Ask an Expert: Where Do I Go After Jail Scars Me?

By Stacey Rosenfeld 02/08/15
Today's question is on where to turn for help when going to jail for a drug charge has left you mentally disturbed.

I spent five months in jail for a minor marijuana bust.  I came out pretty fucked up by how depraved it was in the can, and irrelevant. I have trouble sleeping now but can’t go back to smoking (or selling) because of the follow-up drug tests I need to take for my parole officer. I’m thinking I need a whole new direction in life and am open to any suggestions before I  turn completely dark, which is creeping up on me with the sleeplessness. Don’t know which way to turn.  -- Oren


Stacey Rosenfeld: Trouble with sleep can be debilitating. The good news is, there are options for addressing insomnia that will allow you to continue to pass your drug tests. Getting into a good sleep routine is key - we call that sleep hygiene. That means establishing a nightly pattern of gradually cutting out stimuli as you get closer to sleep. Some behaviors, like eating and exercising, if done too close to bedtime, can, for many, interfere with good sleep. Are you drinking? Many people believe that alcohol helps them to sleep, but in reality, the opposite is true - drinking negatively impacts quality sleep. Near bedtime, you'll also want avoid arousing stimuli, such as television, gaming, reading, or conversations. Instead, opt to dim the lights and read something light or listen to calming music. 

If basic sleep hygiene techniques don't help you to sleep better, you may want to consult with a therapist to help you with your insomnia. Cognitive-behavioral therapy has been shown to be effective in the treatment of sleep concerns. Treatment may involve implementing some of the sleep hygiene techniques I discuss above, restructuring some of your thoughts about sleep, cutting out naps, learning relaxation exercises, monitoring your sleep, and scheduling it to make you a more efficient sleeper. In some cases, depending on the severity of your disturbance and your response to treatment, sleep medication might be indicated. 

You and your psychiatrist could discuss nonaddictive medications that won't put you at risk for any parole violations.



Stacey Rosenfeld, PhD, is a clinical psychologist who treats patients with eating disorders, anxiety/depression, substance use issues, and relationship difficulties. A certified group psychotherapist, she has worked at Columbia University Medical Center in NYC and at UCLA in Los Angeles and is a member of three eating disorder associations. The author of the highly- praised Does Every Woman Have an Eating Disorder? Challenging Our Nation's Fixation with Food and Weight, she is often interviewed by media outlets as an expert in the    Full Bio.

Please read our comment policy. - The Fix