We are those who have suffered from a problem, compulsion, or addiction to crime, the criminal lifestyle and self-image.
We have spent the majority of our lives in jails, prisons, hospitals, institutions, or even worse yet, incarcerated in a prison of our own making.
Out of our cry for freedom and meaning in our lives we created Criminal’s Anonymous.
Criminal’s Anonymous is our recovery fellowship. We are made up of men, women, youth, survivors and their families that are committed to supporting and living a crime-free lifestyle.
We accomplish this by applying the 12 steps and 12 precepts of Criminal’s Anonymous (The CA Way) to our daily lives.
In doing so, we take those important first steps towards the transformation of our character away from our habitual preoccupation with crime and the criminal lifestyle; towards a life cultivated by spiritual qualities and human values.
We express this in our membership by celebrating diversity in age, ethnicity, religion, affiliation, orientation, culture, gender and socio-economic status.
We acknowledge this diversity within each individual, moving beyond simple tolerance to understanding that each human being is unique. We encourage each member in a safe, positive and nurturing environment.
We have made mistakes, but we are not a mistake. We are capable and worthy of change. We accomplish this together, by, with and for one another.
Crim-Anon is a fellowship of individuals who share their experience, strength and hope with each other that they may solve their common problem and help others to recover from criminalism. Similar to the gambling addiction, the criminality disorder is a process addiction.
The only requirement for membership is a desire to live a crime-free lifestyle. There are no dues or fees for membership; we are supported by our members, donors and community. We support Crim-Anon approved programs and services. C.A. only supports causes, initiatives and measures that are in alignment with our mission and support the ones we serve.
We are not allied with any sect, denomination, organization or institution and do not wish to engage in any controversy. Our primary purpose is to stay crime-free and help other human beings achieve freedom and happiness in their lives.
If you are ready to embrace change and embark on your Sacred Quest, the journey begins here. These are the steps we have taken and have become willing to do whatever it takes to make our recovery possible.
Step 1: We admitted that we suffered from an attachment to crime, the criminal lifestyle and self-image, that our lives had become unmanageable. (Attachment and Suffering)
Step 2: We nurtured the desire to free ourselves from negative states of mind and the endless cycles of misery and disappointment they made. (Determination)
Step 3: We made a decision and commitment to liberate ourselves by embarking on a Sacred Quest to freedom and happiness. (Commitment/Inner Transformation)
Step 4: We made a searching and fearless inventory of our ego and identification with our mind. (True Nature)
Step 5: We cultivated an awareness of our Sacred Self and human values, seeing that they were both essential to living a crime-free lifestyle. (True Self/Spirit)
Step 6: We established a habit of observing our body, emotions, and thoughts of our daily lives, seeking the benefits of mindful-awareness, meditation and prayer along our Sacred Path. (Mindful Response)
Step 7: We made a practice of withdrawing our attention from the past and the future by placing it in the present moment. (Intention)
Step 8: We became aware of our trauma body and learned how to break free of it. (Trauma/Healing)
Step 9: We established a practice of healing, tolerance, and forgiveness in our lives. (Compassionate Response)
Step 10: We made direct or living amends to others and ourselves, by our dedication to our Fields of Merit, causing no harm. (Action in Service)
Step 11: We continued to cultivate human values and positive states of mind, writing a new narrative for our lives. (Continued Commitment)
Step 12: Having reduced our suffering and increased our happiness as a result of this Sacred Quest, we carried this message to all that suffer from the effects of criminalism and practiced these principles and precepts in all our affairs. (Spiritual Meaning)
There is one thing more than anything else that will defeat us in our recovery. That is an attitude of indifference toward spiritual principles: Honesty, Open Mindedness, and Willingness. The therapeutic benefit of one person in recovery helping another is without parallel. We feel that our way is practical for one who has walked the same path, can best understand, and help one another. We believe that the sooner we face the challenges inside us, the faster we become acceptable, responsible, and productive members of our society.
We take refuge in our Spiritual Selves, the C.A. Way (The 12 Steps and Precepts), and the Criminal’s Anonymous Fellowship. The following are the precepts that we use as a guide for living on our Sacred Path. These moral principles are timeless, basic and universal.
1. We believe in the fundamental gentleness and goodness in ourselves and all human beings. (True Essence)
2. We believe in a sense of oneness with all living creatures. (Interconnectedness)
3. We believe in a policy of loving-kindness that includes mercy, patience and tolerance for our family, friends and enemies. (Metta-Thinking)
4. We believe that we are more than our mind and body. (Spiritual Self)
5. We believe that relationships based on genuine bonds of affection, compassion and mutual respect as human beings open up unlimited possibilities for connection. (Relationships/Intimacy)
6. We believe in inner contentment and value and appreciate what we have, releasing blame and shame. (Contentment/Forgiveness)
7. We believe in the Skillful Understanding of cause and effect. (Skillful Understanding)
8. We believe in the practice of Skillful Thinking in regard to our thoughts and states of mind checking our fear, anger and craving in our lives. (Skillful Thinking)
9. We believe in the practice of Skillful Speech that helps us advance on the Sacred Path. (Skillful Speech)
10. We believe in mindfulness of Skillful Actions that create the cause for happiness. (Skillful Action)
11. We believe in the continued practice of Skillful Effort to overcome unwholesome states of mind. (Skillful Effort)
12. We believe in the practice of Skillful Mindfulness opening our insight into the true nature of our Sacred Quest. (Skillful Mindfulness)
We believe we have all the basic equipment we need to achieve complete happiness on our Sacred Path of Recovery. We practice these precepts not because we have to but because we want to. We avoid cruel and hurtful behavior because we see the consequences of such actions- that they lead to profound unhappiness for us, and everyone around us, now and in the future. We practice these precepts because we want our lives to be helpful and peaceful and because we want a calm and happy mind, untroubled by regret or remorse.
It is within the spirit of anonymity that the “I” becomes the “we”. There is no one better or worse than anyone else. All of us have suffered at the hands of the criminal addiction. We are all survivors. In this regard, we are not unique.
In each of our CA meetings we found a sacred place to be transparent and understood, away from the societal judgement that often met us with the beginning of each new day. Our criminal history was public. It affected our ability to get jobs, housing and even how we were treated by professionals in various fields in our community. We were faced with climbing the higher hill. We were up to the task. Humility, integrity, willingness and honesty were the foundation upon which we forged an upward path.
Anonymity and confidentiality became indispensable for our members at each meeting. Because of the sensitive nature of our meetings, testimony, not war-storying was encouraged. We cared where you were going, not where you had been in terms of criminal behavior. We cared about the “why” behind the act, not the act. We suffered from a spiritual dis-ease with life. We learned to face our pain, instead of running from it. Once we realized that criminality in and of itself was an addiction, we looked back at our lives for confirmation. At that moment, the lens in which we viewed life changed. We knew this was the missing piece.
We respected each member’s anonymity and found that it was an individual choice. With the wearing of our gear and merchandise we became proud of what it stood for: Hope. As a rule, the average newcomer wanted his or her family, P.O., friends and others who had tried to help, to know about what they had found and were doing to change their lives. As time went on, fear turned into confidence as their new lives emerged. It felt natural to be honest and transparent to employers and anyone that was interested in hearing our life stories. We found a new freedom in transparency and honesty. Many of us shared on social media our inner-dimension and struggle as we each navigated our own Sacred Quest. Our fellowship took its place in our truth. This type of honesty, on an individual level is liberating. Quite opposite from the world of isolation and secrecy of the criminal world. Many a brother or sister came to C.A. because of such conversations. Others, at their own pace, and time, chose who, when and where, to talk to about their membership in Criminals Anonymous Fellowship. Outside of the group meetings where anonymity and confidentiality was strictly interpreted, anonymity was considered an individual choice. A choice that was considered sacred.
One of Crim Anon’s founding fathers came up with our first slogan which was to adorn our first C.A. shirts, “We are anonymous, but it ain’t no secret!” This slogan tells of an underlying cry of freedom. Freedom from a life of isolation and fear. From a life of having no voice, of being an outcast and considered a class of lesser folks. This motto tells that we matter. That we have a voice. And that we deserve to be seen as human beings that have made mistakes, but are not mistakes.
We learned that connection was the antidote to addiction. Connection to self, recovery, families, friends, work, education, spirituality, community and country. Real and tangible connections that mattered and ultimately made us feel a part of something bigger than ourselves and made us feel needed. Our old slogans became outdated. ‘It’s us against them!”, “F...the government!” It was slogans like these that kept us stuck in anger and isolation. We chose to not take part in voting or community matters because we felt like we didn’t have a voice. We had to overcome these stumbling blocks as individuals, as well as a fellowship. We became convinced that this would be accomplished through action. Through action we could renew our faith in a government “for and by the people” and our part as citizens.
In the beginning, our Founding Fathers didn’t write our Traditions. They chose instead to let the Group Conscience construct them over time. The 12 Steps and 12 Precepts were our guiding principles and from them flowed our Traditions. We were confident that expressing our civic voice as an individual and fellowship reaffirmed our connection with our society and country. Its healing factors were evident. Together we had a voice. Together we could be heard. Our members felt a part of their country and the process of democracy by taking part in having their voice heard.
Our Preamble was changed to include an amendment outlining our participation as a fellowship in causes, initiatives and measures that affected our people. Our civic duty became a healing force in our fellowship. As a fellowship, we encouraged each member to register to vote and supported their individual choice in all matters. Under the leadership of the Grand Elder Council of Crim-Anon, certain causes, initiatives and measures would arise that were in line with our mission statement or affected the ones we served. Under careful consideration, standing by equity and fairness, some would lend themselves for cause of support. As a fellowship, C.A. would publicly support them.
Henceforth, our Preamble reads…..
“Our fellowship only supports causes, initiatives and measures that are in alignment with our mission and the ones we serve.”
Citizens are assured anonymity in the voting process in our country, casting their vote/ ballot with confidentiality. Signing petitions or initiatives are not public record. We believe that these are both close in line with anonymity. Moving in support of certain causes, initiatives and measures, our fellowship would be recognized in support of them. Our collective voice would be heard, but our individual anonymity would be intact. Individual choice of exercising one’s anonymity is up to the person in C.A. Showing up in support of these approved causes in public places is an individual choice of our members and held in the greatest regard. We believe that this is a sacred choice. We believe that there is a spiritual essence in being recognized as a citizen and Crim-Anon member and showing up for what is right. This is healing in nature and makes one feel connected to the larger whole. Our self-image adjusts, adding the role of being a citizen of our country. This adds to our healing. And we support this as a fellowship.
As a fellowship and through the guidance of our Grand Elder Council, we may initiate a cause, initiative, or measure that directly affects the ones we serve. We may partner with community partners or organizations to fulfill these approved movements. In total, we rely on the group conscience when deciding what to support and initiate. We realize these movements are often limited in scope and time, but our fellowship will remain.
To this end, we believe in a strict interpretation of anonymity and confidentiality in our support group meetings. We believe outside of those meetings that the exercising of anonymity is a personal choice and sacred in nature. We lay trust in our trusted servants and leaders and follow the group conscience of our fellowship and support the voice of our fellowship as a whole.
There is an Elephant in the room, and no one is talking about it. I see it every day I wake up. It follows me around like a one-ton puppy, even though we have known each other for years. When I eat breakfast in the morning, it is sitting next to me whispering about all the things I could have, if only I were able to listen to its messages that echoed through my mind.
When my Elephant was a baby, I used to lead it around on a leash when I was playing Hide and Seek from the Grown-Ups. They were so busy that they didn’t notice us stealing money here and there from their purses or from the secret hiding place in the bottom drawer of my Grandfather’s desk. It was a game then. A game that changed when I grew up. My Elephant has developed an unique ability to become a chameleon. It hides in the fabric of every environment I find myself. My Elephant uses every natural color available in its pallet to survive and survive it must.
Its insatiable appetite for “more of” makes it a great competitor for my attention. My Ego and Elephant are best friends. They go out and play every chance they get. Especially when I enable them with a past story of plunder and rebellion. As long as I assure this dynamic duo that my dire need for acceptance, power and control are seated at the front of my table, they are happy to skip down the street of sorrows with me, hand in hand.
My Elephant loves that society often dismisses it as a by-product of drug addiction, alcoholism or gambling. Some see it as a character defect of the evil or blood thirsty brutes of this world, or a condition attributed to the lesser folks of lower socio-economic status. Whatever the case may be, my Elephant is delighted that it remains largely hidden even from the brightest minds, think tanks and schools of this world, who are charged with finding an answer for it. It has somehow managed to stay relegated to an obscure statistic or connected to the systemic issue of recidivism in the headlines of newspapers and articles of print.
My Elephant has built its own subculture in society. The bad boys, the wise guys, the good fellows of this world are all part of the movement. Movie producers and news companies from every continent use my Elephant to sell their entertainment. Even though my Elephant scares them, society as a whole is captivated by this wild beast and views it, albeit at a safe distance through movies, documentaries and shows, reminiscent of an exhibit at the zoo: “Look Little Johnny! Don’t get too close!” Even our political leaders, law enforcement and community members are not safe from its reach. The housewife that decides to cheat on her taxes this year because no one will find out, even lets my Elephant in for a cup of coffee on a cool crisp morning in March. Anyone dare I say, everyone is susceptible to its allure.
My Elephant seduces with its promise of power and prestige. Once again, it uses more of for its bait. The excesses of our sensual desires and survival instincts become warped with avarice (the love of money) and escapism. My elephant delights in addictions and mental health disorders. They are paired with my Elephant like a twisted peanut butter and jelly sandwich. My Elephant encourages its victims to take risks, to build their self-image based on skill sets used to enable it, garnering self-esteem with every successful outing and achievement.
Our dire need for acceptance and our problems with authority may lead us down Elephant Lane and parked outside its house. Many of us have dedicated most of our entire lives to tenures in prisons and institutions, or even made the ultimate sacrifice because of our twisted love affair with it. My Elephant has scripted a written code upon all the hearts it has touched. It demands action…it is brutal and hard…it is unforgiving…it is emotionally scarred from all the trauma it causes…all the families it damages…all the dreams it crushes…all the young and old it destroys…it is rebellious…and sexy…and torn.
My Elephant is my criminal addiction…I nicknamed it EL.
"What 22 years in prison taught me about Self-Isolation."
By H.R. Cubbedge
Isolating myself is new for me. But I know plenty about isolation. After 22 years in prison I could probably make a living as an Isolation Consultant. Here’s what I’ve learned.
The first hurdle is acceptance. You need to accept that you are being incarcerated. Or isolated. Either way, outside forces are in control. It doesn’t mean you have to be happy about it. Just accept it. Sometimes that’s easier said than done. One cell I landed in still sticks out in my mind.
I had a life. Crime. It was a full-time job. I woke up, had coffee, read the paper and went to work. I lived in a house, had vehicles, a girlfriend and two stepchildren. I even had a dog. Then I was plucked out of the community by force.
This wasn’t my first incarceration. But this time something changed. I was used to sacrificing myself. But not others. Should have thought of that, my criminal addict brain said. After sleeping off my criminal hangover, I awoke to the harsh reality of my isolation from my loved ones. This was the moment when clarity became my enemy--the moment I realized that life would never be the same. I stared at the door to my cell, thinking that it would open. But it didn’t. Thinking that someone would bail me out or rescue me from this lonely place. But they didn’t.
I tried to figure a way out. I noticed a worn-out track in my cell. Evidence that I wasn’t the first. I went for a walk in my socks. I followed the trail of tears. It led me to strange places. You’re screwed, the voice echoed in my head.. I was lost. Thank God for the guard that counted me three times a day.
On turn four, I noticed the paint was a little less worn next to the bunk. A stopping point. I decided to give it a try. I sat down and began accepting the things I could not change.
The second hurdle is hope. I had to know when the isolation would end. The search for hope. Even people with life sentences find hope. With the COVID-19 sentence of isolation, social distancing, and future vaccines just a distant possibility, is there hope for an end in sight?
It doesn’t change the fact. We want our lives back.
When I was in my thirties, I faced a life sentence for three robberies. I was transferred to another state to face the charges. Seeing my name in the same line with “life without the possibility of parole” gave a new meaning to the word “perspective”.
During transport, the guards handcuffed us, providing no leg shackles. I thought it odd. Stuffed like a sardine into a van, a collection of offenders, including myself, made our way to settle the score. Suddenly, the oddest thing happened. The cuff on my right hand released.
I looked down at the open claw. Game time. Do I escape? Do I put the cuff back on like nothing happened? What if I am found guilty and face the rest of my life in prison? If I do, will I regret it? Do I stay home, in that van, or do I risk it? I think hope put that handcuff back on my wrist that day. I went to court. A miracle happened. I didn’t get life. The law landed in my favor that day. Stay home. Have hope. Otherwise, you too could be risking your life.
The third lesson for thriving in isolation involves creativity--the key to survival.
I went to the hole one day for selling contraband tobacco. Selling anything to another inmate is considered illegal. They called the hole “The Echo Chamber”. A row of cells. A four-foot tier. There were no Bibles, no silence, just a few worn out paperbacks and my creativity to figure out the rest. I learned to fish there. Fishing in prison was an art.
Fishing involved making the longest string possible, by any means necessary. I tore threads out of sheets, then fastened an old romance paperback novel on the end of my string for a book/hook. Now comes the art of fishing. I held the string in one hand or between my teeth, grabbed the book/hook with my free hand, squeezed my arm through the bars of my cell up to my shoulder, reared back and cast.
Joe Rockhead was the best fisherman I ever met. One night after dinner, he threw his hook from one end of the tier to the other. Thirty feet. All the other inmate fishermen were trying to intercept his line and pull it into their cells. Then they shoved things inside Joe’s paperback hook. Mostly notes full of private communications. But one night, he hauled in a pair of socks, a candy bar, a drawing too. What a catch!
Most people remember the first fish they caught. I remember the first note I caught. When I think back on it, we should have called it “fly fishing”. Cause time sure flew by while we were doing it.
We also call it convict ingenuity. Be creative.
I figured I would share what I learned with you now. That way you can use it. You can reach me after the Stay-At-Home order lifts if you still need some consulting. Of course, by then, it might be too late.
This article’s author is Harold “Bear” Cubbedge, Co-Founder and President of Criminals Anonymous Fellowship, an original 12-Step recovery fellowship of men, women, youth, survivors and their families that are committed to supporting and living a crime-free lifestyle. www.crimanon.org