I’ve touched on the issues of mental health and drug addiction, briefly in previous posts… but both are subjects that hit very close to home. Myself, I’ve suffered for years with my own battles dealing with alcohol and drug abuse, as well as anxiety and depression. I have been one of the fortunate people, who’ve struggled with addiction, that have been able to successfully find and maintain sobriety… even while in prison. Because this can be a breeding ground, that feeds and continuously reinforces, those negative addictive thoughts & behaviors. The very ones that fuel our desires to seek out some external components, to camouflage the internal struggles we aren’t mentally prepared to face… just as we use some of those same external components to cloak the realities that’ve become too harsh or too “real” for us to navigate in a healthy manner. This can be witnessed 3x’s everyday (breakfast, lunch and dinner), when there’s a horde of men piled up and waiting on these med-lines to open up! (this is where the prisoners have to go to the med-window and receive their RESTRICTED medications) And being that this is an R.T.P. joint (Residential Treatment Program), there are a very large # of prisoners on psych meds, to stabilize any # of mental health disorders. And, when the med-lines aren’t running, all you have to do is look ANYWHERE ELSE (on the yard or in the units) and witness dozens upon dozens of guys running around chasing & scheming on how to find something to get “high” on… to escape the pain & reality of the circumstances that were most likely created by the same behaviors in the streets! This is a part of the regular routine… every single day, of every single week, of every single month and so on and so on. People trying to find a way to get “high” is one single constant, that’ll never change!

Its been these issues with addiction & mental health, that I’ve faced: within myself, with friends and (in the past few years) with some of the most important people in my life. Some of these friends, who are more Family than friend, suffer from one or both of these conditions… sadly, addiction has been a plague and an epidemic amongst these people, that’s too often been over-looked and over-tolerated! It’s something that I hold very strong feelings towards, not because I feel superior to anyone or because I’m looking down on someone else. No, it’s exactly the opposite… it’s because I know the toll it takes on our lives and the lives of our loved ones; because of the devastation that’s waiting at the end of every bottle, line, pipe or needle and; it’s because of the battles I’ve fought within myself with depression and addiction, that make me feel so strongly about both!! To some degree, I’ve fought both of these since my teen years… definitely the alcoholism was a hard fought battle, which kicked my ass time after time! And as the losses began to stack-up, one on top of the other, they began to tear apart my relationships with family, friends and loved ones… then they began to take their toll on my school and work. It was like being conscious, while in a coma… aware of whats going on around me, but unable to say or do anyhing to stop it. It’s a pretty shitty feeling to know things are snowballing out of control, but being unable or unwilling (at the time) to prevent it from getting worse. This can be applied to any issues with addiction, mental well-being or simply the behavior provoked by both.

Ok now, don’t get me wrong… I may have taken a couple “L’s” when it came to my personal struggles, but I continued to get back in the ring and kept fighting on. And even now, serving LIFE in prison, I still make the choice to fight to become that better person! And eventually some of those “L’s” became “W’s” and my WIN column was finally catching up to my LOSS column. I didn’t do all this on my own… I may have made the decision to stop chasing that “high” AND made the decision to focus on my mental health… but it’s been some very important Family & friends who’ve helped it all really happen. And because of what was given to me, I continue to try and pay that same thing forward, to the next person… this is the best way I could honor those people and show them the respect they deserve! But, like it was with me… I see it’s not an easy task to take on, but one that I’m just as happy to accept.

Don’t get me wrong, I have days sitting here where I just wanna say fuck it and keep it moving… focus on myself and what I need in my life. Especially when all I see somedays are fiends and fiend-like behavior, from everyone anymore… I mean, we all know (or should), that drugs are at epidemic levels in the streets. But, when you snatch all those people up and lock them in prisons… of course it helps to present an image that the streets are being cleaned-up and the war on drugs is real. But, I think that anyone who has any idea, knows that that war was lost a long time ago… this is why there really needs to be some other viable options. Because all that’s happening now, is a bunch of addicts and a bunch of dealers are being housed together in very close quarters. And the real kicker is… you have all those other criminals (mentally healthy & otherwise) who now have nothing better to do, than “pass their time” by experimenting with different drugs. Now, you’ve created even more addicts to send right back out there, when their time comes up, for parole & release… throwing more fuel onto a fire thats already burning outta control!

But another difficult and personal battle, was still to come and it had nothing to do with my own addictions or mental health… but with those of a loved one at home. This was a battle that I wasn’t really prepared or equipped to deal with… but wouldn’t turn away from either! Its one thing to take on these issues, in person but a whole other beast, to try and understand over e-messages and phone calls… never quite getting all the information and then receiving the edited version of what you do get. It feels like being in a fight with both hands tied behind your back… a helplessness that’s physically crippling at times. But when you love someone and want the best for them… you’d do anything to relieve that pain and ease that burden, that you’re all too familiar with yourself.

As I said, when I started this… issues with addiction & mental health hit me close to home. I’ve dealt with and continue to deal with these issues within myself on a daily basis… always wanting more and striving to achieve it. And I make every effort to reach those people in my life, who are facing the same battles that I’ve been fighting for years… to try and be there for them and help them through what I’ve already struggled to overcome! For me, at the root of it all was trying to understand what you’re up against… and being open to the help that’s all around us. For years I minimized what was going on in my life and how much it was really being affected by my addictions… I believe this is an all too common mistake. And even when I actually recognized a problem… I still down-played the need for outside help of any kind. Believing I was in control of my own life and actions and convincing myself how “together” my life was… regardless of what EVERYONE around me saw! And now I’m trying to deal with a similar situation of addiction & mental health concerns, in someone very important to me… it’s been a hard fought battle with a pile-up of losses, similar to the losses I took. This only goes to make it more difficult… having had similar experiences and never wanting them to ever feel the same sadness or pain, that I’ve felt. I just pray that (through my own struggles & experiences) I can have a positive impact, that can influence a positive change in their life?! No matter what, I won’t ever stop trying or ever stop being there… I’ll continue to be a constant source of love & support, which is key to any kind of recovery!

These are serious issues that affect millions of people every single day… in prison AND in the streets! Locking some of these people in prison or ignoring the real source of some of their issues, only lends to the continuation a what becomes an even bigger problem. I’m sure we all know someone in our lives, who’s fighting their own battles & demons… if we ALL make just a little more effort, we can ALL make a little more difference in saving someone’s life! Call it a challenge!!

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