Monday, December 27, 2010
Relapse is a process that begins long before the first use of alcohol or other drugs. Like an avalanche, the first signs are small and seem insignificant. If ignored the problems leading to relapse keep crashing down hill and growing in strength.
Being alert for the subtle warning signs that lead to relapse is, in my opinion, a critical recovery skill. These relapse warning signs start, not with thoughts or urges to use alcohol or other drugs, but with simple problems and subtle ways of irrational thinking that cause unnecessary pain and problems in recovery. When the pain is severe and the problems overwhelming, addiction sneaks up behind us like a phantom in the dark. The addiction whispers in our ear. It tells us over and over again that the only thing that can stop the pain and solve our problems is using our drug of choice. Then, and only then, comes the addictive thinking and the craving. At that moment, before putting our drug of choice in our bodies, we are in a crisis of sobriety. We are standing hypnotized by the approaching avalanche of addiction. If we don't awake from the trance in time, we will be crushed.
Simplistic answers to the problem of relapse, in my experience, are comforting but not helpful. We must do the work of learning what this "cunning, baffling, and powerful" disease is doing to us in our sobriety. Once we are sure we have it beat forever, the disease has already won! It is only a matter of time. This is why in my understanding of the 12-Steps, we must work a daily program of rigorous honesty and correct problems as soon as we are aware of them. This early identification and solution of problems is a critical survival skill for those of us who are addicted.
--- Terry Gorski
Gorski Books: www.relapse.org
Gorski Home Studies: www.cenaps.com
Gorski Books: www.relapse.org
Gorski Training: www.cenaps.com
Let us start with a simple fact: Alcohol and drug problems are common. About two-thirds of all Americans drink. About one third do not. Of those who drink, about half develop alcohol-related problems. Somewhere between 6 and 10 percent of all Americans will become alcoholics. In addition to alcohol, many people use illegal drugs and abuse prescription medications. When you add it all together, about 15% of all people will have serious problems with alcohol or other drugs at some point in their lives.
One thing is certain – no one starts drinking or drugging with the goal of getting addicted. People do not wake up in the morning and say: "Gee, this is beautiful day, I think I'll go out and get addicted! That's just not how it works.
Addiction is a slow and insidious process. It sneaks up on people from behind, when they are not looking. Here is how it happens.
When some people start using alcohol and other drugs, they feel really good. The drugs make them feel better than they have ever felt before. Therefore, they keep drinking and drugging.
They focus on enjoying the good times and get in the habit of pushing the bad times out of their minds. This allows the disease of addiction to quietly sneak in through the back door. The “Big Book “of Alcoholics Anonymous says it better than I ever could – Addiction is “cunning, baffling, and powerful.”
Addiction comes into our lives posing as a friend and then slowly grows into a monster that can destroy us.
There was once a man named Ted. His best friend gave him a little kitten. Ted loved that soft cuddly little cat and made it a part of his life. As time went by the cat kept growing and growing. It started to get so big that it was causing problems. It would knock things off the counters, break things, and tear up the house.
Ted loved the cat so much, that he decided to ignore the problems. By the time the cat was six months old, it was clear to everyone that this was no ordinary cat. Ted's friend had given him a baby mountain lion.
Knowing this, however, didn't change Ted's feelings. He loved his "cat so much that he decided to keep it. After all, what harm could it do? He would just take some extra precautions and everything would be fine.
About eight months later a friend came over to visit. Ted's mountain lion attacked his friend. When Ted tried to pull the cat off of his friend, the mountain lion turned on him and clawed Ted so badly that he nearly died.
Addiction is a lot like Ted's mountain lion. It starts out as a cute and cuddly little thing that brings a lot of joy, fun, and excitement into our lives. Then the addiction starts to grow up.
As it grows, our addiction turns into a vicious monster that destroys our lives. In this section, we will look at how this happens.
(This is an excerpt from a soon to be released book by Terry Gorski
entitled: "Straight Talk About Addiction")
Gorski Books: www.relapse.org
Gorski Home Studies: www.cenaps.com
Tuesday, November 2, 2010
Well we are up and running!! YES !!! So here it is our ” Walk to Washington” Page and I hope it gains as much support as our FaceBook page has…This site so it is very much a work in progress. Please come back and see what is new weekly !
Our message is of Faith & Hope & Healing. I was given a “Mustard Seed” now I several…I choose to share those seeds with my Brothers and Sisters..
I have changed the names of people in my story as to protect their anonymity, I will not use the names or pics of anyone without their expressed permission. I also beg of you not to contact any person other than myself without permission.
No traditions are broken by this site. Please refrain from using the actual name of any one of our Fellowships in your comments. I respect all traditions and will uphold them to the utmost. Please read “Advocacy with Anonymity” The guidelines used are the ones I follow…Thank You…
Let me tell you a bit about what we are doing and then you can explore the site at your leisure….
My name is Sandra Huffman, I am an Adoptee a Mother a Birth Mother a Daughter and a Sister a Friend and yes a Recovering Addict. I have spent the last 4 1/2 yrs putting all the bits and pieces of my life and the lives that I damaged by getting my kids, my birth daughter and my own birth family back into my life and committing myself to the issues of recovery in my own community all while following a thorough 12 step program..Whew ! I was on a mission!!! LOL!!!
My 16 yr old daughter Savana and I will be leaving Fort Lauderdale Florida in June 2011 to walk approx 1300 miles to Washington DC…Yes, you read right, we are WALKING to DC ! We will be walking approx 15 miles per day for 90 days to arrive in DC by Sept for National Recovery Month…
“Why” you are asking yourself right now.. Well the primary reason is to raise awareness surrounding Recovery issues pertaining to the World of Addiction. We will be walking and talking recovery the entire way at woman’s shelters, homeless shelters, youth centers, jails & institutions and yes I am going into the streets and back under bridges to bring some seeds of hope to those still out there sick and suffering and also to those that do not believe we can and do recover !
I myself, Lord willing and with much hard work will be celebrating 5 yrs in recovery when we leave in June. I was an Addict for over 28 yrs, spent most of my life in abusive and neglectful relationships, hurt many people and used and abused many different agencies that only wanted to help me…sad..
Well, now it’s time to “Pay it Forward” I had heard many people use this term and even saw a movie based on the concept but never thought that doing something like that in my own life could be so healing as the work I have been doing in my own community here in Broward County since my 7th and final release from jail in 2006.
Please take the time to read the blogs and view our photos and watch the videos and you will see and understand so much better then I can sit here and try to write all at once, there is just too much.
What we hope to accomplish is raising, oh let’s say we start at a Million Dollars,(who knows we just might) to give back to approx 20 different agencies that have been helping me since I was a 13 yr old runaway living on the streets outside Philadelphia, PA in the early 1980′s and on to the beaches and under bridges of sunny South Fla soon after that and then after 25 yrs leaving my kids, my family & friends and ending back on the streets as a full blown addict for almost 4 more years..
We are also 1/2 way through the process of starting a 501(c)(3) Not for Profit 3/4 way sober living home for single parents where they can live for up to one year with their children while attending school to gain an education that will lead them to economic independence and out of the public welfare system… This will be called FENWICK GUEST HOUSE .
What is kinda cool and sad at the same time is that I still know and have contact with each caseworker or agency I have known since I was a kid.. What is even better is that they are ALL 100% behind what I am doing now and I am overwhelmed at the Love they still have in their hearts so “Time To Pay It Forward”
So much more to come and so much to write I will leave you with our “Battle Cry”……
“ADDICTION IS THE ONLY WAR YOU MUST SURRENDER TO WIN”
With Love in my Heart…
Post Incarceration Syndrome, is an especially serious problem for women and women advocacy groups should get involved. Women experience the classical PICS symptoms and seem to experience increased anxiety, depression, and hopelessness which lead to an increased suicide rate. As a result suicide and suicide attempts are more serious post incarceration problems for women than men. Women also often relapse back into lives of prostitution because discrimination keeps them out of the legitimate workforce and "the lifestyle" is so difficult to cope with. This triggers the hopelessness and depression from being trapped in the lifestyle that can lead to both suicide attempts and dangerous provocation of potentially violent men which I am start to call "suicide by John" (taken from the idea of "suicide by cop."
This is one of the reasons I wrote the book Straight Talk About Suicide.
Read more about the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS)
Gorski Books: www.relapse.org
Gorski Training: www.cenaps.com
Gorski On Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Terry-Gorski/139026002796579
Monday, November 1, 2010
Anonymity - Guidelines for Public Figures
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I would like to start this discussion of anonymity for public figures by reviewing what the Big of Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) says about "anonymity." The topic is covered under Tradition Eleven and says: "Our relations with the general public should be characterized by personal anonymity. We think the A.A. ought to avoid sensation advertising. Our names and pictures as A.A. members ought not be broadcast, filmed, or publicly printed. Our public relations should be guided by the principle of attraction rather than promotion. There is never need to praise ourselves. We feel t better to let our friends recommend us."
So here are the key point from Tradition Eleven: As a member of A.A. (and other 12-Step Programs):
1. We ought to avoid sensation advertising.
2. We should not publish our names and pictures as A.A. in the media
3. We should not be broadcast, filmed, or publicly printed about as a member of A.A..
4. Our public relations should be guided by the principle of attraction rather than promotion.
5. There is never need to praise ourselves by using our affiliation with A.A..
6. WE should let our friends recommend us based upon the positive changes they have seen in us as a result of working the program.
These are easy principles to talk about, but become difficult for addiction professionals and people who earn their kiving as publics figures. I would like to share how I have interpreted and practiced anonymity as an addiction professional who has become a public figure as an author, lecturer, and trainer. I don't claim to be right - this is simply my best understanding that I have used to guide myself through the difficult waters of anonymity throughout my career. These guielines will need to adapt as the internet, blogging, social networking and other electronic media are used more extensively by recovering people to form in "virtual recovering communities" to support each other in recovery. A key question, for example, the answer to which I am not sure, is this: Does this publicly available blog represent a break in personal anonymity.
Let explain my thinking.
Anonymity, in my understanding, means that we don't reveal our personal 12-Step membership at the level f the press or media. This principle exists so we can put the principles embodied in the 12-steps before the individuals who practice the twelve steps. We never want the overall effective of AA to be judged on the behavior of one person. We want 12-Step programs judged in their entirety as a way to learning how to live in a sober and responsible manner.
Anonymity does not mean we cannot talk objectively about twelve-step programs and the powerful impact they have on recovery in this country and around the world. We can also strongly support t2-Step programs as a major asset managing the growing epidemic of alcoholism and other drug addictions.
12-Step programs have been examined in objective scientific studies that show them to be the single most effective (if only one approach to recovery is used), least expensive and most readily available programs of recovery from alcoholism and drug addiction.
Anonymity is a necessary but difficult principle to follow. I d public speaking and some media work and it can be difficult to keep my anonymity intact while still endorsing AA and other 12-Step programs as something that really works.
If I am asked if I am a member or attend meetings my response is: "Even if I were, the principle of anonymity would prevent me from talking about that - but I believe everyone can benefit from the practical spiritual principles embodied in the twelve steps.”
Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) and Relapse by Terry Gorski
Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) and Relapse
By Terence T. Gorski
(Terry Gorski is available to speak or consult on these issues)
Permission is given to reproduce this article with proper referencing.
Gorski Books: http://www.relapse.org/
Gorski Training: http://www.cenaps.com/
Free Downloads: http://www.tgorski.com/
Gorski on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Terry-Gorski/139026002796579
The Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a serious problem that contributes to relapse in addicted and mentally ill offenders who are released from correctional institutions. Currently 60% of prisoners have been in prison before and there is growing evidence that the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a contributing factor to this high rate of recidivism. [i]
The concept of a post incarceration syndrome (PICS) has emerged from clinical consultation work with criminal justice system rehabilitation programs working with currently incarcerated prisoners and with addiction treatment programs and community mental health centers working with recently released prisoners.
This article will provide an operational definition of the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS), describe the common symptoms, recommend approaches to diagnosis and treatment, explore the implications of this serious new syndrome for community safety, and discuss the need for political action to reduce the number of prisoners and assure more humane treatment within our prisons, jails, and correctional institutions as a means of prevention. It is my hope that this initial formulation of a PICS Syndrome will encourage researchers to develop objective testing tools and formal studies to add to our understanding of the problems encountered by released inmates that influence recovery and relapse.
Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) - Operational Definition
The Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a set of symptoms that are present in many currently incarcerated and recently released prisoners that are caused by being subjected to prolonged incarceration in environments of punishment with few opportunities for education, job training, or rehabilitation. The symptoms are most severe in prisoners subjected to prolonged solitary confinement and severe institutional abuse.
The severity of symptoms is related to the level of coping skills prior to incarceration, the length of incarceration, the
restrictiveness of the incarceration environment, the number and severity of institutional episodes of abuse, the number and duration of episodes of solitary confinement, and the degree of involvement in educational, vocational, and rehabilitation programs.
The Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a mixed mental disorders with four clusters of symptoms:
(1) Institutionalized Personality Traits resulting from the common deprivations of incarceration, a chronic state of learned helplessness in the face of prison authorities, and antisocial defenses in dealing with a predatory inmate milieu,
(2) Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) from both pre-incarceration trauma and trauma experienced within the institution,
(3) Antisocial Personality Traits (ASPT) developed as a coping response to institutional abuse and a predatory prisoner milieu, and
(4) Social-Sensory Deprivation Syndrome caused by prolonged exposure to solitary confinement that radically restricts social contact and sensory stimulation.
(5) Substance Use Disorders caused by the use of alcohol and other drugs to manage or escape the PICS symptoms.
PICS often coexists with substance use disorders and a variety of affective and personality disorders.
Symptoms of the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS)
Below is a more detailed description of four clusters of symptoms of Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS):
1. Institutionalized Personality Traits
Institutionalized Personality Traits are caused by living in an oppressive environment that demands: passive compliance to the demands of authority figures, passive acceptance of severely restricted acts of daily living, the repression of personal lifestyle preferences, the elimination of critical thinking and individual decision making, and internalized acceptance of severe restrictions on the honest self-expression thoughts and feelings.
2. Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD)
Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) [ii] is caused by both traumatic experiences before incarceration and institutional abuse during incarceration that includes the six clusters of symptoms: (1) intrusive memories and flashbacks to episodes of severe institutional abuse; (2) intense psychological distress and physiological reactivity when exposed to cues triggering memories of the institutional abuse; (3) episodes of dissociation, emotional numbing, and restricted affect; (4) chronic problems with mental functioning that include irritability, outbursts of anger, difficulty concentrating, sleep disturbances, and an exaggerated startle response. (5) persistent avoidance of anything that would trigger memories of the traumatic events; (6) hypervigilance, generalized paranoia, and reduced capacity to trust caused by constant fear of abuse from both correctional staff and other inmates that can be generalized to others after release.,
3. Antisocial Personality Traits
Antisocial Personality Traits [iii] [iv] [v]are developed both from preexisting symptoms and symptoms developed during incarceration as an institutional coping skill and psychological defense mechanism. The primary antisocial personality traits involve the tendency to challenge authority, break rules, and victimize others. In patients with PICS these tendencies are veiled by the passive aggressive style that is part of the institutionalized personality. Patients with PICS tend to be duplicitous, acting in a compliant and passive aggressive manner with therapists and other perceived authority figures while being capable of direct threatening and aggressive behavior when alone with peers outside of the perceived control of those in authority. This is a direct result of the internalized coping behavior required to survive in a harshly punitive correctional institution that has two set of survival rules: passive aggression with the guards, and actively aggressive with predatory inmates.
4. Social-Sensory Deprivation Syndrome:
The Social-Sensory Deprivation Syndrome [vi] is caused by the effects of prolonged solitary confinement that imposes both social isolation and sensory deprivation. These symptoms include severe chronic headaches, developmental regression, impaired impulse control, dissociation, inability to concentrate, repressed rage, inability to control primitive drives and instincts, inability to plan beyond the moment, inability to anticipate logical consequences of behavior, out of control obsessive thinking, and borderline personality traits.
5. Reactive Substance Use Disorders
Many inmates who experience PICS suffer from the symptoms of substance use disorders [vii]. Many of these inmates were addicted prior to incarceration, did not receive treatment during their imprisonment, and continued their addiction by securing drugs on the prison black market. Others developed their addiction in prison in an effort to cope with the PICS symptoms and the conditions causing them. Others relapse to substance abuse or develop substance use disorders as a result of using alcohol or other drugs in an effort to cope with PICS symptoms upon release from prison.
PICS Symptoms Severity
The syndrome is most severe in prisoners incarcerated for longer than one year in a punishment oriented environment, who have experienced multiple episodes of institutional abuse, who have had little or no access to education, vocational training, or rehabilitation, who have been subjected to 30 days or longer in solitary confinement, and who have experienced frequent and severe episodes of trauma as a result of institutional abuse.
The syndrome is least severe in prisoners incarcerated for shorter periods of time in rehabilitation oriented programs, who have reasonable access to educational and vocational training, and who have not been subjected to solitary confinement, and who have not experienced frequent or severe episodes of institutional abuse.
Reasons To Be Concerned About PICS
There is good reason to be concerned because about 40% of the total incarcerated population (currently 700,000 prisoners and growing) are released each year. The number of prisoners being deprived of rehabilitation services, experiencing severely restrictive daily routines, being held in solitary confinement for prolonged periods of time, or being abused by other inmates or correctional staff is increasing. [viii]
The effect of releasing this number of prisoners with psychiatric damage from prolonged incarceration can have a number of devastating impacts upon American society including the further devastation of inner city communities and the destabilization of blue-collar and middle class districts unable to reabsorb returning prisoners who are less likely to get jobs, more likely to commit crimes, more likely to disrupt families. This could turn many currently struggling lower middle class areas into slums. [ix]
As more prisoners are returned to the community, behavioral health providers can expect to see increases in patients admitted with the Post Incarceration Syndrome and related substance use, mental, and personality disorders. The national network of Community Mental health and Addiction treatment Programs need to begin now to prepare their staff to identify and provide appropriate treatment for this new type of client.
The nation's treatment providers, especially addiction treatment programs and community mental health centers, are already experiencing a growing number of clients experiencing the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS). This increase is due to a number of factors including: the increasing size of the prisoner population, the increasing use of restrictive and punishing institutional practices, the reduction of access to education, vocational training, and rehabilitation programs; the increasing use of solitary confinement and the growing number of maximum security and super-max type prison and jails.
Both the number of clients suffering from PICS and the average severity of symptoms is expected to increase over the next decade. In 1995 there were 463,284 prisoners released back to the community. Based upon conservative projections in the growth of the prisoner population it is projected that in the year 2000 there will be 660,000 prisoners returned to the community, in the year 2005 there will 887,000 prisoners returned to the community, and in the year 2010 1.2 million prisoners will be released. [x] The prediction of greater symptom severity is based upon the growing trend toward longer periods of incarceration, more restrictive and punitive conditions in correctional institutions, decreasing access to education, vocational training, and rehabilitation, and the increasing use solitary confinement as a tool for reducing the cost of prisoner management.
Clients with PICS are at a high risk for developing substance dependence, relapsing to substance use if they were previously addicted, relapsing to active mental illness if they were previously mentally ill, and returning to a life of aggression, violence, and crime. They are also at high risk of chronic unemployment and homelessness.
Post Release Symptom Progression
This is because released prisoners experiencing PICS tend to experience a six stage post release symptom progression leading to recidivism and often are not qualified for social benefits needed to secure addiction, mental health, and occupation training services.
- Stage 1 of this Post Release Syndrome is marked by Helplessness and hopelessness due to inability to develop a plan for community reentry, often complicated by the inability to secure funding for treatment or job training;
- Stage 2 is marked by an intense immobilizing fear;
- Stage 3 is marked by the emergence of intense free-floating anger and rage and the emergence of flashbacks and other symptoms of PTSD;
- Stage 4 is marked by a tendency toward impulse violence upon minimal provocation;
- Stage 5 is marked by an effort to avoid violence by severe isolation to avoid the triggers of violence;
- Stage 6 is marked by the intensification of flashbacks, nightmares, sleep impairments, and impulse control problems caused by self-imposed isolation. This leads to acting out behaviors, aggression, violence, and crime, which in turn sets the stages for arrest and incarceration.
Currently 60% of prisoners have been in prison before and there is growing evidence that the Post Incarceration Syndrome (PICS) is a contributing factor to this high rate of recidivism.
Reducing The Incidence Of PICS
Since PICS is created by criminal justice system policy and programming in our well intentioned but misguided attempt to stop crime, the epidemic can be prevented and public safety protected by changing the public policies that call for incarcerating more people, for longer periods of time, for less severe offenses, in more punitive environments that emphasize the use of solitary confinement, that eliminate or severely restrict prisoner access to educational, vocational, and rehabilitation programs while incarcerated.
The political antidote for PICS is to implement public policies that:
(1) Fund the training and expansion of community based addiction and mental health programs staffed by professionals trained to meet the needs of criminal justice system clients diverted into treatment by court programs and released back to the community after incarceration;
(2) Expand the role of drug and mental health courts that promote treatment alternatives to incarceration;
(3) Convert 80% of our federal, state, and county correctional facilities into rehabilitation programs with daily involvement in educational, vocational, and rehabilitation programs;
(4) Eliminate required long mandated minimum sentences;
(5) Institute universal prerelease programs for all offenders with the goal of preparing them to transition into community based addiction and mental health programs;
(6) Assuring that all released prisoners have access to publicly funded programs for addiction and mental health treatment upon release.
[i] Ditton, Paula M. Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 11, 1999 (NCJ-174463), (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/)
[ii] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), Fourth Edition, 1994 (Pg 424 – 429)
[iii] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), Fourth Edition, 1994 (Pg 645 – 650)
[iv] Forrest, Gary G., Chemical Dependency and antisocial Personality Disorder – Psychotherapy and Assessment Strategies, The Hawthorn Press, New York, April 1994
[v] Hempphill, James F.; Templeman, Ron; Wong, Stephen; and Hare, Robert D. Psychopathy and Crime: Recidivism and Criminal Careers. IN: Cooke, David J.; Forth, Adelle E., and Hare, Robert D. ED: Psychopathy: Theory, Research, and implications for Society, Kluwar Academic Publishers, Boston, 1995
[vi] Grassian, Stuart, Psychopathological effects of solitary confinement, American Journal of Psychiatry, 140, 1450 - 1454 (1983)]
[vii] American Psychiatric Association, Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM IV), Fourth Edition, 1994 (Pg 175 – 272)
[viii] Ditton, Paula M. Mental Health and Treatment of Inmates and Probationers, Bureau of Justice Statistics, July 11, 1999 (NCJ-174463), (http://www.ojp.usdoj.gov/bjs/)
[ix] Sabol, William, Urban Institute, Washington DC
[x] Abramsky, Sasha, When They Get Out, Atlantic Monthly, June, 1999 p. 30
You Are Not a Problem – You Have One
by Waldemar Ryggmark October 30, 2010
My friend Waldemar Rygmark from Sweden was kind enough to share is story of recovery from both addiction and criminality. I appreciate his honesty and the effort it took to share his story. Here is living proof that recovery is possible. Addicted offenders can and often do get well - but they need to recover from both addiction and the antisocial personality traits that have often been instilled often since early childhood. People however, can change if they learn the truth - they are not their problem. Their history does not define them unless they choose it to be so. As human beings we can rise above out childhood programming and our addiction and with the help of others and a Higher Power of our understanding, reprogram ourselves to live a sober, responsible and meaningful life. Here is Waldemar Ryggmark's story:
Gorski Books: www.relapse.org
Gorski Training: www.cenaps.com
Terry Gorski on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/pages/Terry-Gorski/139026002796579
My story For about 20 years my life consisted of being locked up, sent away and running away. I was a threat to society and to myself. Everyone that I meet in the “system” told me that my future consisted of lifelong incarceration.
Prisons, psychiatric wards and other institutions became my “home”. Drugs, alcohol and crime were my way of life and these things transformed me slowly to someone that no one wanted to be with, including myself. Many wonderful people tried to help me during those years but they knew as little as I did about where to begin. But these people made me keep my dignity in the darkest moments, and for that I will always be grateful. The seeds that they planted helped me many years later.
Since I was a little kid I always felt different and alienated, the choices I made to belong became something that took me even further away from other people and society. Over the years the antisocial lifestyle, drugs and alcohol became a “normal”. I didn’t let anyone come close to me emotionally, “get them before they get you” was my life motto.
My way back to life and society began almost 8 years ago, it will be 8 years November 4th, the words that made me dare to take the first steps toward sobriety and honesty were “you are not a problem but you have one”. The person who said these words to me was a recovering addict/criminal himself and I meet him at my first NA meeting. Those words changed everything for me. For the first time a door opened inside of me. What I had done and who I was deep inside, was two different things, but I had to take responsibility for my actions. And I did, and I loved it. For the first time I had a hopeful map with directions of where to begin and how to do it, and it was a guided tour, I had people around me who always were there for me.
It wasn’t easy the first years; the best word to describe what I was going through is “lifestyle abstinence”. I felt empty, without an identity and a great grief. Everything I was used to had to change, recovery was still a great experience, but in my own eyes I became a “nobody”. The familiar feelings of not belonging came back, but this time I handled those feeling by choosing to belong to myself in a good way, never again would I abandon myself again.
I am the kind of person who needed two solutions, one for my drug addiction and one for my criminal/antisocial personality. I had heard of a 12 step group called CGA (Criminals and Gangmembers Anonymous), but there were no meetings in my hometown Gothenburg, so I started CGA in Gothenburg and found the missing piece in my recovery. A couple years into my recovery I came across some papers about relapse prevention, that knowledge has carried me and my recovery through many rough periods.
My life could for sure have ended up very differently. Today I have a beautiful family and a great life. I went from being a threat to being an access. I work as an addiction/crime counselor, I have just finished my last CENAPS-GORSKI course in Denmark, and going through the seven modules is something that I’m very proud of. I’m the founder of “KRIS Lifestyle house” a project that helps ex-gangmembers back to society. Every day I meet myself in the people I try to help. The words “you are not a problem but you have one” is the first thing I tell them. And the majority believes me by taking the first steps towards life on life’s terms.
Waldemar Ryggmark/Gotheburg, Sweden