The following is a letter from a student in our It’s T.I.M.E. class:
First of all, I would like to take time out to thank the It’s T.I.M.E. program for putting me back on the right track again. Being in this class has taught me how to deal with society and myself. It’s been a trying situation for me and my family. First it has been important to address the need of my medications and the need of gaining my self-respect back. This class has taught me how to make my own decisions and identify with my true feelings.
Here are the six words I chose to identify with myself:
Identifying my triggers is a must.
I say this because most of my life has been motivated by the way I feel and react toward my feelings. I must admit, my distorted thinking process has ruled over me for at least eight years. People, places and things have been my downfall. I never had the problem solving skills or socialization skills, so I pretty much stayed to myself and isolated a lot. Most of my anger has come from my childhood days. My mother and father and grand-parents were functional alcoholics and partied every weekend and holidays. By my own choices I chose to pick up drugs, (crack-cocaine) and have been battling with it for the last eight years, after the death of my mother. I took that experience so hard and lost contact with reality.
.And here I am again, sitting behind prison walls, as well as being a prisoner in my own mind. By being in this class for a second time I have gained some tools to help fix some problem areas in my life. I would like to thank the it’s T.I.M.E. team again for the support and time that they have given me. I will truly stay in touch, to keep my sobriety on the right path, and to stay on top of my mental health issues.
By: Kathie Mitchell, Director
On April 13, at the Montgomery County Correctional Facility, nine men participated in their final assignment before earning a graduation certificate. Each student gave an example in six words of what they learned during the 14-week recovery and reentry class. Here are some examples:
“How to deal with my anger.”
“Identifying my triggers is a must.”
“How to be a better person.”
“Fail to plan, plan to fail.”
“Anger turned inward, distorts reality always.”
“Changes we make, change our lives.”
As a supervisor and observer of this project for past seven years, I’ve been privileged to watch the growth of our students and the class facilitators as we shared information, introduced new concepts and provided a pathway for changes. The newest concept “Telling your story in six words” is an exercise brought to us earlier this year by Cabrini University Professor Catherine Beckowski. By looking at the examples above, you can see it works. Each of the statements relate to a topic we cover in the session and express a feeling or self-reflection.
“Thoughtful. Concise. Poignant. Insightful. Inspiring. Humbling.” These are the six words that came to me as I heard the examples on graduation day. The men take this activity seriously and demonstrated what we at Community Advocates knew: The men who participate in the class are trying hard to learn how to change their actions and/or thoughts, educate themselves about resources and return to the community with a plan to succeed.
“I tried too hard to help,” said one man. “That’s what got me in here.”
This man’s story, like many of our students, is a complicated one. A member of his community’s Lion’s Club, he had recently reconnected with his biological brother. He had a good job and owns a home. But somewhere along the way, his life as he knew it, fell apart.
According to his Community Advocates Reentry Plan, he has a home plan and a few options to try to obtain financial support in the community. He is considering college or trade school and named a few places where he might volunteer. He knows that it’s important to have people he can count on and says in his plan that he will connect with these resources. He also has a plan for idle time and a self-care plan for living in the community.
But his case has not been settled yet. He has applied to be accepted into one of the specialty courts but the process can take a few months and rejection is possible if he doesn’t meet the criteria.
Meanwhile, this man along with his classmates and many others before him, are connecting with peers who facilitate the class. They receive individual help when needed and some are learning about themselves and how to advocate for themselves, for the first time.
Trust is a big issue. And finding the resources in the community that will help each person make the changes they desire, isn’t always easy. Going back to the same life and same place where the trouble started is unfortunately, sometimes the only option.
But something that won’t change is the new knowledge the students have acquired. They have resources to seek out. And peers to support them.
“Being in class, there’s other people like me,” said one young man who also found a spiritual connection along the way. “Loving myself has increased my faith. It allows me to have patience for myself and others.”
His six words: “Faith, trust, understanding, strength and love.”
These graduates showed us they were thinking, identifying areas in their lives that need work, and are ready to make changes to enter a new life.
A student, Ryan, of our 18th session of the It’s T.I.M.E. class, shared a memory on graduation day. Students are asked on the last day to describe what they learned, discuss a goal or tell a story using six words. Here are Ryan’s six words and the thoughts that followed:
I LOVE BEING IN THE WOODS
As a kid growing up in the suburbs, every summer my friend and I went to the woods. We would ride our bikes on the picnic benches and hit the jumps there first for our warm up. Then it was off to the bigger of jumps we made further back in the woods. After a while, we would ride our bikes out of the woods and stop at Burger King and grab a bite to eat and something to drink, and then back to the woods we would go. This time though, my friend and I would bike to the other side of the woods to the rope swing and Train Trestle, swing off the rope swing, or float down stream and try to walk back up the river against the current, to see who could do it. If you couldn’t you’d swim over to the embankment, get out of the river, and walk back to the rope swing. My friends and I did this all summer long day in and out, only going home to have dinner, watch our nightly cartoons, and off to bed so we could wake up to this all over again. Today I’m 30 years old and I still go to these woods, because it is quiet, peaceful, and just a wonderful place to be with all the sounds from birds, the river, and wind blowing through the trees. So if you really are my friend then you’ll know where I’ll be, that’s in these woods listening and watching all these things take place around me.
Ryan has participated in the class, and also had some kind words to share:
Great class and the volunteers that teach us really listen to our questions or answers. I think the students of the class should read more than the teachers because when we read out loud, we have a better understanding of what we read. Keep up the good work and never stop helping and teaching us because you are needed, wanted, and appreciated.
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