(Editor’s note: The Vanguard is proud to announce a new project in partnership with Incarcerated Allied Media. Thanks to Dr. Joan Parkin and D. Razor Babb. These articles are published by Incarcerated Individuals at Mule Creek State Prison and part of the Mule Creek Post publication.)
By Sean “Sharif” Neal
RECOVERY IS AN ongoing process. Those of us who spend most of our leisure time in self-help groups know that no matter how well we may think we know our “step” work, we can always sharpen up with a quick review of the Twelve Steps. Generally, the first five steps — along with Step 10 to monitor our daily application of the steps — are the most crucial to the process. However, in this article we’ll focus on the first three.
Step 1: A Problem Exists
How do we know there’s a problem? Step 1 tells us to review our past in order to identify a pattern of criminal thinking and behavior that resulted in our “crime of choice.” So, whether you were a drug dealer or a drug addict, a gangbanger or a carjacker, a white-collar criminal or an armed robber, or if you resorted to criminal activity to fulfill your financial, sexual, or emotional needs, then a problem exists in your life.
The first step challenges us to examine the relationships we damaged, our irresponsibility, and our lack of spirituality. When we lie to our loved ones, we damage trust. When we buy drugs with rent money, that’s irresponsibility. When we don’t care whom we hurt, that’s a lack of spirituality. Step 1 urges us to closely examine these actions so that we may come to our own conclusion that we are the source of the problems in our lives — and that no one else is to blame. However, the problem can be arrested at any time, if we choose to accept the guidance of the Criminals & Gangmembers Anonymous (CGA) Twelve Steps to Recovery.
Step 2: Change is Possible
This step assures us that anyone can change if they are self- Honest, Open-minded, and Willing (the acronym H.O.W.) to follow the CGA process. The key to change in this process is in listening to the personal experiences of those with whom we find similarities, who have traveled the path of recovery before us, the path out of insanity, and by following suggestions for a new way of living. It is at this point in the process when seeking sponsorship should be a priority for us, as change is difficult at first and no one can do it all on their own. After all, what do we have to lose? By seeking similarities in others instead of differences, we learn to trust again; and, with a renewed sense of trust, we have the proof we need to believe that we can change. Yet, mere belief is not enough — we must take action, which leads us to the third step.
Step 3: Choices and Decisions
Among CGA faithful, Step 3 is known as “the action step,” because for the first time in the process (and maybe in our lives), we must take actual steps toward change. For example, in CGA we recognize that we are the source of the problem, but that people, places, and things gave us our warped beliefs, manners, and habits that contributed to the problem, because we signed over our power of choice to them. We became gang members, drug dealers, white-collar criminals, and sexual predators based on false ideologies that caused us to create victims, destroying ourselves in the process. However, change is possible. But for change to be truly possible, we must change our warped beliefs, manners, and habits into pro-social beliefs. And, we must change the people, places, and things that created them in the first place — no matter who or what they are. At the same time, we must reconnect ourselves to GOD (Good Orderly Direction) and begin practicing spiritual principles like love, empathy, and real respect. And, we must repair the harm done.
By committing to the above actions, we place ourselves back in the driver’s seat of our lives by exercising our power of choice to do good, not evil, and to break a vicious cycle. In the end, change is not easy; it does not happen overnight. By following the CGA process of recovery and finding a sponsor, change is not only possible, it is a matter of time.
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