From an inmate in a Prison to working in a Prison. My Journey with AVP’s assistance, support and recognition.
My childhood was dysfunctional. With both my parents drinking a lot of alcohol and being unfaithful there were separations and their lovers were introduced in to the family home to declare trophies against the other. I recall that used to scare me and my sisters, of which I have two. One older one younger, and in our early childhood we often found ourselves in the care of foster care. My parents divorced after a toxic marriage when I was aged 15, and all my immediate family split up and my support structure shattered. I left school at the age of 16. And I soon started to fall into anti social behaviour. Drink, drugs and crime. I can see now how I was mixing with the wrong crowd. This is not to blame the other. This I know now to be the coping strategy that I used as I knew no way then on how to discuss my emotional pains of the sadness, guilt and shame I felt from the family breakup and my childhood. This pattern of self seeking soon added to me feeling broken and my behaviour was showing my struggle. I served my first prison sentence when I was 17. By the time I was 20, I was heavily involved with drink and drugs and addictive behaviour, my crimes had become more unmanageable as I learned to cope by being selfish and I had even served time for violence. I can see that I had learned from my father’s behaviour’s that there was a payoff in being aggressive and that the benefits of overpowering had the reward of getting what I desired at that time, and this usually meant that I was feeding my addiction at the pain of others whether they were immediate family, friends, work colleagues or the community and our society. I was existing, living a life I couldn’t understand. I was fixing myself on external situations that were reliving the experience of pain and misery. I was already depressed and living in high levels of anxiety. My mental health was unstable.
After further 27 years of addiction and other prison sentences, I became aware off the back of a breakdown that my life had become so unmanageable that I could no longer contain the pain and trauma I was suffering in my heart and soul. And despite having children, whom I thought I was a burden upon. I tried to take my own life. Unsuccessful, I was detained under the mental health act. This still was not my rock bottom, and upon release I drank and took drugs again and before long I was back in prison for another violent offence. 2011. This time a 2yr sentence after pleading guilty for assault whilst under the influence and in blackout. I assaulted my partner at that time, and the mother to my 2 children. Something today I have had to learn to accept. My guilt and shame are feelings that I have had to process and have had aid in doing so by personal therapy. I was so mentally unstable at that time, I just could not see nor understand how to break the belief system that I had been brought up in and then conditioned upon myself due to my denial.
Yes, I thought destructive relationships and alcohol were the solution to life’s problems. I was full of manipulation, coercion and control issues and from what I know today accept that I was out of control. I was released from prison on the 1ST May 2012. And whilst in prison learned that my 2 son’s had been taken into foster care. I recall this moment as the biggest punch my soul had taken and believe that my soul at that time said “I have had enough of this physical attitude of feasting on greed and gluttony; I am taking over from here.” I believe I had an awakening, an epiphany through such self disgust that there was a turning point implicitly.
My anxieties and obsessive cognition fueled the thought processes and meanings that I gave to alcohol and drugs, which implicitly contributed to me not understanding myself and my disbelief that I could change. I had become blindly confused and was living in a creation I had created from my belief of the concepts of my early experiences. I had become so scared of life and the worldly environment of how I existed at that time that I just wanted to hide away. Not only from others, but also from myself and the head space that I was living in. I needed to escape from the pains and emotional discomfort of how unmanageable my life was and the ripple effects and trauma this was causing externally.
I can see now how I was swallowing substances to chase oblivion and hide, so that I never had to face and swallow the reality of my emotional breakage each day. I was caught up in the hamster wheel of addiction and sabotage. My beliefs and ways of thinking had become so unmanageable that I was deeply lost in dark cogitation of misery and destruction. I was lost in patterns of behaviour and denial of my emotional well being that for years I found no way out until I found AVP (Alternatives to Violence Project.) and AA. (Alcoholics Anonymous) both of which I found shortly after being released from that prison sentence in 2011/12.
Upon release from prison I was attending mandatory probation appointments where I was undertaking a program on domestic violence education for my offence. IDAP (Integrated domestic abuse program) I saw an AVP poster, advertising workshops in York. As I was on a program that was looking at behavioural difficulties and there sources and was feeling good to be learning this stuff, I honestly thought I had nothing left to lose and everything to gain. I had lost contact with my children and felt I had failed as their father. I was residing in a bail hostel. And felt very alone scared and guilty. All I ever wanted was to be a good Dad and give security and comfort and love to my children. I thought I had let them down and this I remember was a very sad time for all! I recall the guilt and shame. My remorse at the fact of feeling I had let my Son’s down and my family to. I was reliving my childhood experiences and casting this way of life on to my boys. I truly hated myself and what I had become. I was scared of life; living yet scared of dying too. I felt completely trapped and knew that if I never got more help another relapse and sabotage was on its way.
I recall further steps of courage. I made a decision to turn my life around and go to any lengths. And what I thought was impossible, slowly started to become possible and achievable. This today I believe, for me, is a solid example of how the rational thinking and new belief system started to work for me and underpin what has become a healthy recovery and new balanced life style.
I decided to take a leap of faith and follow the intuition my gut was telling me. And I enquired about the AVP workshop in York. This was in 2012. Of which I attended my first lev1, in November. I was petrified to say the least. I thought I would have to bare my soul and everybody would judge me and have a negative opinion of who I was. On the contrary. I was listened too and given a voice. I was listened too with compassion and empathy. I felt understood regards my struggles in life. And I honestly felt for the first time in years, that I belonged back in the society I had expelled myself from.
I have grown with AVP and have learned to trust that the love and good I had in me all along was just so far repressed that I had long ago broken my nurturing belief system and my capability to self actualize into becoming a loving and compassionate adult. My self esteem was so dented that my positive mental health had been severely shelved and that my behaviours were reactions from fear that produced the coping strategies to exist within my darkness and personal emotional relations with self and others. AVP offered tools of insight that I soon warmed to, the transformation of my own power from destruction to empathy and care for self and others bloomed and my respect for self and others started to follow suit. I learned through support that I was a caring and good man who had got lost in his pains and struggles. Quickly because of my emotional intelligence and maturity from moral understanding I soon started to trust my capabilities to change and recover and have connections with acceptance and learn about acknowledgement from self and others. I started to feel and share my feeling openly again. Being able to discover a voice that could talk about my sadness and anger, jealousy, envy, happiness, joy, similarities and differences from a non destructive platform did wonders for my self esteem, mental health and belief system. I stopped watering the weed and started to water the flower. I am now a facilitator for AVP and work in communities and prisons offering the same support I received.
My Growth with AVP rocketed and I started to desire recovery and the new way of life I was tasting. I referred myself in to a treatment centre for addictions in York (Changing Lives). And I am happy, no, delighted that I have never looked back. The treatment centre gave my head a new space and added to my new belief that all is going to be ok. My feelings and emotions were cared for by myself and my therapists and we looked at and explored my pain and trauma from life events and how I perceived the experience from these events. I was such a scared person, extremely unattached from my organismic self and my capacity to be authentic and intimate. My baggage was huge and confusing, but through the 12 weeks I was on that program and my continued personal therapy afterwards and further education and acceptance of humanistic values my life has taken a huge turnaround and the process to well-being had begun.
In the short period of time since 2012 I have grown and changed in implicit personality and there for explicit characteristics of behaviours. I’ve undertook huge self acceptance and exploration of discovering repeating patterns and why sabotages happen for comfort reasons. Yes I found misery and punishment as a huge pay off to whip my self esteem. Why I had association difficulties with authority and attachment issues with shame and guilt. Why I believed my life to be sad and unhappy as this is what I thought I was worth. After all was it not right to think that as a little boy it was my fault that my parents never loved me and that the divorce was because there was something wrong with me. Learning that I had simply become stuck and stopped growing due to shame and fears, I could start to see and feel my life taking a huge turn over the last few years. Because of my growth and drive for the new life I desired and could taste. I’ve never looked back.
When I first attended AA I was unsure of what or how this simple program of recovery could aid me to get well and build my self esteem. I had to trust in a process that was going to take some time and would not happen by attending one or two meetings. I had to learn how to trust and open up to others and become intimate and speak from a place of vulnerability in this new environment. I knew that I was open minded enough and wished to continue being intimate with myself then I had to learn the willingness of going to any lengths in order to recover and live a healthy life in my relationship with the fellowship and how I related with others herein. The 12 step program of AA would teach me this in time as it is a delicate process and an emotional rollercoaster to say the least. I still regularly go to my meetings and I am a solid member of AA and help do service by offering awareness and public information to professionals and schools about the darkness of addictive behavior.
The 12 step program of recovery taught me to have a further good hard look at myself and my characteristics. From the ways I could behave and how these have an impact on how I communicate with others. My ability to be selfish, antagonise, manipulate and try to control again was all fear based yet learning to unravel these concepts of pride I have gained great growth and wisdom. And from the 12 step program of recovery my life today is extremely rewarding. In order to view the person I had become in addiction and my conditioning I had to make a fearless moral inventory of myself and my life.
Listing all my fears, resentments, sexual conduct and people that I had harmed. I was taking a good look at my side of the street and how there were repeating patterns in my character that would lead to self doubt, low self esteem, isolation and dread of how I fitted in to the world. Going through my memory of my life I set about this with no half measures and took stock of my accountability and responsibilities to what I had done for a long time. I made a list of names that had affected my life, or so I thought. Yes I was full of blame and anger and resentment. Yes I was full of fear! However my belief in recovery was now greater than my belief in self seeking.
To gain an insight in to my ability to resent, and the names I was resentful against I looked at self esteem, pride, emotional securities, finances, ambitions, personal relations, sex relations and where I had been dishonest, selfish, self seeking, frightened and inconsiderate. How this traits had an impact on others. What was the exact nature of my wrongs in order to blame.
Looking at my fears, I looked at what I was afraid of in others and my self resilience, self confidence, self discipline and self will and how I relied upon those behaviours and in order to see how this was effecting myself I had to look at self esteem, pride, emotional securities, finances, ambitions, my personal relations and sex relations. I needed to learn to trust again.
The same list of names was looked at for my sex conduct, at this the list shortened considerably as there were no sex relations with a lot of the persons included in my resentments. However the names that stayed I had to explore what was my conduct, was I selfish, was I dishonest, was I inconsiderate, was I self seeking and was the relations full of jealousy, bitterness and suspicion. I had to learn that my sexual relations were spiritually given and for me not to run riot on my own will, and the strength to do the right thing for the other and not just myself. Respect, responsibility and loving care from an honest and trusting nature was taught.
The original list was looked at again when approaching the persons that I had harmed and due to the fact I only have the one memory this would only recall what it could, so I chose to use 6 months of work on this section. I did not want to cheat myself in my recovery program. I was aware if I chose to hold anything back throughout any of this approach I was holding on to fears and resentment and would stay sick. I would be as sick as my secret’s. In order for me to know a new found happiness and have the keys to a spiritual awakening and the keys to the kingdom of love and nurture I had to be 100% honest with myself and another human about this stuff. For the people I had caused harm I had to explore what I did or failed to do that caused harm, and what part of my self concept caused the harm. Was it my self will, self esteem, ego defences, emotional security, maternal security, finances, pride, defiance, independence, self pity, self reliance, personal relationships, social ambitions, sexual ambitions. On looking at the belly of this beast I was full of courage enough to explore my ability again to be selfish, self seeking, dishonest, inconsiderate, fearful, lack of self control and discipline. Was I playing God and trying to control others by being self centered and ego-centric. The answer to most of these traits is in us all but for my self I could see that I was answering yes and that hurt. I could not see that I was like that before, but doing this step work with AA I could see how I needed to change if I wanted the desire for love and honest relations with others in my life. If this was true then I have to make amends for my actions, harms and thoughts. I had to firstly forgive, accept for myself and ask for forgiveness from my belief in spirituality. Only then when I am truly ready and willing could I make amends to those on my list. If I was holding on to anything, then I could see that I was still sat in fear.
I found a new freedom as I handed all this over to a power greater than I. I have made several amends to others; the biggest on my list was my Father. We had not spoken for 8yrs. I had to share my accountability for my actions and sweep my side of the street for my behaviours and any pain that I may have caused. My amends as well as a way of apologizing are to see them as purging my burdens in my mind and heart that I had carried for a long time. The purposes of self doubt and low self esteem when thinking what on earth others think of me if I’ve been like that and treat others that way. By explaining that I understand the potential harm that I have caused, or thought I had, was and is to express that I am aware of my actions and take responsibility of who I am today with the awareness not to repeat the same behaviors.
What an order, you may be thinking. However in order for my new way of living and being empathic and understanding with compassion and love I can feel the old ways raising their head and immediately try to do the right thing in order to keep my self spiritually balanced and own the emotions that I feel. I offer who I am with care for others and reach out with this gift hoping that it is attractive enough for others to accept and relate back with me. I have no control over other people places or things and allowing this freedom to run through my life is difficult yes, but I try and believe in the person that I am today so as I give to the world, so the world will give to me.
In summary. I have come a long way in recovery and my life. I have my children back in my life and have a loving nondestructive relationship with an adorable lady. I have huge empathy and carry this message in my studies and my approaches to offering help and support to others. Using the person centered model and the power of psychodynamics I have managed to educate my life’s experiences in to the pleasures of being able to be sensitive, caring and holistic when working with others. I believe that my experience is now my strength. Having had the journey that I have had, the opportunity to study, the gains of my volunteer work whether with the Samaritans, York in Recovery, Sunshine and AVP. I truly feel blessed, grateful and honored to still be alive. My purposes now are to love and care and help support others with their personal development, self awareness, self esteem and actualizing tendencies in an loving and proficient manner.
I would like to say a huge thank you to AVP. It possibly saved my life !!
Carl G. York.Carl G