When I first fell I promised myself I wouldn’t fall victim to institutionalization. Someone who knows nothing else but prison. They may hate it, but like a hostage or abductee you learn to accept what you a bore as a means of keeping sane in the moment. I knew that men who are institutionalized have specific routines and customs that must be followed in order for them to remain stable. Any break from the daily routine usually results in emotional outbursts. Maybe even violence. That’s what I thought of when I thought of institutionalization.
After being incarcerated for over five years I realized that I have a routine. Its become a daily ritual. I go to bed at the same time nightly, I use the restroom at the same time every morning. I get up at the same time without an alarm clock. I drink a cup of coffee with the same amount of water and coffee at the same time, at the same temperature at the same strength, every single day. Then, I move on. The rest of the day is usual, but not regimented. My routine has varied little over the years and I have grown to be protective over it. So I got to thinking about this. What does it mean?
Truly institutionalized people are scared to move beyond this place. Unsure what to do without the routine and structure this place provides. Typical thought process for someone who has been down for a very long time. The outside world seems scary, too big to try and decipher. I thought to myself “is that me?”
Then I thought “Well…I do have a fear of the grocery store now, hmm”. In my defense, I haven’t had to shop for food in years or make a single decision about food in a long time. When I do order food I check the box that says peanut butter and a random jar shows up a week or so later. My fear is illegitimate and isn’t about making a food decision, but in so many colorful options. 
However, fearful of facing the world? Hardly! I can’t wait to get out there. I have a life to live and I intend to do just that. No, I’m not institutionalized, I have adjusted. Which involves a little regiment of my own. A few necessary routine things to mark the beginning and end of my days. I can accept nearly anything in here. Does that mean I have learned patience? I’d like to think so. Maybe not in all areas. After all, some things I can wait very patiently for, while some other things I get awful pissy about when they don’t happen. Like meal times. I have eaten at the same time, like clockwork, for over five years. Almost zero deviation. My tummy is trained, you eat at these three times and when it doesn’t happen I get mouthy. I know, I’m working on it!
I have learned that patience is not one dimensional and requires constant, continual attention. I have at least figured out that in order for me to not ding out when something goes not as planned I must first compartmentalize. Remember, some things I can wait days for, or years even. Patiently at that. While other things I was expecting sooner. This is why I appreciate total honesty. It may sting, but I can deal with sting, or even pain so long as its truthful sting or pain. Then its up to me, and me I can change while others I cannot. See the difference? I guess its a practice that only I employ. Patience doesn’t come from anywhere but inside the individual who needs it. I like that.

With Love
Jeff Utnage