Two decades ago, I worked in a maximum-security prison as a Psych Specialist. The prison housed 1700 inmates at a time. They were divided into three sections: general population, confinement, and close management. My population was close management. This particular prison was known as a “supermax facility”. If an inmate offends while in prison, they are sent to confinement. Otherwise known as “jail” within the prison. While in confinement, they go in front of a disciplinary board, and if their offense warrants more than a 90-day sentence, they are sent to close management.
If you have the misfortune of landing in prison, close management is exactly where you DON’T want to be. You’re housed all by yourself in a 9’ x 12’ cell with nothing but a metal bed, a metal sink, and a metal toilet. You are walked to the shower in handcuffs four days a week and allowed three hours a week of exercise in a big metal cage. Most inmates are kept in close management for years at a time. In my estimation, that’s enough to drive any sane person insane.
I spent close to four years working in the prison, which taught me a lot. I learned exactly where I don’t want to be, and it kept me grateful for the little things in life that I have. It also taught me that humans are the most adaptable creatures on the planet.
Every three to six months, inmates would get a chance to plead their case in front of the disciplinary board on why they should be released to the general population. What I found interesting was most of the inmates in close management would not even show up to their hearings. I learned that most inmates did not want to go back to the general population, have the freedom to walk around the compound, or even have a job they could show up to daily. They no longer wanted to eat in the company of other inmates, play basketball in the yard, or lift weights with others in the weight room. At first, this was mind-boggling; why would anybody want to live their life for years in a 9‘ x 12‘ cell? It all boils down to one simple answer: they were comfortable. If you do anything in life over and over and over again, eventually you form a new comfort zone. Whether it’s something positive or something negative a comfort zone is bound to be established.
I have worked in the field of addiction treatment for more years than I’d like to admit. Throughout my tenure in the field, all the clients entering treatment have had one major thing in common: they all spent years in an incredibly negative cycle. That cycle took dedication, hard work, and hours upon hours a day of perfecting that negative craft. I can speak from my own personal experience that I single-handedly built my own prison within myself. I did all the things I swore I would never do and went places I swore I would never go with people I had no business being with. Over time, that became my “new normal”. The mere thought of change terrified me and kept me in that vicious cycle for years.
In order to form a new comfort zone, we must master the art of being uncomfortable. That “uncomfortability” will not last forever, and eventually a new comfort zone will be formed. If I hear someone say: “I am uncomfortable”, that typically lets me know that they are in growth mode. Do not be afraid to be uncomfortable. Know that comfort is just around the corner. In order to form new habits, we must learn to do different things. I’m sure you’ve heard the old saying: “If you always do what you always did, you’ll always get what you’ve always got”. If nothing changes, nothing changes.
In what areas of your life today do you feel stuck? What areas are you “afraid” to change? Remember… in order to get different results, you must do different things. I’m sure that, during this quarantine, we’ve all had ample time for self-reflection. What better time than now to make a change? Oh…and be grateful you’re not in Close Management.