Posted - 06/15/2012 : 00:22:51
| (Note: This was originally misposted in the Examples Forum.)
This is an essay describing how one inmate is using RI to make a difference in his life and the lives of other inmates. Members can read the testimonials of many of the inmates in the 2012 Q2 Reporter.
From Prison to Recovery
I arrived at Deuel Vocational Institution, a prison in Tracy, in 1991. Prisons were different then; more jobs, programs and self-help. Wardens encouraged volunteers from the outside community to volunteer in the prisons
In 1996, 1 saw a flyer in the prison Library for a class called Road to Freedom run by a fellow named Jim McClary. I later discovered Jim brought in a Recovery group under a different name.
Once I arrived at the assigned room, Jim told us he purchased 20 sets of the three core books himself. He asked in return our commitment to reading, practicing Dr. Low’s methods, and attending weekly meetings. We met once a week for two years with few interruptions. The group ran without incident and I was forming the habits of spotting and practicing RI techniques.
After a couple years, Jim stopped showing for groups. When we asked what happened, we were told Jim was ill and wouldn't return. In the absence of a Group Leader, a couple of us formed groups. Jim was gone but we still had the books and the drive to continue.
We ran our groups until 2001 when the dynamics of the prison changed. We went from group meetings to individual studies. Long term prisoners were transferred making room for the recently incarcerated. By 2004, 1 was on my way to CSP-Solano where I currently reside. My books were lost in the transfer but I was still motivated to study and practice. After taking some time to settle in and find a job, I got together with a few others and started an introductory group.
All the men I asked wanted to be part of RI; few had the resources for books. I figured Jim did his part by getting me started and asked nothing in return, I should do the same. I ordered six sets of the core books and we were off and running.
Due to the availability of space, we currently meet four to five Members at a time in the day room. Three groups meet once a week for roughly an hour and a half. We start with RI business, scheduling, looking at The Recovery Reporter or just a simple check in ice breaker. We read from one of the books each week, discuss what we've read, then go to examples. A couple members have purchased their own books but that was never a provision for their membership.
Over time, the three separate groups formed their own personalities. Even though I lead all three groups, and read from the same chapter during the same week, each group has its own feel. I have the advantage to experience three separate groups weekly including great feedback.
The prison administration does not give official support to RI; neither do they oppose it. However as a peer support group we are self sustaining. All materials and resources are supplied by the group members
We're working on our third year of Recovery at this prison. I can see the changes in myself and others. The trivialities of everyday life I now view as trivialities, I'm self-led, not symptom led. During these years of RI practice I've come to notice profound changes in the way I perceive people, places, and things.
Because the entire RI structure is designed to form good habits and hold down negative impulses, the structure has nothing to do with prisoners, criminals, or incarcerated attitudes. This has been a complaint from many prisoners regarding self-help programs, but not Recovery.
I believe the goal of self-help in prison should be to prepare prisoners to rejoin society. From my experience, too many courses, programs, and theories are designed to develop better prisoners. At RI Solano we have a motto: "RI builds better citizens, not better prisoners." With this as our goal and the uniform structure of Recovery, Members will have few problems transitioning from RI Solano to RI meetings in any community.
I've come to realize that events that took place around me where never the problem. It was my perception of those events and the unwillingness to see things for what they really were, not what I wanted them to be, that brought me to prison. I can't have a better past so I use RI to help me navigate the present and prepare for the future.
In MH Chapter 41, Dr. Low says, "Many patients ... resent simple methods of this kind as an insult to their intelligence." I'm an average man practicing RI in prison. I feel honored to have lessons so simple and clear to practice. Life is good and events are average thanks to Recovery.