A look into the twelve steps required for a lifer to have a successful parole hearing.
My heart was moved to share a composition of valuable lessons I’ve learned about the connection between insight and the lifer Twelve Steps commonly found in groups such as Alcoholics Anonymous. These are my own deductions, unaffiliated with A.A. or any other groups. It simply dawned on me that so many crimes are fueled by drugs and alcohol, which can turn any normal citizen into a felon. So, there is a connection between normal citizens in society who may merely attend an occasional A.A. group, and my life prisoner class. Therefore, I feel compelled to share these principles in the hope that it may give someone a clearer view on life; whomever that may be (free or bond).
I will abbreviate by assuming that the reader can easily access the AA Twelve Steps to follow along. First and foremost, as I stated in my previous article, remorse for our actions is the most important element to recovery, reform, and rehabilitation. Remorse drives us to examine ourselves, and it compels us to change as we feel dissatisfaction with the results of those actions. Please understand that there is no distinction between a lifer here and a normal citizen who are both broken by addictive behaviors. Nor is there a hierarchy for crimes (” I only buy weed on occasion; at least I didn’t murder anyone…” ). For a person addicted to drugs, there is a supply line for that drug that costs innocent people their lives, and enslaves children in prostitution along the way. So one crime is not “more justifiable” than another.
For lifers, we must understand the “causative factors” of our crime — the events and influences that shaped us from childhood and made our beliefs, tenets, and values. In order to do this, we must use Step Four, which directs us to do a “searching and FEARLESS inventory of ourselves”. To examine our causative factors, we also must use Steps 1; 2; 5; 6; 7; 8; and 10. That is, we have to acknowledge we are powerless to our defective behaviors outside of God; able to admit that openly; aware that these are defects of character (such as dishonesty; selfishness; irresponsibility; anger; and even insecurity and self-doubt).
Accountability is next. Most importantly here is Step 5, which directs us to “Admit to God, ourselves, and another human being the exact nature of our wrongs”. We have to hold ourselves accountable by ending the excuse-making cycle. Say: “Yeah, ‘my bad’ .” Say it with conviction. This is reflected in Steps 1: 4; 6; 8; 9; and 10: admitting we are powerless; doing a fearless and searching moral inventory; becoming ready to have God remove our character defects; making a list of all those we have harmed with our actions; made amends to those people whenever possible; and continue to take inventory daily so that we never get lax on ourselves and relapse. Remember — relapse is not just about drugs: it’s about the lying, stealing, cheating, gambling, or whatever is destructive.
May I emphasize something? To me, a “victim” is ANYONE who is negatively affected by our thoughts, words, or actions. Your baby. Your mom. A neighbor. So impact (or “victim impact” as it is referred to by most lifers) is recognized through a Step 8 list, but that list takes honest introspection. I write these articles as part of my indirect and living amends as Step 9 directs me to, and I vas able to make that list after the “searching and fearless moral inventory” I did, which took years for me due to the magnitude of my crime. It took me through Steps 1; 4; 5; 9; 10; 11; and 12 to arrive at a recognition of the impact of my life’s actions. If I made a Step 8 list “of all those [I] had harmed”, and I returned to make it again a week later, I would discover that there were some I failed to account for. That’s the “searching” part of Step 4, which is a part of Step 10’s “continuing” inventory that makes for an honest and equitable Step 8 list. Steps 1; 5; 9; and 12 are all part of that process, as I have to admit I was powerless outside of God to recognize these faults; promptly admit it when I am wrong; continue to work this process of recognizing and listing my “victims” as part of indirect amends; and do all this through prayer and meditation, seeking God throughout.
Finally, I recap the connection where we began: with REMORSE. Remorse is found in and with Steps 3; 4; 5; 7; 8 and 9; 10; 11; and 12. Here, Step 8 is reinforced by our submission to the care of our Higher Power (for me it’s Christ) (Step 3). Naturally, the Step 4 moral inventory without fear helps us to name those we had harmed. Honest, exact admission through Step 5 of our wrongs leads to Step 7’s request for God to remove our shortcomings, which I believe are a manifestation of our character defects. To me, shortcomings are the “symptoms” of the “disease.” Making Step 9 amends (which are three types: direct; indirect; and living) is motivated by REMORSE. If we are not sorry or regretful for hurting others, then why would we make amends? Step 10 continuing inventory is a form of living amends. Promptly admitting when we are wrong is a form of both direct amend (when we tell the person directly); as well as indirect (when we better ourselves as a result of a harm we caused). Increasing our conscious contact with God and applying these principles, as well as carrying the message to others are all amends, and the most powerful motivator is REMORSE. Our incentive may simply be the desire to change and be a better person. We can stop victimizing others.
For lifers, the need for insight is obvious, and the Twelve Steps can be applied to achieve insight for permanent change. For anyone else simply seeking a better life, isn’t it amazing how universal these principles are? Whether you take 12 Steps for a D.U.I.., or for a life crime, the benefits are obvious. We all affect others with our actions. Self-awareness and empathy are critical to success and happiness. Be aware of how your actions affect others.
Until my next, I sign off.
Written by Rudy while incarcerated in California.