I always do an honest assessment after I present or speak. No matter what the lay out may be or what the crowd looks like, I always assess what I do so that I can continue to improve and reach my best potential.
I like what I do. More accurately, I love what I do,
And here’s why . . .
For more than a year, I have been running an empowerment class in a county jail on Sunday mornings. The hour long group is intense to say the least. Some people like it. Others, well, let’s just say their mind is focused elsewhere.
I stand in front of a group of men, all of them ranging from different ages to different backgrounds, different ethnicities, and different social and economic backgrounds. They have different ideas of sexual orientation and they range from different choices of drugs or alcohol.
They all have their differences but they have their similarities as well. One similarity above all is the fact that either drugs or alcohol or both have led them to where they are now.
They all feel. They all think, and equally, they all ended up in the Drug Rehabilitation Center section of the jail.
Throughout my time here, I can say I have met great people. I have met troubled people and people in need of extra help.
I met people that withstood terrible childhoods. I met people who were gifted and equally disadvantaged. Unfortunately, I have also met people that refuse the mottoes of a clean lifestyle and chose to stay as they were and remain in whichever shape they found themselves before their incarceration.
I see people change here in this program. I have even seen eyes open to a knew way of viewing. I have seen the ones that were stuck in their ways stop to consider the way they were.
I can say the program works for those who choose to allow this to work for them
This is why we always discuss worth and value. We discuss our ability to achieve and improve. We do this because without the belief in our ability, we remain as we were, or otherwise, incapable.
Doubt plays a big role here. If there is no belief that anything can change then nothing will ever change. We discuss this during our Sunday morning groups. We talk about plans. We talk about strategies. We talk about goals and what needs to happen in order for us to achieve them.
I see people in their last few days of their time. And they say goodbye to me. They tell me their thoughts and what they think of my group. So far, the feedback has mainly been positive.
I see the look in their eyes before they leave, which I can relate to. They are about to be free. They are about to wake up in the comforts of their own home. They will not have the walls around them that keep them confined or kept from the rest of the world. There are no more restraints. There are only them and their plans and their choices to go in whichever way they choose.
Some of the men I see will have to go on to complete another sentence. I have said goodbye to people that are going to spend several years in a state prison, which is hard for me to see.
But it is what it is.
I understand the punishment needs to match the crime. I get that the sentence is a result of their choices. Moreover, I get that on the outside, not all of the men I’ve met have behaved as good people.
But nevertheless, we are in the middle of an epidemic. It has been said by many officials and agreed upon by many others as well as myself that we cannot arrest or convict our way out of this problem.
I see the men I interact with as people. I see them as fathers and brothers and sons. I see them as uncles and cousins and friends because before they were anything else; this was them from the beginning.
I do not see them as inmates or convicts. I do not ask what they’ve done nor do I put myself in a position to judge.
Instead of taking a position of authority, we communicate from a different angle. We talk about motivation. We talk about inspiration, which, by the way, inspiration and motivation have no alliance nor allegiance to right and wrong or good or bad.
Rather than talk about the details of our behaviors, we discuss the reasons behind our behavior. We reveal the truth of out emotions. We laugh, and yes, sometimes we cry.
This is not to say my method is more effective. This is just a way to attack substance abuse dependency from a different angle.
I heard from an old friend that has been in and out of jail, programs, and did his time both on and off the line at the methadone clinic. He told me, “Most of them want to listen and most of them want to clean up. They just don’t want to do the work. Either that or they just don’t believe they can stop.”
All I know is that there is no one size fits all model. I know that we need different other than one. I don’t know what the missing ingredient is. I just know that when the student is ready, the teacher will appear.
I know that the mind just wants to feel good. The mind doesn’t want to feel fear or pain or stress or anxiety. I know that life can be loud, and for some people, drugs and alcohol act like a mute button to soften the hard noises of painful facts we can become intolerable.
It’s hard to unlearn or un-know something. It’s hard to cancel out the effects we remember of a medication that we once used to satisfy the receptors in our brain.
Do people get better?
Yes, they do.
Will everyone get better?
As I see it, whether anyone gets it or not, at least they know there’s a way out if they choose to take it. No matter how far down they have fallen, at least they know there is always a way to get back up.