Packing the house in recognition of their achievements
San Quentin’s Garden Chapel was filled to near-capacity, with almost 400 seats occupied during Center Point’s annual graduation ceremony.
One hundred men received recognition for their participation and successful completion of a Center Point program.
“This program has helped me see addiction in a new light,” said Troy Dunmore, a graduate of the Substance Use Disorder Treatment class. “I understand now that I used drugs to cope with the pain of reality.”
According to Dunmore and other graduates of Substance Use Disorder Treatment, the Center Point approach to recovery is a bit more comprehensive than other programs because it lays out the connection between thoughts and behavior.
“My group had a great facilitator that actually had lived our experience, which kind of helped her make the material practical to us,” Dunmore said of Ms. McGuire, also known as Ms. Mella to her class.
Celebrity speaker at the graduation, reality TV host Andrew Zimmern, shared his story of struggle and the road to recovery.
Most of the incarcerated audience found out that Zimmern was a celebrity chef after the event because San Quentin State Prison does not have Cable TV. “One day I realized I was a loser,” Zimmern said “[Addiction] is a progressive disease; it will lead you to jail, hospitals and it will kill you.”
Zimmern emphasized the need for addicts to stick closely to the steps of their recovery program.
“I have come to realize that the road to recovery is body, mind and spirit and the road out of recovery [also] is spiritual, mental and physical,” he said.
Center Point’s curriculum is a cognitive-behavior therapy model, which helps participants reprogram their thinking by learning new coping skills such as: identifying risky lifestyle factors, thoughts, feelings, and actions associated with high-risk situations and warning signs.
“Life is about taking advantage of the healthy opportunities that are available,” Program Director Mike Davila said, “The state is committed to giving you the best resources so that you can succeed.”
This year’s ceremony included San Quentin’s first Denial Management graduation.
“The curriculum challenges our belief systems,” Denial Management facilitator, Mr. Bradley said, “Dealing with denial is tough but these were very forthcoming individuals.”
It took the 10 participants in Mr. Bradley’s class 78 hours of introspection and dialogue to complete the course.
Zimmern also underscored the importance of group support and dialogue.
“Once I put away the chemicals I realized I needed the ‘We’ of this program,” Zimmern said. “The support made a big difference.”
Phirak Kim, who struggled with substance abuse issues since he was 11 years old, said that his group counselor, Ms. Jackson, encouraged him to work through the material when he wanted to quit.
“I’m glad they didn’t give up on me because now I have a coping strategy that is going to keep me from relapsing,” Kim said. “I finally understand the chain of my behavior that kept me trapped in the cycle of addiction.”
There were 48 graduates from the Substance Use Disorder Treatment class, 28 from the Criminal Thinking class, 22 from Anger Management, nine from Family Relations and eight from the Victim Impact group.
“I am privileged to oversee In-Prison Programs throughout the state of California,” said Landon Bravo, Chief of Program Operation, Division of Rehabilitative Programs,” “What you have acquired are tools to take with you in order to be a success.
“Remember to have a positive mental attitude because it changes everything.”
More than 50 men received recognition for their participation and successful compete of a Center Point program.