Sunday, January 22, 2023

Through introspection, some prisoners reveal their creative side

 Through introspection, some prisoners reveal their creative side

Article by Eric Silverman

A, an altar boy from Brooklyn, was sexually abused at age seven by a female cousin. Raised in a religious Catholic family, as an adolescent, he began to seek ‘desires of the flesh.’ “Despite outward expressions of love for God, I didn't have a strong relationship with Jesus, and I didn't know how to express myself.

“In 2006, I severely assaulted a pimp after he and an escort came to my office for money, My anger turned to violence. God intervened, saved me from killing myself. But I was very much a broken, troubled soul.”

The day after Easter, 2007, A returned to his employer’s office with a shotgun.

Two of the people he shot survived. One did not.

As a writer who works with prisoners who are recovering from addiction, I have been exploring what The Artists Way author Julia Cameron describes in Twelve Step programs as surrenders or kriyas through the act of keeping a journal. Artists Way and its offshoots espouse creative expression, which I observe in men such as A.

For most prisoners, a two-way exchange starts as a confessional, to get out of emotional and mental isolation, by sorting through the darkness of the past. Though writing introspection in recovery itself is not specifically designed to foster art, the discipline can and often does lead to forms of expression. For A, a ‘broken soul,’ the process has been a positive transformation.

“Writing in recovery forces me to honestly reflect and provide a thoughtful response.

I prefer answering specific reflection questions that get to the heart of the matter, and have seen an improvement in my ability to relate to myself others. I see myself sharing more of my life experiences (good and bad), insights, and opinions, and uncover the covert issues such as the root causes of my lust that is, my emotional and interpersonal struggles.”

According to the Center for Primary Care at Harvard Medical School, the isolation of prison, particularly at holiday time, can lead men and women addicts to higher risk of

J was arrested in front of his wife and family after viewing illegal pornography.

He is currently serving a lengthy term in the Idaho prison system.

After we exchanged email for a few months, J described the act of watching pornography “like lying on railroad tracks” while a train is rushing onwards.

Often, he wrote, “there is the apprehension,“ a sense of panic. At the same time, “the oncoming train lulls me into a false sense of familiar security. I know it'll feel good, what's the harm in acting out?” What he described in an email turned out to be the image, of a deadly locomotive, representing his addiction. Through desperate prayer, he wrote, he is led “off the tracks of temptation and watch as the train thunders past. I can see how close I came to dying. Reminders of past actions and consequences come flooding back. I fully realize the dire results that follow acting out. If not for my Higher Power and my complete dependence on Him, I would have! I am forever grateful for this new path and lease on life, free from the power lust had previously had on.”

J’s images struck me, a fellow creative. I encouraged J to give himself permission to claim the artist. I could see his creative side emerging. I repeated his description of the locomotive and suggested ‘barreling down a mountain grade.’ Afterward, I approached a songwriter friend in recovery who refined these images and set them to music. The result is a song about addiction recovery, ’Fast Moving Train.’

After recording the song, my friend sent me an mp3 that I played it for J over the phone. There was no hiding J’s surprise of excitement in listening to his own words.

J has given me permission, through the song’s intended release, to help other incarcerated addicts. We continue to email each other, with that sense of gratitude that, somewhere, is the Creator, who, in turn, enables creation through us.

Here are some of my highlighted exchanges with both A and J on writing, as follows,

A: “Correspondence via email helps my recovery by having a connection with a trusted servant of God who understands my addiction and wants to help me stay sober.

Having face-to-face, in-person communication offers the most authentic way for human interaction, and I miss that.”

J: “I've always been blessed with a very creative side. Legos were some of my favorite toys growing up and I later found joy in carpentry/construction.”

J, speaking of our collaboration, how has corresponding built a foundation by which you could be involved in something that would be beneficial to others?

“I see the Creator's hand in it all. My first request for a sponsor went unanswered. It was my second request that led to our relationship and the resulting collaboration, of which I'm grateful to be blessed with the opportunity. It has literally been an answer to many prayers that my dark past might be a light to others. Grace, the power behind it all. And none of it would happen without our corresponding.

“Integrity. At times, I feel as if I'm a channel for creativity flowing through me into this world. It's a very subtle feeling that leads to an almost impossible urge to write that I can’t ignore.

J, are you finding a sense of belief in 'God' as 'we understand Him' (the Creator)?

I believe that I've only just begun be aware of what already lies dormant within. The veil is beginning to lift, so to speak…”

Guest blogger and poet Eric Jason Silverman lives in Natick and works with the helping and healing community.

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