Remember my NA series and all those NA Meetings I attended? Well they just now paid off in the form of good time. My release date has been adjusted from 8-9-32 to 3-7-32. I haven’t done the math, but according to DOC, that’s 155 days!
Upon receiving this good news I was also informed that I will be getting back an additional 90 days at my next review in August. All I gotta do is remain infraction free, stay in The Dog Program, and receive positive evaluations.
It feels good to be going the other way. To be earning good time rather than loosing it. To be living in harmony rather than conflict. To be progressing rather than regressing. To be making friends rather than enemies. To be focusing on the positive rather than the negative.
For almost 23 years my environment hasn’t changed. PRISON! It’s still full of misfits and misconduct. But what has changed is my attitude, perspective, outlook, and priorities. During my quest to seek knowledge and understanding I’ve learned that the mind is like a garden. Either you can intelligently Cultivate it, or neglect it and let it run wild. That’s why its crucial for me to constantly cultivate my mind by weeding out all the wrong, useless, destructive, impure thoughts. And nurturing my mind with right, useful, constructive, positive thoughts.
By constantly pursuing this process of mind evolution, I am starting to reap the rewards. Such as: I found my beautiful soulmate in Suzie, I made it to The Honor Unit, I got accepted into the dog program, I’ve met new people and have devolved new friendships, I’m no longer getting in fights or hurting people, and I’m earning back good time. Just to name a few.
For years I allowed my mind to run wild. The results were devastating! For more on the devastation you can read my ebook titled, STONE CITY : LIFE IN THE PENITENTIARY.
I was oblivious to the fact that a deeper level of consciousness existed. I was mindlessly wandering through life, and inappropriately reacting to everything life threw at me. With a neglected mind, I didn’t stand a chance. But with a new and improved cultivated mind, I have so much hope and excitement for today and the rest of my life.
If you had the power to be happier, to change your environment, and to have better relationships with friends and family, would you use that power?
Of course you would!
So why don’t you?
The power is within you.
Take the first step and read : “AS A MAN THINKETH” by James Allen. This book will teach you LAWS OF THOUGHT that cannot error. By reading this quick little 55 page book, you’ll be taking a crucial step towards intelligently cultivating your mind. I hope you feel inspired.
After reading an email from my sweet wife about what she is thankful for, I realized that my previous Thanksgiving post was incomplete. I failed to mention the things that I am thankful for.
I’m thankful for having such a wonderful family. Starting with my wife. She is so incredibly kind and loving. Her dedication & loyalty is absolutely impeccable. I am so blessed to have her. Thank you, Suzie!
I’m thankful for my amazing mother and all of her love & support. Thanks, mom! I love you.
I’m thankful for my sisters, and my nieces & nephew. I’m especially thankful for my brother-in-laws and how they treat my sisters and their kids.
Wow! There’s so much to be thankful for.
I’m thankful for my Friends.
I’m thankful for my readers and followers.
I’m thankful for being in The Dog Program.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to blog.
I’m thankful to be alive and to have a release date.
I’m thankful for my Marriage.
I’m thankful for clothes to wear and food to eat.
I’m thankful for JPay.
I’m thankful for football season.
I’m thankful for Influential Books to read.
I’m thankful for my health.
I’m thankful for Stone City Blog.
I’m thankful for the opportunity to take NA classes to earn back good time.
I’m thankful for all my blessings and for all the people who love & support me.
STEP FOUR: We make a searching and fearless moral inventory of ourselves.
I did STEP FOUR years before I knew what it was. I did it in the form of writing, Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary. Today, STEP FOUR offers an opportunity to get re-acquainted with myself. I’ll embrace this opportunity and do it. In order to get an accurate and complete picture of myself, I must include my LIABILITIES along with my ASSETS.
GUILT – A feeling of responsibility for having done something wrong.
I feel guilt constantly. My wrongdoings are irreversible. They can never be made right. I must live with the consequences of my actions for the rest of my life. I refuse to let this hinder me in any way, shape, or form. Instead, I will use it as motivation to live out the rest of my life serving others within the spirit of love.
SHAME – To bring disgrace upon.
I’ve let down so many people, especially my family. Shame has always been something I’ve felt. But just like GUILT, it has given me great cause to turn my life around and be the best I can be.
RESENTMENT – To feel angry or indignant about something.
For years I had strong resentment towards my father for the abuse he inflicted upon me. Today that resentment is still there. The difference is now I use it as an illustration of how NOT to be.
SELF-PITY – Feeling sorry for oneself.
It’s hard to admit, but yes, there has been isolated times when I’ve felt sorry for myself. However, I made my bed and now I must sleep in it. I have no one to blame but myself. Self-pity never served me well until I learned to accept full responsibility for my actions. Now, when that twinge of self-pity starts to creep in, I am reminded that I am the captain of my own destiny. And what I do today will affect my tomorrow.
ANGER – A feeling of great displeasure or hostility.
Oh my! I’ve lived a large portion of my life in anger. What a shame! What a waste! I’m learning that anger is a choice. So is stress. When either one of these emotions rear their ugly heads, I have a choice. I can feed into them and give them energy, which enables them to grow big and strong. Or, I can swiftly counter them with love and understanding as I move on to a calmer, more peaceful, loving section of my brain. That is a choice that only I can make for myself, and that no one else can control.
CONFUSION – To fail to differentiate from something else.
I didn’t even realize the severity of my confusion until I opened my heart and mind to love and understanding. Even then, it took time, along with the art of reflecting on the past with comparisons of today. Only then was I able to achieve clarity.
Not too long ago, all these LIABILITIES (and more) were detrimental to my wellbeing. I allowed them to affect me in a negative manner. I used them as an excuse to lash out. I used them to justify my misconduct.
Within those very liabilities, I also find my ASSETS. Such as the ability to focus on the positive that exists in each and every liability. I’ll conclude this post with a list of newly recognized ASSETS that NA has allowed me to discover. At the top of the list is my wife. Her steady love overflows into every area.
BEING CLEAN & SOBER
“We make a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
(pg. 25-27 in the NA book, sixth edition)
Today we read about step three. This reading gave me valuable food for thought as I interpreted it in a way that works for me. If I am to grow spiritually, I must be honest about everything, including my concept of God.
A lot of people try to force their version of God on me. However, their version makes no sense to me. To simplify my point, I’ll just say this: I don’t believe mythology in a literal sense.
However, I do believe in the fundamental teachings of the Bible and Jesus. I believe in Cause and Effect. I believe in The Law of Attraction. I believe in the power of love. Therefore, Love is my God.
I don’t believe in heaven or hell, or an afterlife, or a divine force that answers prayers and ignores others. I believe that You Reap What You Sow. And if your prayers are aligned with your actions, thoughts, and lifestyle…and if you consistently commit to that Prayer…well then sooner or later it’ll come true.
I am my own God. My moral compass is set by the fundamental teachings of the Bible and Jesus. And that’s where it ends. It picks up again with my actions and commitment level to living a life in accordance to the practical teachings throughout the Bible.
I don’t look to an empty sky for guidance. I look within myself and tap into my spiritual foundation which gives me strength and guidance.
Many people say, “Yes! That is God!”
In which I respond, “Hallelujah!”
So many people turn their lives over to God, yet they continue to struggle and suffer. That’s because God won’t do anything for anyone who does not understand that God has to be created from within them. There is not an outside force that magically works for the good (or the bad) of people. This force comes from within! This is As I Understand It.
If you want it, you can have it. How you come to IT and how you get IT, is up to you. But it must come from within. Don’t expect some outside force to come in and magically change your life.
Create your own God within your soul with love, understanding, and compassion. Then serve that God with all your might and strength. If you do that, then your life will truly transform for the better.
So again, STEP THREE says: “We made a decision to turn our will and our lives over to the care of God as we understood Him.”
How do you understand God? And how is THAT working for you?
I got up in front of the class and spoke at this meeting. I overcame my fear of public speaking and just did it.
I started off my NA speech by saying, “The only reason why I’m here is because I was assigned 6 months of NA by my counselor in order to earn back some goodtime that I lost 20 years ago for smoking weed.” I mentioned my blog and how I post after every NA meeting. Then I shared the following posts: My 1st NA Meeting, and My 2nd NA Meeting.
As I read, I’d periodically look up and scan the room. I was surprised to see that I had everyone’s attention. There was no side talk or aimless doodling… all eyes were on me. It felt good. I concluded by expressing my desire to “pay it forward”. I’m talking about the gift of blogging.
It is my sincere hope that writing and sharing will help others the way it has helped me.
This book is awesome! I’m talking about the NA book, sixth edition. I can literally flip it open to any random page, and find something practical and useful.
I randomly flipped it open to page 19. As I read, I thought to myself, “This was the wrong page to flip to.” I was testing my “Any page is practicle and useful” theory. And I found page 19 hard to relate to.
It said things like, “Do we fully accept the fact that our every attempt to stop or to control our using failed?”
My Answer: NO, I don’t accept that. I have succeeded.
It also says, “Through this desperation, we sought help in NA. When we come to NA we are physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt.”
Not me. I was assigned NA as a pathway to earn back 6 months of good time for smoking weed back in 1996. As for being physically, mentally, and spiritually bankrupt… not me! I’m thriving in all three.
I just wasn’t feeling page 19. So I tried again, this time flipping to page 113.
It said, “You may not relate to everything you read here – just as you might not identify with everyone who shares in a NA meeting – but we hope that at least some of these voices will touch and inspire you.”
Hmmm….page 19 had great meaning to me after all. Empathy, understanding, different perspectives. It’s all part of the never ending journey.
“We become able to make wise and loving decisions, based on principals and ideals that have real value in our lives. By shaping our thoughts with spiritual ideals, we are free to become who we want to be.” (page 105)
I never would’ve thought I would find this type of wisdom in a NA book. Before I started to attend NA meetings, I assumed it was all about drugs and addiction. And it is! But it’s also so much more. It’s whatever I want it to be. Just like I am whoever I want to be. The Universe is full of infinite power. What you choose to do with it is up to you.
“Complete surrender is the key to recovery, and total abstinence is the only thing that has ever worked for us.”
As we read from the 6th edition NA book, the above words really stood out to me. This is significant to me because not too long ago, some guy came in my cell wanting to fight. I completely surrendered and endured his verbal assault. I didn’t fight. Instead I took a verbal beating as I totally abstained from violence. NA teaches that if I surrender, I will find recovery. I surrender to rightful actions. The more I do it, the easier it gets. Violence is no longer an option.
“I think it would be helpful for the audience to understand how you personally were affected by Occupational Deprivation.” ~Sandra Rogers
That single sentence stood out to me and is where the title of this post came from. First, I had to understand the meaning of Occupational Deprivation (OD). As far as I can tell, it means: The lack of meaningful activities. Hmmm…all of my activities have had some type of meaning behind them.
I hustled, gambled, sold drugs and tobacco.
The Meaning: to make money.
I got in fights.
The Meaning: to earn respect and to release pent up frustrations and aggression.
In a Penitentiary, or a Correctional Center, these truly are meaningful activities. If I want to spend the rest of my life locked up and miserable! Early on in my incarceration I knew I had to change. I wanted to change! (For an in-depth look, please read my ebook, Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary)
The cure to Occupational Deprivation is Meaningful Activities. But for years, I was denied. I asked numerous DOC employees for help. The answer was always the same, “No. Those programs are for short timers…you have too much time.”
My misconduct would continue and I’d end up in the hole. Again! I shed many tears in The Hole. Because that’s when & where reality really hit! Prison. 43 years. The pain I’ve caused others. Isolation. Being a failure. A loser. The list goes on…
One time when I was in the hole they cuffed me and escorted me to the recreation enclosure. On the way there I saw a flier advertising Anger Management and Victim Awareness. These classes were available in the hole. Two classes I desperately needed. So I submitted a kite requesting them.
To my surprise, they denied me. The reason: I wasn’t doing enough time in the hole.
That pissed me off! While in population I’m denied for having too much time. And in the hole I’m denied for not having enough time. But if I seriously hurt someone and get, let’s say,12 months in the hole, then I’ll get the classes and my long prison sentence is no longer a factor.
It’s logic like this that’s so discouraging.
Lucky for me, I have a strong will and a burning desire for redemption (see: Redemption, It’s My Choice). Despite set back after set back, I continued to seek understanding as I took moral inventory of myself. As I write this and reflect back, I now see that I had the desire to get better, but I severely lacked in the “meaningful activity” department. Therefore, I struggled.
Occupational Deprivation was my program! And I suffered greatly because of it.
Today, my life is full of “meaningful activities.” And as a result, I’ve never been happier or more productive.
I go to NA Meetings, which I gain so much wisdom & knowledge from.
I’m in The Dog Program and I have the privilege of loving a dog named, Yahoo.
I graduated from my Redemption and Roots of Success classes because I wasn’t told, “No. You have too much time.”
I’ve started reading Influential Books, which I thoroughly enjoy.
I mentor those who are ready to hear positive messages. I lead by example so my words have greater impact.
I’m the nations leading blogger from behind bars.
I have meaningful relationships with the people I call Friends.
I have a job passing out commissary to thousands of guys.
I prepare healthy meals for myself and I workout regularly.
The list of “meaningful activities” goes on and on….and my most treasured one is my marriage. I have the most caring, loving wife any man could ever hope to have. Suzie has blessed my life beyond what I thought possible. The love I feel for her in my heart is stronger than any other feeling I’ve ever known.
All these “meaningful activities” have completely wiped out OD. Perhaps I should’ve titled this post, “How I Am Affected By Meaningful Activities.” Because this is where the beauty is. This is where true transformation is realized.
Its great to learn new terms and articulate my journey under the umbrella of Occupational Therapy. But the truth is: If someone wants change, they must want it for themselves, then relentlessly pursue it everyday for the rest of their lives.
It is now, after I am well on my way, that I make the connection between “meaningful activities” and rehabilitation. It would’ve been nice to learn all this years before I did. Better late than never.
Prison is full of drama, negativity, and hate. But thanks to programs like NA, prison also offers hope, time to reflect, time to heal, and plenty of time for rehabilitation.
Some of the tools I’m finding from within NA are very effective and powerful. They go beyond addiction and can be applied by anyone, anytime, anywhere.
Here are just a few that I cultivated after reading Chapter 9 in the big blue NA book (sixth edition). I’m calling them, “JUST FOR TODAY” tools. I’ve written these down and posted them above my mirror. So now, when I look in the mirror, I look deep into my eyes as I recite my newly found JUST FOR TODAY tools. This is what I tell myself:
JUST FOR TODAY I will live in the spirit of love.
JUST FOR TODAY my thoughts will be on love and understanding as I enjoy my blessings and all the things that bring me happiness.
JUST FOR TODAY I will have faith in my abilities to avoid conflict and maintain a circle of harmony with everyone I encounter.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be impeccable with my words and only say things that are positive and encouraging.
JUST FOR TODAY I will be the best person I can be as I treat everyone with dignity and respect.
After I read these to myself, I give Yahoo a big hug and kiss his nose.
Over the years I have slowly learned how to use my hardships as a pathway to peace. As I reflect back on the many negative incidents I’ve imposed upon myself, I am now able to use them as stepping stones within my pathway to peace.
I understand where I went wrong in the past.
If someone challenged me…I’d beat them down! If I felt disrespected…I’d beat them down. I didn’t know any other way. Fighting was a way for me to be victorious. Today, victory comes with effective problem solving and the ability to co exist with the most challenging of personalities.
Fighting and violence is no longer an option for me. A Pyrrhic victory is an epic failure! That’s why it’s crucial that I find a better way and create effective tools that work for me. That way, if I’m ever in a situation where some fool runs up in my cell wanting to fight, I’ll have the self control and strength to refrain from hurting that man…and ultimately hurting myself and the people who love and support me.
I’ve come a long way…but its evident I still have a long way to go. I’ll continue to work hard as I try my best to always do the right thing.