Good, clean fun

Conspire alum Lauren Johnson continues her series on incarceration, addiction and life in general.

In the beginning, drugs were fun. It began for me, as it often does for many, with recreational usage. Weekend warriors. The first “ hard” drug that I did was cocaine. My boyfriend at the time and I began buying a quarter of a gram. That amount, in the beginning, would last both of us all night – we would stay up playing cards and doing lines. We would talk all night about something that connected us. Within about a year’s time, it progressed from that quarter gram lasting the two of us all night, to me snorting 1 gram and 3 quarters by myself. You don’t want the fun to end.

I remember a commercial that I think came out around that time. There was a guy, walking in circles talking. His words were: “ I do cocaine, so I can work more, so I can make more money, so I can buy more coke, so I can work more, so I can make more money, so I can buy more coke….. Then there was another commercial which had a nose that covered the screen and inhaled things like a t.v., a car, a boat, and a plane. To the average Joe that doesn’t know, that may seem extreme. But anyone who has used cocaine, or a drug like it for any amount of time knows that the amount of money spent can easily add up very quickly.

So after staying up for the weekend and having fun, it becomes necessary to continue use to make it to work or in my case, school. I would realize that it was getting out of hand and take measures to control my usage or quit for a while. One of the problems is that you begin to associate “having fun” with usage of some sort so that when a special occasion like the weekend rolls around and you find yourself bored or wanting to have some fun, the next logical step is to find a substance. Similar patterns of use can be found with most addictive substances.

One of the reasons that what Conspire Theatre does is so important, is that whether or not they know it, these women are learning how to have fun. Good, clean fun! I have recently had a lot of full circle moments lately. This time last year I was sitting in the Travis County Correctional Complex anxiously awaiting a release that wouldn’t come for 7 more months. Once a week Conspire Theatre would come out and spend some time with us as a part of our regularly scheduled programming.

My first time meeting Kat, I wasn’t sure what to expect from her class. I am determined to give whatever I am doing 100%. When she introduced herself and spent a moment telling us about who she was and why she does it, I wasn’t really sure how the hour would play out. Even in the PRIDE program there are women that don’t always want to let their guard down and participate. I was pleasantly surprised to see everyone getting involved. Kat has a gift for creating a space, even in the jail, where people feel comfortable and safe letting go. Until you have seen her in action, it may be hard to imagine such simple concepts being so much fun. The exercises she does with the groups aren’t complicated but it opens up a place inside of the participants that makes them willing to explore with her. Destination: good time! Additionally, there are underlying purposes to each activity. At the end of each segment there is usually a discussion that follows about what everyone thinks the purpose was. The answer can be different for each person and still be correct because whatever each person takes from the exercise, is not wrong. It is just their own experience.

Kat held her second outside workshop this past weekend. She has named it Inside Out. I attended and, as always, had a great time. I suppose it would be possible to come in to her workshop and hold on to baggage from life – I just can’t imagine how. I was grateful that childcare was provided because 2 hours of free child care is almost worth going anywhere :). My four year old who is in his 4th week of pre-k, still has hardly spoken to his teacher in school. The ladies that provided the childcare that day said they found the trick to sending his shyness packing. All it took was a little game of duck duck goose!

So for two hours we talked, we played, we laughed, and we were just plain silly. There was no bad feeling afterward, no hangover, no exhaustion. No anxiety, or worries about some insane amount of money being spent on a fleeting good time. No fighting or upset friends or family to contend with over something crazy done that I may or may not have a vivid recollection of. Just two hours to be a part of something fun. When I left, I didn’t have to go back to a bunk. I got to load up my kids in the car and run some errands and go home. But I can still look forward to next time that will remain the same inside of my full circle moment!

-Lauren Johnson

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