This is Personal, Raw, and Real. I Won’t Apologize

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I don’t even know how to begin what I am about to write. I guess the only thing I can do is just start and see where I end up. I woke up this morning, and something inside of me just broke open. I am shaking my head right now because life is just so nuts. Before I go any further, I just want to make one thing clear. I am not writing this for attention. I don’t need sympathy, and I don’t want pity. I am writing this post because, at the moment, it is the only way to get this out.

I am writing this post because I am a mother. I brought children into this world, and they are the greatest gift I have ever received. I might not remember what I ate yesterday, but I remember the smiles on the faces of every single one of my babies when they were born. My children are my heartbeat and the greatest gifts I have ever had.

I lost my firstborn child when he was 20. As the oldest of five children, he was the one who helped out when I needed more hands than the two I have. The kids and I were a surviving unit. As a mother of five kids on my own, I truly did not know how I was going to make it, but I did. Unfortunately, I had to give up my son. God took him. How that happened is still pretty much a mystery.

I’m going to get to my point here. I have another son and three daughters. We have all gone on with life, but we have all been hurting inside. The loss of a child or sibling is a severe pain to bear, especially after all we survived together. I still remember my younger son’s face the day of my firstborn’s funeral. He loved his brother so much. They were ten years apart, so my son’s brother was the only other male he could look up to in a house full of females. I will never forget the day my son’s big smile turned into tears. I am not sure what my heart was broken about more; losing a son or watching my other son hurt too much. All of my children have hurt, but I feel like my younger son hurt even more for some reason.

He accepted drugs in response to his pain. I’m sure his pain was numbed for the moment, but a drug and alcohol addiction that evolved out of control occurred. It is hard for a mother to watch her child harm his life, but I know no matter how much I have ever hurt, he has hurt more. His addiction landed him a prison sentence, which he has done most of.

He was placed in a state prison he should never have been in due to the risk of becoming ill with a disease that comes from the soil in that region. He has been very sick. I know he feels like he will never recover. He has fallen in his cell due to weakness, has had pneumonia, has hardly been able to be in sunlight, has been at risk of being hurt by others, and has been subjected to the trickery of those who cost him more prison time.

I want you to know this has all been a helpless feeling; to have a child, who is an adult, go through the things my son has endured. Yes, he has done a lot to himself, but he sure did not lack help in the addiction department. Addiction does not survive alone. It always has its accomplices. I am a minister and a believer of a higher power whom I call God. So, therefore, I have prayed as hard as any mother could possibly pray. My son remains sick, fearful, and not able to even deal with the addiction he went to prison for. People go to prison because of a crime they committed as discipline for that crime. They call it rehabilitation, but that does not happen, at least not from what I have seen. Regardless of what any individual has done, they do not go to prison to become sick with a disease they will never recover from. I have written to the President of the United States. I have written to the governor’s office of the state. I have written to the ombudsman of the prison system. I have written the state’s congressional representative, the state senator for that region, and those I thought might help. I have contacted an advocacy group on my son’s behalf and even the medical department of the prison he is in.

Nothing seems to help. So I keep on praying, sounding like I am alright, and moving on with life, telling myself that faith is going to have to be enough. I have isolated myself personally because of the painful part inside of me just can not take one more person hurting me. Yet life goes on. I tell myself I have to keep on going, and the rest has to be left up to God.

As I said, this morning, I broke. It’s not like I have not cried before because I have. I have cried loudly and out of pain, frustration, and anger. I want to tell you something. I absolutely HATE drugs and addictions. I have watched the people I love the most have their lives destroyed by drugs and alcohol. I don’t know the reasons why, but some can handle them, and some just can not. I think it is all a toss of the genetic wheel, maybe with a little human pain thrown in for good measure.

I dedicated my life to helping others, teaching others, showing what faith is, teaching lessons, and learning more so I can teach, counsel, and do more. We all have a purpose. Right now, at this very moment, I am the one who needs help. I need my son to receive the care he needs and the attention he needs to get out of that dingy prison cell and be helped into a life he can thrive in. I think right here; I might add that I have not been able to hug my son in 8 years. He has been locked up for most of those years, and the time before that, he was addicted. I left the state. My mother’s heart can’t take any more from anyone at any time.

It’s a helpless feeling, having to be strong, moving on in life, and have this painful heartache inside that says life will never be alright again. Grief does not end when we bury our loved ones. I already know that love can not be healed. Love is love. What we do is keep our loved ones close in our hearts, and we come to understand the heart and soul of a human being is where heaven is because that is where we hold our dearest loves of our lives.

It’s a helpless feeling to have a son, a grown man now, locked in a cage where no one will help him. It appears that all that happens in our prison systems is to put drug addicts away until they become hard just to survive. Addiction is a disease that is passed down through genetics, and it is one that is systematically reinforced by others who are addicted or sell drugs. It’s a vicious cycle.

Of course, I have blamed myself. I know deep inside it is beyond my control, but I still blame myself. It does not help that others have blamed me too. It’s sickening; all of it. Our country needs more addiction recovery programs. We need to stop condemning those who are addicted by locking them up and throwing away the key and start teaching them how to live with an illness they did not ask for and yet have to live with. We all live with it. Sometimes we die with it.

I smile, I laugh, I have good things that happen in life. I have moved forward, but a massive part of me feels stuck and broken. I know this is how every mother feels when their child has struggled with an illness they can not control. It controls them. It controls everyone it touches. Believe me; it’s hell.

Thank you for putting up with my long written broken vomit. Excuse me here, but there is no other way I can describe it. For those of you who have gone through the same, I am sorry. I wish you the best solution possible and for healing. For those of you who have received my letters and cries and yet have done nothing, I am sorry for you.

Today, just Jenine

Opinion: Are Non Violent Prisoners Receiving Extensive Sentences?

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It has been estimated that the US prison system has cost our country, and tax payers, over $80 BILLION dollars per year. Not to mention additional costs by families who want to support their loved ones, stay connected, and add hope to overcome their isolation. That cost can roughly be another $2.9 Billion dollars in paid phone connections, commissary items, and restitution costs.

Just recently the state of California alone has proposed a release of 8000 prisoners who have 180 days left or less on their record due to covid-19 issues. This follows a previous release of over 3500. These are non violent offenders. One problem I see with this is some prisoners could have been non violent at the time of arrest but prison life has created a violent offense. Therefore they are no longer eligible. Did it take the corona virus to have them released sooner? Or might we think their sentences were too long to begin with?

Many non violent offenses are drug related. Since drug addiction is an illness, it seems that the tax payers funds, and family funds, should be better used for court mandated intervention and drug rehabilitation. As long as there are no violent offenses, why not opt for rehab instead of incarceration? Isn’t the idea of the arrest and discipline to teach, inform, and rehabilitate offenders so they can be active contributing people in our society?

What about anger management, drug diversion, technical schooling opportunities and other programs that might actually rehabilitate instead of ruining lives? Our lock them into prison and throw away the key mentality has caused more of a burden on society than to offer mandatory rehabilitation and create active, useful, members of society who actually could have a chance at a good life.

Don’t get me wrong here. There are those who deserve to be in prison because of the horrible things they have done while on the outside. Yet, there are also those who fall through the cracks of the justice system, feeling they have no other choices and end up in violent situations after incarceration that ultimately lengthens their sentences.

Just looking at how many prisoners recently released in the state of California alone tells us that there are those who obviously have received sentences that have been too long. Don’t we think that creating re-entry programs is a better choice than lock them up and release them into a world they are no longer used to? Life is about learning. Rehab for a drug addict should never be a choice in court, but mandatory. Programs where court reporting for drug rehab have been shown to actually work with juvenile offenders when held accountable. Accountability and mentor programs can go a long way in helping potential offenders develop character and skills to lead upstanding lives alongside their families.

For those who are not sex offenders, not violent citizens, do not do harm to anyone but themselves, don’t we think that maybe giving them a mandated chance for change, rather than incarceration could be a better answer? It seems that channeling our energy and tax dollars into mandatory rehabilitation centers would be a smarter idea than over crowded prison systems that do nothing but cause more anger, depression, feelings of separation and loss than rehabilitation. This does not even cover prison inflicted illness that can be life altering and life taking.

We have a country filled with talented drug counselors, anger management coaches, life coaches, and clergy that would make great candidates for employment in centers that help human beings become active members of our societies instead of training more prison guardsĀ  to monitor humans who really just needed a better chance in society. Many incarcerated human beings come from one parent families, usually with an absent father. Are we compassionate enough to give them the things they missed out on in this country? It’s not just about dollars and cents, its about what makes sense.

Loving you from here,

Dr Jenine Marie Howry, PhD

**References

The Marshall Project

 

“First Do No Harm” and Modern Medicine

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When I was growing up, my family had this person in our lives we called “the family physician.” We all went to him and he knew us all by name. I was not always keen on our family physician’s bedside manner, as he could almost sound a bit insulting. He knew his stuff though. I remember my father calling him brilliant one Christmas holiday he saved my grandmother’s life. She went on to live many many years longer, even with heart issues, and well after our doctor’s retirement. He treated my chicken pox, strep throat, allergies, severe reactions to antibiotics, and diagnosed my first pregnancy. I saw him into my early 20’s from when I was a child. Everything that could have been known about me medically, he knew. He treated everything, including some of my tears.

Now, we have a “primary care physician.” We are very fortunate when we get a good one. I know there are a lot of good ones out there. Although, what happens now, our insurance company pretty much determines who that will be or who is “in network”. Then, if we need something else besides taking our blood pressure, we are referred to a specialist who basically knows nothing about us. That person is also determined by our medical insurance company and has to be “in network”. If medications are prescribed, the insurance company tells us when we can have our refill, even when our physician has prescribed it and has already said it is alright. The pharmacy tells us, “You can’t have this medication for a couple more days.” SERIOUSLY? What do we do in the mean time? What if we are going away for the weekend and need mediations we normally take?

I’m not sure I even want to get on the subject of medications themselves. Have you ever read some of the side effects of the newer medications? I don’t doubt that many can be very helpful, but “high risk of causing cancer” or “death” are not on the top of my list of things I really want to handle with a medication that is supposed to help me. Don’t get me wrong here. I do know that some medications have been life savers for me and for others. Yet, there are others that I have to question. These medications were not even around when my family had our family physician. Some of the women in my family lines have lived into their 100’s. (A pretty good track record if you ask me). It does not mean living was always easy, but when would that ever happen?

I sat pondering a medication bottle this morning after reading the possible side effects again. “High risk for causing lymphatic cancer” is a scary thing to ponder. I put the bottle back in my drawer. I’m not sure managing a little inflammation in my body is worth that risk. Especially the death part. We all get there eventually, but I really don’t want to speed up the process. Some of our advances in curing cancer have been remarkable, so please don’t take this as a reason to be fearful of medical treatments or even specialty doctors.

I think my point here is to be wise in choices. It is YOUR body. The insurance companies, the drug companies, and doctors who don’t take the time to know our feelings about them are not the main focus of our own healthcare. In my case, if at all possible, I would rather reach for what holistically helps me and use other drastic measures as a last resort. Medical care is important, especially preventative care. Take care of your body, mind, and spiritual life and the result will be a reward. Be smart about what is good for you and eliminate what is not. If you are not sure, do some research and find out!

A good place to start is meditate for the mind, eat right for the body, connect spiritually to inspire, bring wisdom, and for guidance. When medical issues do arise, and they will, be wise in decisions. Your medical provider is hopefully a well trained physician, but still is not a god and does not have the final say in the decisions regarding your body. Listen carefully to advice and heed it when it is needed. There are many miraculous breakthroughs in many aspects of modern medicine. We have come a long way. Just be wise. Consider very deeply if the benefits of something will outweigh the risks. I know our family physical took somewhat of a risk to help my grandmother that Christmas season she struggled with a heart issue. The benefits extended her life. My hope and prayer is that we find ourselves with more physicians that are like that and less of those who would risk our life span just to provide something for the sake of simply being a provider. “First do no harm.”  (Hippocratic oath)

Loving you from here,

Dr Jenine Marie Howry, PhD