How I Was Affected By Occupational Deprivation

 

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“I think it would be helpful for the audience to understand how you personally were affected by Occupational Deprivation.” ~Sandra Rogers

That single sentence stood out to me and is where the title of this post came from. First, I had to understand the meaning of Occupational Deprivation (OD). As far as I can tell, it means: The lack of meaningful activities. Hmmm…all of my activities have had some type of meaning behind them.

I hustled, gambled, sold drugs and tobacco.
The Meaning: to make money.

I got in fights.
The Meaning: to earn respect and to release pent up frustrations and aggression.

In a Penitentiary, or a Correctional Center, these truly are meaningful activities. If I want to spend the rest of my life locked up and miserable! Early on in my incarceration I knew I had to change. I wanted to change! (For an in-depth look, please read my ebook, Stone City: Life In The Penitentiary)

The cure to Occupational Deprivation is Meaningful Activities. But for years, I was denied. I asked numerous DOC employees for help. The answer was always the same, “No. Those programs are for short timers…you have too much time.”

My misconduct would continue and I’d end up in the hole. Again! I shed many tears in The Hole. Because that’s when & where reality really hit! Prison. 43 years. The pain I’ve caused others. Isolation. Being a failure. A loser. The list goes on…

One time when I was in the hole they cuffed me and escorted me to the recreation enclosure. On the way there I saw a flier advertising Anger Management and Victim Awareness. These classes were available in the hole. Two classes I desperately needed. So I submitted a kite requesting them.

To my surprise, they denied me. The reason: I wasn’t doing enough time in the hole.

That pissed me off! While in population I’m denied for having too much time. And in the hole I’m denied for not having enough time. But if I seriously hurt someone and get, let’s say,12 months in the hole, then I’ll get the classes and my long prison sentence is no longer a factor.

It’s logic like this that’s so discouraging.

Lucky for me, I have a strong will and a burning desire for redemption (see: Redemption, It’s My Choice). Despite set back after set back, I continued to seek understanding as I took moral inventory of myself. As I write this and reflect back, I now see that I had the desire to get better, but I severely lacked in the “meaningful activity” department. Therefore, I struggled.

Occupational Deprivation was my program! And I suffered greatly because of it.

Today, my life is full of “meaningful activities.” And as a result, I’ve never been happier or more productive.

 

I go to NA Meetings, which I gain so much wisdom & knowledge from.

I’m in The Dog Program and I have the privilege of loving a dog named, Yahoo.

I graduated from my Redemption and Roots of Success classes because I wasn’t told, “No. You have too much time.”

I’ve started reading Influential Books, which I thoroughly enjoy.

I mentor those who are ready to hear positive messages. I lead by example so my words have greater impact.

I’m the nations leading blogger from behind bars.

I have meaningful relationships with the people I call Friends.

I have a job passing out commissary to thousands of guys.

I prepare healthy meals for myself and I workout regularly.

The list of “meaningful activities” goes on and on….and my most treasured one is my marriage. I have the most caring, loving wife any man could ever hope to have. Suzie has blessed my life beyond what I thought possible. The love I feel for her in my heart is stronger than any other feeling I’ve ever known.

 

All these “meaningful activities” have completely wiped out OD. Perhaps I should’ve titled this post, “How I Am Affected By Meaningful Activities.” Because this is where the beauty is. This is where true transformation is realized.

Its great to learn new terms and articulate my journey under the umbrella of Occupational Therapy. But the truth is: If someone wants change, they must want it for themselves, then relentlessly pursue it everyday for the rest of their lives.

It is now, after I am well on my way, that I make the connection between “meaningful activities” and rehabilitation. It would’ve been nice to learn all this years before I did. Better late than never.

 

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Steven Jennings

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