Street gang member or gangster means any person who actually and in fact belongs to a gang or criminal empire,
whose goals is to extract finances through criminal means, and any person who knowingly acts in the capacity of an agent for or accessory to, or is legally accountable for, or voluntarily
associates himself/herself with a course or pattern of gang related criminal activity, whether in preparatory, executor, or cover up phase of any activity, or who knowingly performs, aids,
or abets any such activity. With the intent to provide the gang with any advantage in, or any control or dominance over any criminal market sector, including but not limited to, the manufacture,
delivery, or sale of controlled substances or cannabis; arson or arson-for-hire, traffic in stolen property or stolen credit cards; traffic in prostitution, obscenity, or pornography; or that involves
robbery, burglary, theft; or extortion professionally and sexually or having a common name or common identifying sign or symbol, and whose members individually or collectively engage in or
have engaged in a pattern of criminal activity.
Very simply, a gangster is a man or woman whose life is ruled by criminal beliefs and actions. We are a people in the clutch of an on going and spreading mental illness whose ends are always the same jails, institutions, and death. Those of us who have found the program of G.A. do not have to think twice about the question, “Who is a gangster?” We know! This is our experience. As gangsters, we are a people whose use of a criminal mentality in any form causes a problem in every area of our lives. A gangster’s mentality is an inappropriate philosophy which involves more than gangbanging. It is caused by numerous reasons; for example, one may be exposed to an extreme traumatic occurrence. We in the fellowship of Gangsters Anonymous have all agreed that in most cases newcomers were involved in some form of actual or threatened death, serious injury or other threat to their lives. Having discussed this with mental health professionals, most members do suffer from small to large forms of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. Many believed as long as we were not gangbanging, it was all right to live like gangsters. Some of us did not consider ourselves gangsters prior to coming to the G.A. Program.The information available to us came from misinformed people. As long as we could stop gangbanging or thinking like gangsters “for a while”, we thought we were all right .We looked at the “stopping” not the “thinking”. As our gangster mentality progressed, we thought of stopping less and less. Only in desperation did we ask ourselves, “Could it be my thinking? In addition to having survived traumatic experiences, a gangster may exhibit symptoms of avoidance/numbing physiological arousal. The arousal symptoms may include insomnia, angry outbursts or irritability, and a general sense of jumpiness. Some did not choose to become gangsters and some did. We suffer from an illness that reveals itself in ways that make us social adversaries and that makes detection, prognosis and therapy difficult. Our illness isolated us from people except when we were drinking, smoking, hanging tough, selling drugs, selling sex and extortion or finding ways and means to make money illegally. Hostile, resentful, self-centered and self-seeking, we cut ourselves off from the outside world. Anything not wholly well known became bizarre and dangerous to us. Our world shrank and isolation became our life. We used our gangster’s mentality in order to survive. Some of us misused and abused people and still did not consider ourselves a gangster. Through all of this, we kept telling ourselves, “they are stupid and weak.” Our misconceptions about the nature of a gangster included visions of violence, street crime, sexual and financial extortion, and jail. When our gangster mentality became a crime or moral deficiency, we became rebellious and fell deeper into isolation. Some of the highs felt great, but eventually the things we had to do to continue to “keep life gangster” mirrored desperation. We were caught in the embrace of our illness. We were forced to survive any way we could. We manipulated people and tried to control everything around us. We lied, stole, cheated, murdered, raped, and sold our selves. Some female gangsters even used pregnancies to extort money knowing we had no intention of holding on to the relationship. We had to come up regardless of the cost. Failure and fear began to invade our life. One condition of our gangster mentality was our inability to deal with life on life’s terms. We pit friends against friends, friends against family members, and family members against friends. We resented the obstacles society placed in our way. We lost the desire to run our own lives. We gave our freedoms away at the drop of a hat. We used strong-arm tactics and combinations of assault and battery, intimidation, and finally, mayhem to cope with a seemingly hostile world. We dreamed of finding a magic formula that would solve our ultimate problem - ourselves. The fact is we could not be both honest and aggressive successfully. A gangster’s mentality ceased to make us feel good. At times, we were defensive about our gangster living and justified our right to gangbang or think like a gangster especially when we were unable to find employment. We were proud of the sometimes illegal and often bizarre behavior that typified our gangster’s mentality. We only remembered the good times we had while living life gangster. At times, we sat alone and were consumed by fear and self-pity. We fell into a pattern of selective thinking. As original gangsters, some of us became larger than life. We owned the world (or so we thought). We justified and reasoned out the things we did to keep from living an impoverished life or to retaliate for unjustifiable homicides. We ignored the times when life seemed to be a nightmare. We avoided the reality of what a gangster represented. Higher mental and emotional functions such as conscience and the ability to love were sharply affected by our gangster mentality. Living skills were reduced to an animal level. Our spirit was broken. The capacity to feel human was lost. This may seem extreme, but many of us have been in this state of mind. We were constantly searching for the answer that person, place, or thing that could make everything all right. We lacked the ability to cope with daily living. As we became more and more hard core, many of us found ourselves in and out of institutions. These experiences indicated that there was something wrong with our lives. We began to notice the similarity between our gangsters mentality and anger. Many professionals have theorized that high levels of anger are related to a natural survival instinct. When initially confronted with extreme threat, anger is a normal response to terror, events that seem unfair, and feeling out of control or victimized. Many recovering gangsters experience these events still to this day. We wanted an easy way out. Some of us thought of suicide. Some of us became homicidal. We became a menace to our neighborhoods, communities and society, in general.
Our attempts at controlling were usually feeble and only helped to contribute to our feelings of worthlessness. We were trapped in the illusion of “what if?”, and “if only” and “just one more time.” When we searched or asked for help, we were only looking for the absence of pain. We had regained good reputations, we were newly released from prison, we displayed good behavior many times, only to lose it by applying a gangsters sense of reasoning an obstacle, to a normal life problem. Our record of accomplishment shows that it is impossible for us to “gangsterfie” life successfully. No matter how well we may appear to be in control, living a gangster’s lifestyle always brings us to our knees. Like other fatal illnesses, a gangster’s mentality can be cured. We agree that there is nothing shameful about being a gangster, provided we accept our predicament honestly and take positive action. A better understanding was the idea that our prior mentality was abnormal and after our traumatic experience, our mentality led us to criminal behavior. We are willing to admit without reservation that we are vulnerable to this type of mentality. Common sense tells us that it would be insane to go back to the source of our vulnerability. Our experience indicates that medicine cannot cure our illness. Although physical and mental tolerance plays a role, the quality or level of our gangster mentality requires no extended period to trigger allergic reactions. Our direct response to this gangster mentality is what makes us gangster, not what we do once we begin, although the world suffers from our actions. Many of us did not think we had a problem with being a gangster or thinking like one, until we were shot, or a family member or friend was fatally wounded. It is common for trauma survivors to feel guilt, which can sometimes lead them to commit crimes that will likely result in their apprehension, punishment, serious injury, or death. Even when others told us we had a problem, we were convinced that we were right and the world was wrong. Some of us knew we were wrong but just did not have the desire to care.
We used this belief to justify our self-destructive behavior. We developed a point of view that enabled us to pursue our gangster mentality without concern for our own well-being or the well-being of others. We began to feel that our gangster’s mentality was killing us long before we could ever admit it to anyone else. We noticed that if we tried to stop thinking like a gangster, we could not. We suspected that we had lost control over our thinking and had no power to remove those gangster thoughts from our minds. Certain things followed as we continued to think like a gangster. We became accustomed to a state of mind that is common to gangsters. We forgot what it was like before we began to think like gangsters. Some of us were taught this behavior while we were still in our pampers. If ever learned; we forgot about social graces. We acquired strange habits and mannerisms. If ever learned, we forgot how or refused to work. If ever learned, we forgot how or refused to play. If ever learned, we forgot how, refused to express ourselves, or were taught to express ourselves with sheer animal aggression. In addition, we showed no concern for others. We forgot how to feel. While thinking like a gangster, we lived in another world. We experienced only periodic jolts of reality and self-awareness. It seemed that we were, at the very least, two people instead of one, Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. We ran around and tried to get our lives together before making that next move. Sometimes we could do very well, but sometimes it was less important - and more impossible. In the end, Dr. Jekyll died and Mr. Hyde took over. Each of us has a few things that we never did. We cannot let these things become excuses to begin again. Some of us feel lonely because of differences between us and other members. This feeling makes it difficult to give up old connections and old habits. We all have different tolerances for pain. Some gangsters needed to go to greater extremes than others did. Some of us found we had enough when we realized that either most of our loved ones were dead or in jail and that, we were “gangstered out”. This realization began to affect our daily life. At first, we were living a so-called “cool” gangster’s life – a manner that seemed to be social or at least controllable. We had little indication of the disaster that the future held for us. At some point, we became uncontrollable and anti-social. An emotional numbness came over us. The emotional numbness many gangsters experience can lead them to engage in sensation-seeking behavior in an attempt to experience some type of emotion. This began when things were going well, and we were in situations that allowed us frequent gangster thoughts and responses. This is usually the end of the good times. We may have tried to moderate, substitute or even control our gangster’s mentality but we went from a state of straight success and well-being to complete spiritual, mental and emotional bankruptcy. This rate of decline varies from gangster to gangster. Whether it occurs in years or days, it is downhill.
Those of us who do not die from the ill thinking will go on to prison, mental institutions, or complete demoralization as the ill thinking progresses. Gangster life had given us the feeling that we could handle whatever situation might develop. We became aware, however, that a gangster’s mentality was largely responsible for some of our worst predicaments. Some of us may spend the rest of our lives in jail for a crime induced by a gangster thought. We had to reach our bottom before we were willing to stop. We were finally motivated to seek help in the latter stage of our living with a gangster’s reality. Then it was easier for us to see the destruction, disaster, and delusion of a gangster and the thoughts that follow. It was harder to deny our lifestyle when problems were staring us in the face. Some of us first saw the effects of our lifestyle on the people closest to us. Our little brothers and sisters began to mimic our dangerous behavior in some cases, our children. We were very dependent on our family or on our gangster friends to carry us through life. We felt angry, disappointed and hurt when they found other interests, friends, and loved ones. Our lifestyles enslaved us. We were prisoners of our own mind, and were condemned by our own guilt. We gave up the hope that we would ever stop committing crimes or thinking like a gangster. Our attempts to stay straight always failed, causing us pain and misery. As gangsters, we have an incurable illness centered in our thinking. The illness is chronic, progressive and most often fatal. However, it is a treatable illness. We begin to treat our thinking by not using a gangster solution to an everyday life problem. Many of us sought answers but failed to find any workable solution until we found each other. Once we identified ourselves as gangsters, help became possible. We can see a little of ourselves in every gangster and see a little of them in us. This insight lets us help one another. Our future seemed hopeless until we found crime free men and women. The people in the G.A. program told us that they were recovering gangsters who had learned to live without a gangster lifestyle and gangster solutions. If they could do it, so could we.