Posts Tagged ‘perseverance’

I have experienced something today that I’m not altogether sure how to articulate, largely because I have yet to fully wade through & identify all that I’m feeling as a direct result of this news and the implications it carries with it. I can identify one thing I’m not feeling, however: anger. For the first time in nearly three years, I don’t have this overwhelming, smothering cloud of rage and indignance surrounding my conscious mind. I had forgotten what this feels like.
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This is another paper I wrote for my English composition class. I share now because the topic of recidivism and addiction came up today. This paper was also written in MLA format.

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A disease, according to Merriam-Webster, is defined as “an illness that affects a person, animal, or plant; a condition that prevents the body or mind from working normally” (p1). Additionally, addiction, as defined by the National Institute on Drug Abuse is “a chronic, relapsing brain disease that is characterized by compulsive drug seeking and use, despite harmful consequences.” (“The Essence of Drug Addiction.” p7). The link between the two words is plain to see. Yet America, as a nation, does not treat addiction as a disease. Instead, it is punished, swiftly and indiscriminately, as a crime. The symptoms of the disease are simply suppressed by the system. Drug offences alone were accountable for over half of the population in federal prisons in this country in 2013, per the U.S. Department of Justice Statistics Bulletin (15). For the sake of perspective, the Federal Correctional system housed 193,775 prisoners, serving sentences longer than one year, and 98,200 of those were for drug convictions alone. (16).

How does that look at the state level? According to the same source, of the 1,314,900 inmates sentenced at the state level in 2013, only 16% of those were sentenced for drug convictions. (Table 13, page 15.) The stark contrast here has to do with some states softening the penalties for low-level drug offenses, while others are somewhat more lenient with regards to parole violations (i.e. they do not necessarily get sent straight back to prison upon their first violation, depending on the nature of it.) Nevertheless, it is incredibly alarming as to why there is such a massive difference between the federal correctional system and the state systems within the same country. How can this be explained?

The nature of drug crimes insofar as convictions are concerned, can be broken down into subcategories: possession, delivery/trafficking and manufacturing. Each carries varying degrees of severity, depending on the specific details of each case. What the typical census fails to consider is the drug related element of non-drug convictions. As mentioned earlier, addiction describes compulsive need for a substance. Alan I. Leshner, Ph.D., the Director of the National Institute of Drug Abuse within the National Institute of Health describes it perfectly:

“Drug craving and the other compulsive behaviors are the essence of addiction. They are extremely difficult to control, much more difficult than any physical dependence. They are the principal target symptoms for most drug treatment programs. For an addict, there is no motivation more powerful than a drug craving. As the movie “Trainspotting” showed us so well, the addict’s entire life becomes centered on getting and using the drug. Virtually nothing seems to outweigh drug craving as a motivator. People have committed all kinds of crimes and even abandoned their children just to get drugs.” (“The Essence of Drug Addiction.” p8.)

The science behind this has been performed. It is a widely accepted fact that addiction is a disease. Upon further consideration, it is clear to see that if America as a country was more widely inclined to address the illness itself, rather than the current method of staunching the symptoms, there is a very real and attainable possibility that crime of all kinds will decrease.

America is certainly on the trailing edge of implementing these findings. The Netherlands, for example, has systems in place where soft drugs such as marijuana are accessible in a safe, legal environment, where the users of such substances (young or infrequent especially) are not necessarily exposed to the harder, more volatile drugs, such as heroin and cocaine. Furthermore, in various European countries, there are safe rooms in place where addicts of hard drugs are free to go and use their drugs in peace, with medical supervision and clean needles. (“Denmark’s ‘Fix Rooms’ Give Drug Users a Safe Haven. P6.” This carries multiple social benefits: these addicts are not littering public streets with refuse and dirty needles, and the Netherlands has all but eliminated HIV transmission through drug injection while also boasting the lowest rate of problem drug use in all of Europe. (“…Look to the Dutch. P11.) There is more to it still: the coffee shops where the marijuana can be purchased, generate a staggering amount of revenue annually while the citizens are not strapped with criminal records for non-violent, minor drug offences, since fewer arrests are made. . (“…Look to the Dutch. P4.) The end result is a much cleaner, much more prosperous society. Some believe more lenient law enforcement would lead to an increase in drug use. For the Netherlands, this was not the case. . (“…Look to the Dutch. P5.)

Ultimately, the mentality behind policy in the Netherlands is that different substances carry different risks, the contrary of America’s stance, wherein all drugs are equally as hazardous and criminal. The pros most certainly outweigh the cons, and there are so many examples made overseas that America should follow. More leniency with low level offences has the potential to reduce recidivism, in that minor offenders would not be subject to felonies that make it exponentially more difficult to attain gainful employment, which contributes in and of itself to the alarming prison overcrowding issue in the United States. If we were to delve further into the issue, and take steps to identify those in the ranks of America’s incarcerated, who are addicted to hard drugs, such as methamphetamine, cocaine, heroin and all the incarnations thereof, and take steps to treat their conditions as the disease it is, crime rates would drop exponentially. The addict mind drives otherwise good and decent people to alarming lengths to feed their addiction. Breaking and entering, theft, robbery, grand theft, and even some of the more violent crimes, are examples of some of the radical lengths an addict will go to in order to pacify his or her demons.

Imagine then if, as a society, we took steps to exorcise those particular demons. What, then, is left? The human condition dictates that there will always be some crime. The alarming numbers of men and women that fill both state and federal penitentiaries would dramatically decrease if, as a people, we took one of the more common variables off the table. Progress is progress. Consider as well, how many families living below the poverty line might have a fighting chance if their finances were not dictated by the need for a fix. Though times are still hard, in light of the recession, the black mark of a felony conviction on the background of non-violent men and women make it that much more difficult to find gainful employment. It is a vicious cycle: addiction, crime, incarceration, release without treatment for the disease, struggle to reintegrate back into the free world, inability to find work, relapse under stress or necessity of subsidizing income, crime, incarceration. This is the reality for an unacceptably large number of Americans.

The system is broken, but it is not beyond repair. The United States of America should follow the lead of more progressive countries like The Netherlands and treat the disease. Without the disease rampant and out of control, the symptoms will become irrelevant. Treat the disease; stop suppressing the symptoms.

Works Cited:

Carson, E. Ann, Ph.D. “Prisoners in 2013.” U.S. Department of Justice – Bureau of Justice Statistics Bulletin. Sept. 2014. Web PDF. 12 Oct. 2014.

Leshner, Alan I. Ph.D. “The Essence of Addiction.” National Institute on Drug Abuse. March, 2001. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

Malinowska-Sempruch, Kasia. “For Safe and Effective Drug Policy, Look to the Dutch.” Global Drug Policy Program. Open Society Foundations. July 16, 2013. Web.

Merriam-Webster. An Encyclopedia Britannica Company. Web. 12 Oct 2014.

Overgaard, Sidsel. “Denmark’s ‘Fix Rooms’ Give Drug Users A Safe Haven.” Parrallels: Many Stories, One World. 16 Dec 2013. Web. 12 Oct. 2014.

I wrote the following narrative essay for my English Composition class. It was written in MLA format. I have received a lot of really great feedback, both professional and personal, on this piece, and so I wanted to share it here as well.

If it wasn’t already implied, I feel the need to express that nothing I write is seeking sympathy or pity, but simply understanding. I have since discovered that it makes my trials less daunting when I can affect and even help others with my experiences, or open eyes to the struggle of some among them. I share to do just that. If any who have been through some of the same trials as I read anything I write, it is my hope that they should draw solace from the fact that they are not alone, that they are not judged, and that I do stand by them, whether we know each other or not. I want to be a voice of support and kindness in the uglier parts of the world, because some folks trapped in those places are the ones who need it the most.

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There are so many theories as to whether innocence is an element of human biology, or whether it is something of a fluke. Some believe children are born with it, and gradually, as the world gets them in its grips, they lose it. I do not believe we all completely lose our innocence. I believe we have an inherent capacity to maintain some amount of it, proportional to the amount of imagination and wonder we allow ourselves. Like everything else, I believe there are also exceptions to that rule.

I was born in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma in the spring of 1987. I would be lying if I said I could tell you much about that time. I was raised by a Canadian mother and an American father, in a fairly well rounded home. We were not without our happy level of dysfunction as any family is, but for the most part, it was unremarkable. I am privileged in that I hold dual citizenship. I can (and have) worked in both countries, and have grown a great deal as a person in both countries, as well. I moved to Texas in late spring of 2012 in pursuit of a fairy tale. The man I call my husband now, is one of my oldest friends. I knew him on-line at the tender age of twelve. He was my safe place, my confidante, my best friend. I recall I would hurry home after school, eager to chat with him. Once high speed internet became the norm, he would leave his webcam streaming for me, even while he was at work. He kept a salt-water fish tank, and I loved to look at it while I did my homework. The tank and the creatures who resided in it were so bright, so vivid – it is really a miracle I ever got any schoolwork done.

Time passed as it always does, and we grew apart, as people often do. He was four years older than me, and so we were at different stages in our development. We fell out of touch, going our separate ways to make our separate mistakes and to learn our separate lessons. I would not learn the extent of those lessons until February of 2012. He crawled out of the woodwork, creating a profile on Facebook and adding me. It was an easy reconnection, as if we had never parted in the first place. I caught him up on my life since our last interaction, and he broke my heart catching me up on his. He had been incarcerated for nearly six years. He had just been released a week or two prior to making contact with me. I was stunned. In my youth, I had no idea that he was wrapped up in the ugly underbelly of the world. I had no idea he had fallen in behind his father and submitted to the siren call of drugs. He had gone out of his way to keep those elements of his life from me. It pained me to learn all of these things, but it also steeled my resolve. As a child, I did not have the independence and means to book a flight. At twenty four, however, I did. I flew into DFW the third week in March of 2012. I marveled at the weather. Canadian winters are often still going strong, well into the calendar spring. Texas boasted fair weather, if a little muddy. The grass was already becoming lush and green. It was a far cry from the blinding, desolate, winter wasteland I had flown out of mere hours before.

As all good things often do, my trip passed far too quickly. I was state side for twelve days. The time inevitably came for me to return home. We had decided between ourselves that it would be temporary. We were not quite sure what this was between us, but we were both determined to see it through. I would return home on April 1st, 2012, for the last time. Six weeks later, in the early morning hours of May 16th, 2012, I would load up my car, and I would depart Canada as a resident for the last time. I was terrified, not because I was unsure of where I was going, but because I have never been adventurous. It took 28 hours of driving and a lot of coffee, but I made the 1600 mile drive from end to end of the continental United States of America. I arrived in Sherman, Texas, mid-day on May 17th, 2012. I felt a sense of accomplishment, the likes of which I had never known. I made it. Life was great for the first year. I found work, we found our niche, and we thrived. We were closer than ever.

In the spring of 2013, the tone changed. I was so naïve. I did not know the signs. I did not fully understand my husband’s addiction until it was too late. He was out of control, and there was nothing I could do to alter the subsequent chain of events. He was arrested May 7th, 2013. For a long time I felt guilty for the sense of relief that I felt at knowing where he was, and that he was safe. I truly believe to this day, had he not been taken into custody at that time, he would not be alive today. The ‘drugs are bad’ theme is not the element of innocence lost I referred to earlier though. Less than eight weeks after he was arrested, one of the unsavory people my husband associated with would completely destroy my world as I knew it. Sure, my reality was pretty chaotic already. It was nothing compared to the days following the Fourth of July.

This man took me, took my car, took my money, and all but took my life. I was held against my will for four long, excruciating days. I was denied sleep, and I was sexually and physically assaulted. I was kept off the grid and far away from the people I loved, and the people who loved me. My husband was in county jail and could not come find me. I was not sure I was ever going to see him, or anyone, ever again.

Those days taught me anger. They taught me the potential danger in being too trusting of anyone. They taught me of the extreme evils in this world. The hard truth is that I survived. While I am still working on putting all the pieces back together, I am for the most part, victorious. I will never know innocence again. As if my ordeal was not enough, it would take me seven more weeks and soliciting six different police agencies, to even successfully file a police report, despite the visible signs of abuse on my face and body. Eventually the District Attorney of the county that finally listened, subpoenaed me to testify before the Grand Jury. I was hopeful that maybe justice would finally be served. I learned a great many things about the law, primarily among which is that the law does not like to gamble. It prefers to bet on a sure thing. The DA’s office no billed the charges against my assailant, citing insufficient evidence to proceed to trial. Not only was Johnny Law not concerned with what happened to me, he was also okay with it. He was perfectly content to turn that animal loose.

We teach our children that policemen are there to protect us and to keep us safe. That is the moral of this story. That is the innocence I will never again possess. I am still a happy, pleasant person. I have aspirations and hopes and dreams. I have conquered many adversities over this last year, and I am not finished, yet. The future is bright, and it will be mine. I am no stranger to hard work. My husband will be home eventually, and maybe then this will all be no more than a bad dream. Until then, I am motivated by my anger. I am motivated by injustice not only to survive, but to continue to grow, to become more than I once was. Whatever curve balls life has in store for me, I am ready. I will adapt. I will survive. Bring it on.