I'm being shackled by my feet, waist, and hands and led up to the visitors area at Plainfield Correctional Facility for a visit with my family. On every other visit, this is a great walk as visits are the best part of an otherwise terrible existence. Visits are the only human contact I have in here and they are a glimpse of home, a hug from my daughter, and a moment of freedom from the pain in my mind. Visits are great. . . just not today.
Today, my visit will be via a closed circuit monitor screen because I am in solitary confinement, "the hole," the "sweat box," or what I call hell. This entry is not about today's visit but about what it feels like to spend 45 days alone in my cell and isolated in and from my thoughts. The reasons for my solitary confinement are not important but suffice it to say they were later held to be unwarranted not only by a Federal Court but by the prison administration as well. (That's a another blog for another day).
When I started this blog, I challenged myself to share the essence of my life, my experiences, my struggles, my recovery, my wins, and my losses. I intend to share what solitary confinement feels like, sounds like, and how it is above all else. . . torture. At the end of this blog, I have two links which you can review and decide for yourself. I hope you take the time to check them both out and get a glimpse of what it was like for those 45 days.
My home for 45 days is a 6 X 9 cell that looks a lot like the YouTube Video attached to this blog. What's not shown in this video is the extreme desperation, heat, and humidity of these cells. It's so hot that that I spend every hour of everyday in nothing but state issued white boxers. It's so hot that the toilet sweats and drips on the floor but the water evaporates before it can form a small pool of water. It's so hot that the only relief is from lying naked on the concrete floor that is marked by the dirt, pain, and anguish of the previous prisoners life. It's so hot that the air is stagnant, it smells like the desperation of 32 men held in cells just like mine. I can hear their screams, their voices, their laughter, and their tears. Their tears are the loudest as the silence of their pain is deafening.
Being along in my head has always been torture to me. I tell anyone I work with in addiction that when I am in my own head, I'm in a bad neighborhood - - that's been true throughout my own life, my own addiction, and especially in here. Those same voices almost drove me crazy over the 45 days I was alone with my thoughts, my demons, and my past.
For 45 days I was out of my cell a total of maybe 4 hours and only saw the light of day for 3 of them. The other 2 were to shower, go to the Doctor, and make a few phone calls home. Make no mistake about it, I was all alone in my mind and the voices of my pain for 45 straight days and I still get anxiety and a panic about it, especially as I write about it today.
My only human contact was the same people who held the keys to my captivity. I can't begin to describe how mentally exhausting and torturous that is. Having small talk with the person keeping you captive just to remain somewhat normal is a definition of insanity that I can't even explain.
My only saving grace was that I had my Bible and the songs (like my theme songs below) I had memorized from K-Love in my head. I am not the best singer but let's just say that when you are performing a concert for one, everyone is a rock star. Prison is hard but solitary confinement is torture and that hell would have killed me. . . BUT, GOD. I don't know why I had to go through that experience, and I don't question it with God, but I do know that His strength, love, and grace got me through it one day at a time. I was completely alone and that time brought my relationship with God to a whole new level. There are many experiences along my journey where God carried me but none more so than those 45 days of despair.
I share this because although most people will never experience 45 days in "the hole," all of us have experienced at least that many days in a hole.
We all have holes that we must go through and sometimes stay in for awhile. However, even when we think we are all alone, in whatever our hole looks like today, we are not. . . God is with us . . . Always. . . .
If you are struggling, it's okay. . . help is only a prayer away.
Here are some links to watch and decide for yourself if "the hole" is torture. . .
UN Committee on Torture Says U.S. Must Reform Its Use of Solitary Confinement
My prison theme songs: