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Female in a Male Prison

Why here?

I'm in my first year as a counselor. It's difficult to go to work every day knowing I am an attractive woman putting myself in a position to be seen by men who are especially prone to lust. Men who are part of a population that tend to have low moral standards. What I have found, though, is a subculture in this other world. A small population that have the most intuitive and dedicated moral structure that is a blessing to witness being built. Here, in this world of men, I find myself torn between who I used to be and who I want to be.

Before I can fully share with you my experience inside this restricted area, where the population is hard and broken, I must first share some history of how and why I became a substance abuse counselor.

I have statistics that I hope will not cause you to judge me. I only want to tell the whole truth. I don't remember my parents being married. My mother and father both remarried four separate times. In fact, my father just remarried to a fifth woman. Neither of my parents have reached age 50. I had incredible potential at an early age. I began school in a private Christian Academy. At grade seven, my sisters and I began attending public school. It was quite a culture shock. I was incredibly self-conscious, and quickly gravitated to the less savoury type of crowd. The things they talked about shocked me. I was quickly desensitized to sexual ideas. I transitioned into depending on being identified as sexually attractive in order to feel okay about myself. My mother worked three jobs to provide sports equipment, art lessons, piano lessons, and nice clothes. Though I appreciate her deeply for giving us a sense of normalcy, I would much prefer for her to have helped us develop more sensible and moral characteristics. 

One memory that especially plagues me is of sitting in the floor next to her on the couch. I felt a sudden and intense urge to feel her hand on my back or head. It only lasted a few seconds, but I swear I felt a part of me inside pinch, like the first petals of a bouquet falling off. I acted out sexually quite early. Once, I left town with a man twice my age. He lied about his age, and ended up with an amber alert called on me. I wasn't hurt, but I eventually gave them the reaction they wanted to save my mother some pain and embarrassment. How could I show that I truly felt nothing but some slight anxiety?

I attempted suicide at age 20. You can only become so empty before you will collapse in on yourself. Drugs played a part in tipping me over the edge, not to mention enforcing impulsive behaviors. I was hospitalized. I don't remember how long. No more than a day. I remember waking up and being surprised to see that my family had traveled to come see me so quickly. Looking back, I see how worthless I really believed myself to be. Eventually, I ended up in jail. It had nothing to do with sex or drugs, only my father and my false pride. It's quite a story, but that's for another time. 

When I got out, having had a spiritual experience, I decided only one thing. 'I will not waste any more time.' I had a job in two days, a boyfriend within two weeks, and a baby on the way within two months. It wasn't exactly what I had in mind, but I was determined to move forward despite my frustrations and embarrassment. I went back to college shortly after my son was born. My daughter was nearly a year old when I graduated with my Associates Degree in Chemical Dependency Counseling (CDC). I could not have done it without the support of my family.

Now, this new chapter in my life has me guessing whether or not I am ready to commit to the changes that have so drastically altered my life. Commitment is not familiar to me. With every step in this direction, I have fought with myself to keep on the path I have chosen. I have been tearing myself in all directions.

It's as if the Old Me is fighting to stay alive, and with each desparate pull, the New Me is torn and scarred. I hold onto her, because the New Me is dry, used, and disappointing. I must let go of Old Me, or New Me will die from malnourishment. 

The best part of this job is seeing the whole me flourishing in an atmosphere of self-reflection and acceptance. I am surrounded by individuals who are flawed, battle-torn, and fighting still. Some are co-workers and some are clients. Every day, I am challenged by a group of men who are all ages and races. I am forced to grow or quit. Become more of what I claim to stand for, or fall back into job-security purgatory. It feels like the opportunity to develop through all the social and spiritual deficits I have experienced in life. 

I am five months into what I believe to be my calling. I educate, but also attempt to be a spiritual guide. So far, I am addressing my dry spirit. My past makes the situation precarious. I have temptations and urges of which I am fully aware. I am fighting them off with great success. I feel that this battle ground is the best one for me. It hones my skills and builds my defenses.

Now, I'm sure you're quite ready to hear the specifics about my interactions with the inmates. That I will save for tomorrow. Thank you for taking the time to read me. 

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