would I be to ask only God to aid me and in so doing ignore His plan!  God brings us what and who we need – in His time – so by praying for healing and believing in all His possibilities I can say that “No”, prayer as presented to me – excluding God’s other efforts, timing, plans, and works in and through other people – won’t work alone.  We must trust and believe in His human works and His unknowable plans as well.

There’s one other bit of ‘no’ I’ve come to accept:  I, we, cannot presume to know what healing means.  Again, it’s an egocentric thing.  I may define healing as, “I’ll never consider suicide as an option for my life’s end.”  God may define it as, “Everyone exposed to john doe’s pain will never consider suicide as an option for life’s end,” while leaving me to my struggles with suicide.  So if I look only at myself I would feel I’ve not healed when through God’s eyes He’s healed many.

Thinking more basically… How would God have done His work on the cross without apostles abandoning, denying, and betraying Him?  What would have happened without Pilate, The Sanhedrin, Barabbas, and the workmen who made the cross and forged the nails?  Did God, in His greatest glory, do it alone?  No.  Why would anyone presume then that God’s plan includes only God and themselves?  Why would my healing be any different?

Perhaps I’m stating the obvious and there are no revelations; but for me.  I believe that without the human works God brought to me I’d be lying in bed with my mental ‘demons’ still running around in my head (actually many, but not all, still are) or I’d be dead.  I do not believe it’s between Him and me alone.

Healing. 

True Healing. 

Complete Healing.

 It’s all about the Healing.

I’m healing but not fully healed.  It’s a slow process.  Yet today I walk the road of healing hand in hand with those people in whom God has done wondrous works as well as hand in hand with God Himself.  I pray and believe in His plan.  I trust in His people.

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Pray. Believe. Trust.

If you need a professional then seek one out.  I believe God put him or her there for you.  Don’t wait forty six years as I did.  Do it now.

~jdoe

It’s All About The Healing

I am mentally ill.  The roots of the mental illness I battle are in the sexual abuse I suffered as a child.  I am left with wounds.  Some are scarred over, some have scabs, and others are raw and open.

Over the years I developed poor, unhealthy coping mechanisms.  I chased the false idols of money, status, material belongings, and worst – pornography.  I attempted to use these false idols to avoid reality and heal the hurts of a childhood gone mad.  My subconscious gave me colors and patterns that cover all I see, voices and noises inside and outside my head and a host of people to see and interact with that simply are not there.  And physically I was left with seizures that have no diagnosis but the sexual abuse (there is info on this if you research the link between seizures and sexual abuse as a child).  But they all failed to provide what I needed, still need…

Healing. 

True Healing. 

Complete Healing. 

It’s all about the Healing.

I’m working on healing.  It is work.  You are kidding yourself if you think otherwise.  It is also a slow process.  Patience is required.  So are diligence and faith.

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My road to healing began the day I became aware there was an official investigation into my pursuit of illegal pornography.  What I couldn’t see that day, or for many days and months afterword, was how much of a blessing that scary day would turn out to be.  I know that sounds crazy since it lead to my incarceration but without that day my healing would never have been.  In fact, I believe I would be dead.

Suicide has been ever present in my life.  Attempt number one at age fifteen.  Attempt number two at age twenty.  Planned attempts at ages thirty, thirty five, forty eight, and fifty one.

Suicide was another coping mechanism for me to deal with all of the ‘stuff’ I’ve already written of: Hurts from my childhood, mental illness, hallucinations, self-worth and self-validation issues, and the false idols of money, status, material belongings and pornography.  I was a mess that fateful, scary day.

Healing requires that, like triage in an emergency room, you uncover the wound and examine it to see what damage has actually occurred.  You need the help of professionals for that.  You don’t perform open heart surgery in your kitchen, right?  So why should you attempt to fix your mental self while sitting alone in your family room?

When I took my first step on this road of healing I still travel, I looked around and saw that my professional for help came in the form of a highly competent psychologist named Julie.  At the time I did not see God or my faith as part of the healing journey.  I didn’t see God that way because my relationship with Him was superficial.  My relationship with God is so much deeper today.  My faith is real and significant.  Yet today I can say that I do not believe that a deeper relationship with God prior to that scary day would have changed the outcome I now live.

Why?

I was a mess and would have been that mess regardless of my faith or thoughts and feelings about God.  I would not have taken steps to heal.  God of course knew this and even though my attitude toward Him was casual in nature, His attitude toward me was Love.  God knew I needed to walk into, and one day out of, an effort to heal.

I can look back now and see how God lead me to Julie, a psychologist specially trained in exactly the type of help I need and then He blessed me with fifteen months of time for my work with her.  (Fifteen months from investigation start to my custody and jail.)  God knew I needed to go through that time and work with Julie and that without it I would go unchanged and very probably have taken my own life.

So often people say, “Pray for healing,” and “God has already put the power within you,” and “You’ve got to believe to have it happen,” as if prayer and faith alone will cure every issue.  When I was initially incarcerated I seriously considered suicide again.  I shared this with a former pastor with whom I shared a cell.  He said, “Pray on it and believe, you doubt too much.”  So I prayed – and nothing changed.  I was then put on suicide watch.

Let me be clear.  I am not saying prayer is a waste of time!  I say pray without ceasing!  But do I believe prayer and faith alone will always prevail?  Yes and no.

More to come next week…  jdoe

Part 2 is found here: The Healing Continues