Tag Archives: cognitive therapy

Fact-Resistant Humans

VINCE

It is such a beautiful day. Fortunately we spent a lot of it outside. For an hour we marched. We’re getting pretty good. We can do counter columns, rear march, left and right flanks and obliques. In 4 and 2/3 months we will get to show our moves at our graduation. Time moves so quickly.

After marching we spend about 3 hours sweeping the running rack and transporting leaves and pine needles from the woods to the compost piles. I didn’t even feel like I was working, it was so nice out. But as I write this I’m quite sore, and I have a huge blister on the palm of my hand.

I’ve been lazy all day and I loved it. I won five games of cribbage. I’ve done a little bit of treatment work. I’m hoping that not doing anything physical today will help me in my running tomorrow morning. I’ll let you know in the next sentence.

Nope. I only ran two miles. Still an improvement from ten months ago, but not where I want to be. I need to try harder, but it’s hard to try harder. And my legs hurt.

I got my Initial Treatment Plan (ITP) last Friday. I hate it because it’s spot on. As it turns out, I’m controlling, I just didn’t know how bad I was.

I use my body language and anger/sarcasm to control the people around me. For example, if somebody close by is doing something wrong, I try to look like I’m upset and I might even point them out to somebody else instead of talking to them about it.

Another example: If I’m having trouble with making my bed, I will exaggerate my frustrations to make it look like I’m having trouble so people will try to help, instead of me just asking for help. And sometimes when they offer assistance, I get annoyed and tell them off, which makes me look like an asshole. Ugh. Treatment is hard. I like it.

Today I noticed that I quit biting my nails a week ago. I didn’t even do it on purpose, it just happened. I wish I hadn’t noticed it, I can’t stop looking at them now…I must change my focus.

Here’s a good one. The other day in our cognitive thinking class, where we are invited to ask questions about anything, someone asked why the asteroid that killed off the dinosaurs didn’t kill all the people too. Then: dead silence. I was the first to laugh. He’s not a smart man, and every week he has mentioned that he “doesn’t believe in dinosaurs,” as if they were mythical creatures.

Maybe not such a cray thought considering our teacher says we’re all descendants of aliens—35-40-foot-tall aliens.

[ANNE: When I spoke with Vince on Sunday, he told me about this instructor, Tim Peebles. Vince is enthusiastic about the Thinking for Change class Peebles teaches. He said it’s all been developed by Hazelden Betty Ford, which is a well-respected chemical dependency treatment, publishing, and research center. But aliens? How can you lecture people about thinking rationally, then (as Vince described) spend the remainder of the class telling stories about the aliens you saw are Roswell? I believe there is life elsewhere in the universe, but until there are facts in front of me, I don’t claim to know what form they take.

I googled Tim Peebles and below are the Putinesque images that came up. Maybe they’re different incarnations of him?]

Peebles

Easter Bunny, Denied

VINCE

We were supposed to start running on Wednesday but the weather hasn’t allowed it. We do the step tape for an hour every other day, and we have been speed walking on the alternate days to get prepared for running. As much as I fear running, I have been excited to see how far I can go, but now we have to wait until Monday for our next chance.

Getting in shape has been tough. When I got to St. Cloud, the first time I did anything for exercise was 35 minutes of softball (only five minutes of actually doing anything) and I could hardly walk for three days. Now I can do the step twice, about 55 minutes of constant motion. It’s a great work out. I started using 1 pound weights and I couldn’t believe how heavy they felt afterwards.

I’m sitting in a chair next to my bunk feeling drained. I couldn’t estimate how many miles we’ve logged marching and walking to various places to clear brush.

At one point we had to run a half mile wearing our full-length khaki uniform, boots, coveralls, gloves, wool cap, and hard hat. The whole time all I could think about was that I had to take a %$*#)@. Thankfully I made it back in time.

After our weekly haircut we ate lunch, then went out for drill and ceremony for two hours. Marching, counter column march, rear march, left oblique, right oblique. It’s really hard. I’m pretty good at it now, some people in our 16-man squad just don’t seem to care. So we argue, bicker, yell. And in the end we’ve somehow grown closer.

Some of them won’t make it. Some of them will never care about anything in life. So I have to focus on me.

So here I am in my chair. Exhausted, quiet, challenged, and hopeful. Time for dinner.

ANNE

My 80-year-old mother wanted to send Vince some money.  She sends each grandchild a card at Easter and other holidays, with $10 in it.  I read off the two addresses, twice.  One for sending Vince the card, another for sending him the money order, which would cost a couple bucks.

She called me later and asked me to re-read all the information because she couldn’t keep it straight.  I typed it and emailed it to her, thinking that would be clearer.

But she sent the money order in the card, so it all came back.  So I explained, again, how she couldn’t send ANYthing with the money order.  She had to mail the card to a different address.  Why?  I don’t know, mom.  I don’t know.  You just have to do it that way.]

Mom n Taisei Vince’s grandma, with her youngest grandson.

No Bars

VINCE

Ms. Maertz:

There really aren’t any rules and regs as far as when I get out. I’ll be on an intense form of probation / parole for the first six months. As long as I’m doing well (passing my UAs, going to meetings, looking for work/working/going to school, they won’t pay much attention to me. And those are all of the things I plan on doing.

The first day or two they usually let us go shopping and see family, that sort of thing. But we are expected to get looking for work right after that.

In five weeks, I’ll be able to call you. I really don’t know too much more than that, but I can’t wait to talk to you.

Things are going well for me here. It’s all manufactured stress. They like to see how we react to things. I usually do well.

I don’t have too much time to read news and articles but the Johann Hari article was really good. [“Everything we know about the drug war and addiction is wrong”]

I do like to read feedback from the blog, so keep that coming.

It’s been a crazy few days. Three days ago we got our red tags removed. Red tags go on our IDs and sort of make us stand out as new guys. It’s the first real hurdle. We felt pretty good about it.

Well. Last night they made us put them back on. Our squad, as a whole, is a mess. Even for new guys. Some of us (thankfully, not me) still can’t figure out left and right. Some of us (me) still can’t make our beds with 45 degree angles and no wrinkles. And some of us (I won’t profile) think it’s okay to rap and use the N word and profanity.

It is now back to being incredibly stressful, but I think we’re still on some sort of “right path.”

Two days ago while on a work crew we went way out into the woods and raked up pine needles into piles for about an hour. Even though we were working, I felt completely at peace. The sun was hitting my face, a cool breeze making the dry leaves scratch each other in a game of leap frog. The birds happily singing to us. And no fences in sight. No fences, no barbed wire, no bars anywhere here. I think of that moment when I get frustrated. I know that soon I will be able to find peace in everything I do.

And just writing all of that settled me down from today’s frustrations. I’m grateful that people actually want to read this. Thank you. And stay tuned.

A Soul Restored

VINCE

Ms. Maertz:

You should check out a guy named Mark A. Fagerwick. He has gone through boot camp and he writes (or maybe wrote) for the Pioneer Press. Just a thought.

[ANNE: Yes, Mark Fagerwick does write for the Pioneer Press, the St. Paul newspaper. I’m sharing his article here because it sums up boot camp well.]

‘Boot camp’ prison alternative — for me, a life-changing program

As a recent graduate (survivor) of the Challenge Incarceration Program, I can tell you that this program was and is the single most physically, mentally and emotionally demanding, challenging and ultimately positive experience of my 55 years.

In 2010, I was convicted and sentenced to 48 months in prison on a DUI charge. I entered St. Cloud State Prison with an attitude of deep resentment toward a system I felt had failed me by unfairly, over-zealously, over-aggressively and harshly judging me. I also harbored and presented a stance of arrogant superiority over my fellow inmates — after all, I was a successful, college-educated marketing communications professional and a deeply spiritual family man. I had achieved amazing accomplishments and attained an outward appearance of success normally associated with right living. I was not a “criminal” deserving four years in a state penitentiary (or so I thought).

The first 24 hours of C.I.P. changed all that.

I was immediately struck with the reality that all of our creator’s children make mistakes, poor choices and self-centered decisions that adversely affect families, loved ones and civilized society as a whole. And, that there are consequences for that kind of distorted thinking and the resulting arrogant, errant choices and behaviors. I am blessed to have been afforded the opportunity to participate in and benefit from this incredible, life-changing, life-giving program.

I owe a great debt of gratitude to the staff and supporters of C.I.P. for helping to realign my priorities, restore my relationships and reintegrate me back into a civilized society where I can affect a positive change in myself and those around me through my experience and by example.

While it is an unfortunate reality that many of my peers in the program will likely re-offend and return to incarceration, the successes far outweigh the failures. And, in my opinion, one successfully saved life and reunited family is well worth the effort. We all deserve a second chance.

C.I.P. is an incredibly powerful and effective program in the much-needed reform of our criminal justice and “corrections” system. While the traditional system of incarceration and the isolation and segregation of certain criminal elements from society is necessary and has its place for many, there are also many otherwise responsible, respectful, repentant individuals who simply lost their way, made horribly poor choices and who sincerely desire another chance to prove themselves and make amends for the wrongs they have done. These individuals are irreparably damaged by extreme and unrelenting exposure to and influence of the traditional prison environment and the unremorseful, habitual and often-violent offenders confined there.

C.I.P. promotes and facilitates an effective combination of intensely regimented discipline, essential cognitive behavioral insight, intensive chemical-dependency programming, rigorous physical training and strictly controlled physical labor, all underscored by positive exposure to an uncompromising but sincerely dedicated staff and a group of program participants who are truly seeking positive change and a better way of life. Surely there are detractors who feel that C.I.P. simply represents a time cut for criminals who “deserve” to serve penance for their crimes — and to a degree that could very well be the case for some. However, for those who take the program to heart, who utilize the tools and skills provided, and learn from their past, society will realize a true and valuable asset — a soul restored, a family reunited, a man completed.

A Roof of One’s Own

VINCE

Ms. Maertz:  [ANNE: I don’t know why he’s suddenly started addressing me as Ms. Maertz instead of Mom.]

Over two weeks in! Things are getting better. Actually a lot better.

Now, to answer your questions.

It’s true that I have to live in a half-way house in Rochester, or with an approved relative in another city, yes.

The reason that we can’t live with another person right away is that we don’t yet have the resources to do so, and while we’re here we don’t have the ability to locate a place to go. Not to mention when we leave, we have nothing. About $400-500, a pair of jeans, and a white t-shirt. (no bed, no lamps, no furniture, etc.)

The no-booze rule is an intensive supervised release (ISR) rule. Ultimately, of course, it’s up to us to maintain sobriety, but there can be no alcohol, drugs, firearms, bombs, etc. in your house while I’m living with you.

There are a couple guys in boot camp that will be in your area when I’m out. Eventually I will be working and will be allowed to move, I believe in as little as 30 days.

Your landlord has to know, by law, that I’m a felon, and my ISR agent will contact them before I’m approved to live at an address. If you own your own place by then it won’t be an issue.

I can start looking for a job on day one. I can start work any time.

The money I get upon my release can pay for a landline. In a lot of cases, agents actually prefer us to have a cell phone because of the tracking ability. I plan on getting a phone right away anyhow for sober networking and job hunting.

Thanks for the comments keep ‘em coming. Let’s get our story out there, it’s a good one.

Everything here is designed to transform every aspect of our lives. Starting with our thinking. I can’t even explain it. It’s better than Florida. How about that?

Love you, mom. Thanks for doing all the typing. I do see a lot of typos. Are they spell checked before they get posted? Also, we do NOT get body cavity searches here, FYI. I’m doing well. I like it here. This is going to change my life.

[ANNE: Typos? The nerve! I pride myself on my accuracy. But then, I have been under a bit of stress lately, which affects my concentration.

About 10 days after I moved to the new apartment, I found a condo I really like. Keep renting, or buy? That is the question. If I ever want to have a decent life in retirement, it’d be good to buy something very modest and try to pay it off. That seems very sensible. However I have to ask myself, “Am I making a $100,000+ purchase just to avoid talking to my landlord about my ex-con son moving in with me?]

Thinking vs. Thinking

VINCE

I just can’t find the time to accurately describe our schedule. It does change daily.

Today I worked for seven hours doing laundry for all three barracks (182 men). Then, before I even had a chance to sit, we went out for drill and ceremony, where we marched for two hours.

Now I have to do my treatment homework, so that’s it until later.

Later. I forgot to mention that the CD treatment here is called Positive Changes. It was developed for the Minnesota Department of Corrections by Hazelden. Hazelden Center for Youth and Family worked pretty well for me back in ’01, so I’m hoping this cognitive thinking approach works for me because I just don’t think the 12 step program is for me anymore. Not to say I won’t go to meetings, when I get out, I just can’t get past the God thing, and I don’t like the idea of pawning my problems off on something that isn’t real.

Way off track there. It’s almost lights out time. Tomorrow is my down day. Good night.

[ANNE: I am a big fan of cognitive therapy, and it’s not the same thing as positive thinking, so I wonder about this treatment program called Positive Changes.

Don’t get me wrong, positive thinking feels a lot better than negative. If you are able to easily choose positive over negative thinking, why wouldn’t you?

But in my 55 years of living I’ve only met two types of people who espouse positive thinking: 1) people who have never faced any serious life challenges, who tell the rest of us, “Just think positive!” and 2) people who are living in a fantasy world, whose lives would be considered by most people to be a mess but who exclaim, “Isn’t everything great!” Actually, the name for this second one is denial—it’s a defense mechanism that protects us from harsh reality until we’re strong enough to deal with it.

I went to Alanon meetings and worked that program for years. I got a lot out of it. I wish Vince could switch the word “god” to “the group” or some other support outside himself that is a support to his sobriety.

Back to the question of thinking, positive or otherwise. In Alanon there are a lot of slogans like One Day at a Time and Live and Let Live. There was one that was simply the word Think. For years I had no idea what that one meant. Think!? That’s all I did! I worried, obsessed, and mentally gnawed on all my family’s problems.

Then one day, maybe soon after I lost my belief in God, I realized it just meant what it said—Think, you idiot! Use the mind that God—or evolution—gave you. Thinking is different from obsessing or worrying. I found it helpful to reason things out with another person who was outside of the situation. It may sound simple, but in alcoholic families we are dealing with people who are not rational but manipulative, indirect, and sneaky. Alcoholics are often brilliant and charismatic, but they’re also liars. People affected by them tend to be martyrs.

And you wonder why I want to move to another country?]

The Send Off

VINCE

There are so many bad choices I’ve made in my life. But I am ready to break free of my old habits. Nine days until I commit myself to positive change, 189 days til freedom.

My second to last court appearance in June last year was a contested omnibus hearing where I finally decided to just make a deal. I was sick of my life and ready to go to prison. It happened a little faster than I thought it would, as I’ve written before.

I left the courtroom knowing that I had eight days left of freedom. Instead of using that time productively I went about my usual routine. Little did I know there was a plan in the works to leave me broke and broken.

Three days before my sentencing, I was robbed at knife point by three people that I thought I knew. They cornered me in a room and told me to empty my pockets, waving around a very short and wide knife.

You may not think of that as too much of a threat. But a person wielding a one-inch knife is ready to use it more quickly than a six-inch knife because it wouldn’t likely produce a fatal wound.

So I emptied my pockets and the one with the knife sucker punched me in the eye. As I turned around he punched me again, in the same spot. That really hurt.

They all called me some names and then left. Their goal was to steal my truck and leave me stranded but fortunately the ignition was broken, and they could not figure out my homemade tweaker [meth user] ignition featuring a light switch for toggle and a doorbell button for the starter switch.

I got up. In a daze I walked to the bathroom. I had a huge black eye. My nose was bleeding and my ego was shot.

They took about $1,000 combined money and drugs from me. It was all I had. But even that didn’t stop me. Nothing ever really did. I knew then that I needed to be locked up, in prison or chained to a radiator, it didn’t matter. I knew I wanted to stop, but I couldn’t. My name is Vince and I’m an addict.

ANNE

I received a postcard from Vince. Between it and him writing, “I’m an addict,” I felt hope for him for the first time in 10 years.

Hola,

One week away! I’m looking forward to a new life. Again.

Thank you so much for all your support, and hard work. It must be tough at times. I love you very much and I’m happy we have become so close.

Love,

Vince

But was it real? There’s an old joke:

Q: How do you tell when an alcoholic is lying?

A: His lips are moving.

Vince writes about how many days til boot camp…how many days til he’s free…then he can start to change his life. I’m a firm believer that you can change your life now, regardless of whether your circumstances. That work can only be done inside your head, using cognitive behavior therapy, meditation, and other techniques. If you don’t know how to do it, as I didn’t for many years, you’re stuck. Physical fitness and self discipline are great, but I really hope this boot camp thing helps Vince figure out how to rewire his “stinking thinking”, as they call it in AA.