Wednesday, August 24, 2016

Reality Check For Those On Paper

One of my professional mentors used to work at the local halfway house for many years. One day, we were talking about a particularly recalcitrant client there, and he told me about a little reality check that he occasionally used on the more headstrong and willful people that populated the facility. When someone was not following one of the rules of the house, he would pull them into the office, take their copy of the residential contract out of their file, read the relevant passage about the rule they were consistently breaking, and ask them if they remembered hearing that gone over when they were being admitted. The answer invariably being yes, he would then go to the last page, and ask them, "Is this your signature on this contract, which signified your agreement to abide by the rules of this facility for the length of your stay here?" After the inevitable "yes" answer, he would sit back and ask, "So what's changed?" I adopted this tactic a few times myself, and I usually would add, from the perspective of someone then relatively new in recovery, "You want everyone to believe that you've changed, that you're now trying to live honestly and that your word means something. Well, you said you would do this. And now you're not, regularly. Which is it going to be?"
I'm bringing this up this morning for a reason. One of the facts of life about being a part of a 12-Step fellowship is that you are in contact with, and end up being friends and sometimes more with, a lot of people that are on probation and parole. And it seems like at least 90% of the people on probation and on parole run afoul of the various conditions that are a part of parole and probation agreements, with the result being more trips to rehabs and more time incarcerated. And I am growing heartily sick of hearing the litany of victimhood from many of the individuals that are getting violated and that are running into serious flak from their officers. To hear these people talk, they're the victim of "snitches;" their PO has a "hard-on for me;" the "rule is stupid;" "people ought to mind their own business;" and at least a dozen more creative speaking classics that are textbook examples of failing to take responsibility for your own choices. So I am going to climb into Professor Whoopee's Way-Back Machine and also draw on my own experience of completing a term of probation (without incident) at the beginning of my own recovery process, and point out a couple of "Factz:"
1) Being placed on probation or parole is not just an agreement, but a legal contract. The terms of the contract are that the state or county agrees not to incarcerate your ass for the length of time the relevant statute reads that you could be locked up for. In exchange for this, the probationer or parolee agrees not to engage in a number of certain actions and behaviors, which include engaging in activities against the law, and in most cases to not drink alcoholic beverages.
2) If you decide to break the contract and use drugs, drink alcohol, commit more crimes, or associate with other people on probation or parole without telling your officer that you are doing so and obtaining their consent to do so, then the state or county is perfectly within their rights to cancel their part of the contract and lock your ass up or back up.
That's it. That's the end of the story. There are no excuses. It is no one else's fault. If you do not want to find yourself at risk of being incarcerated--then live up to your end of the contract.
Anything else you might have to add or say is bullshit, unless for some reason it is not your signature on the paperwork that comprises that contract.
And for God's sake, stop whining and complaining and bitching about what happens to you when you don't keep your word. It's a risk you take, and that you thought you could outsmart the system and everyone around you by getting away with whatever you're doing is beside the point. The blame lies squarely in the mirror, and the problem is between your ears.
Maybe y'all should stop thinking so much. Apparently, you're not as good at it as you think you are.

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