I want to start by saying it’s an honor to be able to express myself for this ceremony.
When I first signed up for the Challenge Program, I came with an open mind to learn, but also with the lingering pre-conceived idea’s from negative things I’ve heard about the program block since I came to Canaan in 2008.
As much as my guys who were in Challenge tried to convince me to take the program, it just wasn’t my time.
But I knew that when I came over to the Challenge Program, it was with the intent to learn what I did not know to help reinforce a healthy lifestyle.
When I first heard about the tools of the program, with R.S.A.’s, the five rules of rational thinking, positive attitudes, criminal and cognitive thinking errors, it was a little intimidating. But at the same time I noticed how guys that have been in the program understood and learned them, so since I’m a pretty smart guy, I knew I’d comprehend them in time.
I came over here to challenge myself. I was excited to start my first book and proud of myself every time I handed one in on my count down to the final Transition book.
These were the goals I set for myself.
I wanted to graduate the program and become a mentor. I challenged myself to achieve these goals.
When I faced obstacles, mostly of my own creation, I used the tools that I’ve learned in the program to deal with them in a way that resulted in achieving my desired consequences.
An area in my life where the Challenge program has helped me the most is with communicating with my family, especially with my mother. She loves that I’m in this program and why wouldn’t she? Our family members and loved ones want us to do better for ourselves. I’ve found that using the program language with my mother when I notice she’s awfulizing or not being objective, or defiantly not using the 5 rules of rational thinking, I can bring it to her awareness and by attaching it to the program, she’s more receptive.
When I’ve admitted my faults while communicating with my daughters, I accepted responsibility, did the self-help up, got the feed back and then I explained that process I went through to my daughters. They respected and appreciated that I took these steps more than me just saying “I’m sorry I got upset.” This strengthens our relationship and that’s important to me.
Yes, I attribute that to what I’ve learned in this program.
Essentially it’s not about the program per se, it’s really about Challenging myself.
The program has given me a foundation of a format and structure to follow, designed to help and assist me with identifying the root cause of this prison experience I’ve created for myself.
That root cause is the way that I used to think.
My criminal thoughts were irrational, simply because they resulted in either my being in prison or death.
I knew that and still choose to entertain them.
I was blessed with prison, because I’ve now learned how to think rationally.
This did not happen over night, there were various stages of change.
For those of you who are new to the program, embrace the challenge to change.
No one expects perfection. But they do require progress in doing better with the choices and decisions that we make for ourselves. I can’t find fault with that, because I want better for myself.
When my beloved community members joke me about being “Programmed out,” I have no problem with proudly accepting that. I know who I’ve been and how my irrational thoughts attracted this 45 year sentence.
Entertaining cognitive and criminal thinking errors, do not produce my desired results.
Working on the journals, listening to seminars, and participating in the process groups helped me understand myself more and equipped me with the positive tools for my future.
I know who I am and I know all the potential I have. It’s the same potential all of you have if you choose to apply yourself by stepping up to this challenge. Please, don’t look at this as just another prison program. Look at it as an investment, investing in creating a better future for yourself.
Listen, I know that making a commitment to change is not an easy thing to do. I still and probably will always struggle with my attitudes and thinking errors, but that struggle isn’t as hard or as difficult as it used to be. I’m creating new thinking habits by thinking rationally.
In closing, I want to congratulate myself and fellow graduates whom I call the magnificent seven.
When our group first met, there were 28 of us and an individual who had previously been in the Challenge program, told us that only about 7 of us would make it up to this point.
Ironically, he was the first one that we lost from our group. But myself and Mr. Dixon automatically said, “I’m going to be one of those seven.” We set our goal and now we are both here.
We all helped one another through this process. That’s what this community is about. I’m grateful for the insight, self-discloser, feed back, and advice from all the community members and the treatment staff, Dr.Vogt, Mrs.B, Mr.Vogel, Mr.Schupper, and the true believer Mrs. Cook, thank you.
I’ll leave you with a simple quote from Jay-Z.
“Strive for what you believe in, set goals so you can achieve them!”