About two and a half years ago, my supervisor asked me to consider producing a newspaper for the prison. He specifically said, “I do not want another newsletter. Think more in terms of a newspaper.” Because the men live in units called pods, my clerks and I decided to call our new project The POD-Cast. Get it? Pods? Cast (people)? I write a column every month called Lesson from the Porch which is based on the concept of sitting around on the front porch of a home just talking and exchanging ideas. As you read, keep in mind that the writing is constructed to be a blessing to those who are incarcerated, but maybe (just maybe) it will bless you, too. Here is my June column!
June holds an array of possible topics for the POD-Cast. There is the obvious recognition of Father’s Day. We have Juneteenth, which is the Texas celebration of its official emancipation of slavery on June 19, 1865. Our third (but not final) option is to discuss a pesky creature commonly known as a June bug. That is not its official name. For the scientific among us, you know it as rhizotrogus majalis or the European Chafer Beetle. Some of us have friends or family who bear the nickname Junebug. After reading this article, you may be able to identify some Junebuggers who live in your housing unit or perhaps you will find one looking back from the mirror. Let’s walk through its description as you decipher who qualifies for Junebug status.
June bugs are nocturnal (night) creatures. They are not aggressive. They do not bite; however, they have prickly spines on their legs. The feeling that you have been bitten by a June bug is actually being poked by their spiny legs. June bugs are attracted to light and will exhaust themselves spending the night flying into a light. June bugs are usually round and plump, or as comedian Gabrielle Iglesias would say, “Fluffy.” The next part is my favorite description of a June bug. They are lazy flyers which means they bump into objects on a regular basis. They fly in large arcs that seem to have no specific destination. It reminds me of a guy I knew many years ago that admitted when he learned to ride a bike, he never mastered the brake. When he wanted to stop, he just ran into a curb.
Maybe you are thinking, “What is she talking about” or “Chaplain Williams has finally gone over the edge because this doesn’t have anything to do with anything.” Hold on! Read a little bit further. It is intriguing that the compelling attraction to light becomes the death sentence for the June bug because long-term exposure to light kills them. Oh my goodness! Did you hear that? The same thing that becomes the compelling attraction is the thing that kills the June bug (or the Junebug). According to a report by the National Association of Drug Court Professionals,
• 80 percent of offenders abuse drugs or alcohol.
• Nearly 50 percent of jail and prison inmates are clinically addicted.
• Approximately 60 percent of individuals arrested for most types of crimes test positive for illicit drugs at arrest.
Perhaps our June bug is suddenly making more sense? In the years that I have served this facility, I cannot tell you how many times I have heard, “Chaplain, if I wasn’t (drunk or high), I would have never (fill in the blank).” Did you know the Latin root of the word addiction means “enslaved by” or “bound to”? Addiction exerts a long and powerful influence on the brain that manifests in three distinct ways: craving for the object of addiction, loss of control over it’s use, and continuing involvement with it despite adverse consequences (Helpguide.org). As a bit of trivia, did you know that reading emails releases dopamine in the brain? Consider how many people you know that seem to be chained to their smart phone (not in here, of course).
It is clearly not my role to sway the readers that addiction is an “either, or” scenario of either being a matter of will power or a matter of neuropsychology. It is neither the objective nor will it be the outcome. With every diagnosis comes a treatment plan. For example, I have high blood pressure. It isn’t my “fault” that I have high blood pressure; however, it is my responsibility to participate in a treatment plan that keeps me in a healthy state. The agenda of finding fault has never been productive for any of the parties involved. We have not lost sight of our June bug!
This is not a presentation about addiction but about people. I have a condition of high blood pressure, but I am not my condition. The June bug merely personifies our point. Multiple research studies scientifically examine the benefits of humor. Have you seen the movie (true story) about Hunter “Patch” Adams? He wore a clown nose and giant shoes to visit the cancer ward while making balloon animals. Do you remember the older woman that he took to a pool of noodles? Laughter has been shown to reduce stress, boost the immune system and enhance brain chemistry through the release of serotonin and endorphins (Psych Central website). There is a release that comes when we can interject humor to our tragedies. Humor is language. What words do you use to describe the addictive struggle in your life?
Words matter. They determine how we understand and perceive our world. They carry power, for good and for ill. Stigma is driven by the pejorative words, the labels that are used to describe us. This is not a matter of political correctness. Until we are seen as people, until we are provided the same respect and dignity as everyone else, we will continue to die. We have to change the cultural perception . . . (Broken No More website). The U.S. is considered a low-context culture, which means we say what we mean and then we repeat it, not for the hearer’s benefit but for our security that we have been heard. High context cultures have a much different approach.
There’s this word in French, which is sous-entendu, and the word means “don’t listen to what I’ve said, listen to what I meant.” So, don’t listen to the literal words; listen to the message that I passed to you between the lines. Japan is the highest context culture in the world, and there is an expression in Japanese, which is kuuki yomenai. It means someone who is unable to read the atmosphere, or someone who is unable to read the air. So, in Japan, a good communicator can pick up all of those subtle messages in the atmosphere, and a poor communicator is kuuki yomenai (Erin Meyer website). Words matter.
What is the point? Sometimes it isn’t about how others describe us, but the question needs to be asked, “What words do I use to describe me?” Perhaps, we also need the question, “Am I a Junebug?” When there is a separation into two words, June bug, then it is a distant and annoying creature of nature. When there is no separation, and it is one word, Junebug, then we need a mirror to check for similarities to Rhizotrogus majalis. Am I Junebuggy or Junebuggish? Do I keep searching for and banging into the very thing that can destroy me?
Junebugs, be encouraged! It’s not over for you! The primary rule of recovery is within your reach! You don’t recover from an addiction by stopping using. You recover by creating a new life where it is easier to not use (Addictions and Recovery website). Your option of a do-over in creating that new life is happening right now! Have you ever heard the expression “take a chill pill”? Studies prove that relaxation (removal of tension) is the number one influence to maintaining your new life. We deceive ourselves by believing that participating in the addictive behavior is relaxing, but NO! Relaxation is providing health care for the mind and body; therefore, relaxation defuses the addiction cycle.
What is the closing thought for June? What if I don’t know? What if you are supposed to write the end of this article? Perhaps it can only be written after you check for Junebuggerly attributes? Maybe our goal is not to find an ending but to begin writing a script for our new life—the one that is replacing our addictions.
Force, N. (n.d.) The hidden power of humor. Retrieved on May 21, 2018 from https:// psychcentral.com/blog/the-hidden-power-of-humor/
Meyer, E. (2018). Mapping out cultural differences. Retrieved on May 22, 2108 from www.erinmeyer.com
Recovery skills. (n.d.) Retrieved on May 21, 2108 from https://www.addictionsandrecovery.org/ recovery-skills.htm
The power of words: Changing the language of addiction. Retrieved on May 21, 2018 from http://broken-no-more.org/power-words/
Understanding addiction: How addiction hijacks the brain. Retrieved on May 21, 2018 from https://www.helpguide.org/…/how-addiction-hijacks-the-brain…