ending the cycle of addiction and violence
Are you sitting down? If not, take a seat, because what I’m about to say may shock you…
I’ve made mistakes. I’m not talking about harmless accidents the occasional typo in a blog post, either. I’ve made some terrible decisions in my life that have caused real harm to my family, my friends, and society.
Most addicts have. Many of us have even broken the law by endangering the lives of others, by committing theft, or by engaging in acts of violence, both physical and emotional. When our mistakes are big enough, or if we belong the “wrong” class or ethnicity, society too often casts us aside, compounding the root causes of misguided behavior through the administration of retributive punishment.
Today’s guest, Carlos Alvarez, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Institute for Restorative Practices, has dedicated his life to helping at-risk young people, and community leaders, heal themselves by addressing the problem at its causal roots.
Many addicts experience a moment of clarity in which they realize the gravity of their transgressions. The still, small voice inside recognizes the error of continuing down that path. For some, this can be a catalyst for change. Others, unable to face the pain their actions have caused, lean back into their destructive behavior for a biochemical escape. Whether that escape comes from another hit, or from the high of physical confrontation, the cycle self-perpetuates.
The specifics of each of our stories differ. We grew up in different places, had different family lives (or lack thereof), experienced different social cultures, and came from different socio-economic backgrounds. We coped in different ways, too, whether through drugs, drinking, gang membership, risky sexual escapes, gambling, or a host of other destructive lifestyle choices. Regardless of the differences on the outside, our stories all share a single common denominator: pain, a desire to escape it, and the need for security.
Do the factors that drive people to addiction and violence, powerful forces seemingly beyond our ability to control, excuse us from the repercussions of the hurt we’ve caused? Of course not. Making amends for the hurt we’ve caused is essential to our sustained recovery, healing, and reintegration into society.
Many, though, will never get that chance. Our lower-right quadrant justice system, with its current focus on punishment as opposed to intervention, notoriously creates more problems than it solves. From the traumatic dehumanization of inmates, to the self-protective group-alignments inside prison walls and the lack of focus on meaningful healing and actual “correction” within our correctional facilities, it’s no wonder recidivism rates are so high. It’s inexcusable, and it needs to change.
Today’s interview guest, Carlos Alvarez, Executive Director of the Los Angeles Institute for Restorative Practices, seeks to change that. By working with the youths of high-risk populations, and educating the school administrators and other leaders with the power to impact the lives of young people, Carlos is working to transform a system of punishment and discipline into a system of healing and empowerment. The work he has done and continues to do is vital to healing the disconnection, disregard, and systemic hopelessness at the root of the ongoing epidemic of addiction and violence.
Yes, we’re responsible for the mistakes we’ve made. But we all deserve the chance to make amends. Carlos Alvarez is making a profound impact not only by helping people get the opportunity to heal, but by teaching them how. As individuals, groups, and societies, forgiveness and redemption will transform us.
What if we all showed up in the way that Carlos teaches, with compassionate hearts and open ears, seeking not to punish, but to understand, transmute, and heal? What if learned to extend that compassion to ourselves, our loved ones, and our society, looking not for retribution, but restoration? Can we learn to connect, heart to heart, with those society would leave behind? What kind of world could we create?
Carlos Alvarez gives me hope. He’s creating the kind of world I want to live in. When people like him show up, with passion and commitment to restorative practice, we see the proof that healing and hope are possible for all of us. Connection, compassion, healing, forgiveness, and hope are gifts every single one of us can offer, both to others, and to ourselves. Let’s all show up, as Carlos has, and give them.
Carlos Alvarez holds a bachelor’s degree in criminal justice, a master’s degree in Forensic Psychology and is currently working on his Ed.D in counseling psychology. For the past ten years, he has dedicated his professional efforts to facilitating, documenting, and measuring community violence interruption in Latino gang embedded communities. Carlos diverse experience stems from working with Los Angeles County and City Gang Intervention and prevention youth and family programs, Presently Carlos has functioned as the Director of student discipline and Restorative Practices for a top performing charter school system where he implements a right brain emotion to emotion restorative justice model which has helped reduce yearly suspensions from 22% to less than 2 percent. Carlos in collaboration with other professional opened the Los Angeles Institute for Restorative Practices LAIRP, a violence interruption restorative practices training institute. LAIRP, provides parent workshops around epigenetics and trains mental health practitioners and school administrator on restorative practices and violence interruption initiatives.
Carlos comes with hands-on experience he was a former gang member and used methamphetamine through his adolescence his dependence propelled him to the world of restorative justice, forgiveness, and healing.
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12/8/2017, 49:39, 34.9 mb (Audio)
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