Wednesday, December 15, 2010

To Whom It May Concern - A Guide For Dealing With The Newly Released

NOTICE

From: A Good Samaritan
To: All Friends, Relatives, and Those Otherwise Associated With (Insert Name Here)

Date:______________

In the very near future, (Insert Name Here) shall be released from prison. He will be thrust once again into society to take his place as a human being bearing the God-given rights to life, liberty, and the somewhat delayed pursuit of happiness. Please be aware that this will be a drastic change for him, one for which he is none-too-well prepared to cope. You must be prepared to make certain allowances while welcoming him back into respectable society, as the environment in which he has been immersed for the past _____ years _____ months is very crude, almost prehistoric; and the culture he is accustomed to is unlike anything you have known.

He is going to be demoralized, bitter, and paranoid. He may also be showing symptoms of being in the advanced stages of de-evolution. Do not worry, they will disappear over time.

Therefore, show no alarm if he chooses to squat on the floor rather than sit in a chair, refuses to give ground in congested foot traffic, does his laundry by hand while taking a shower, or tries to offer a pack of cigarettes as payment for goods. Do not be shocked or offended if he responds to all of your questions with, “How the f*** should I know?” or “F*** off.” Be tolerant if he shows undue interest in young boys with long hair, refuses to leave home without first melting a razor blade into his toothbrush, or refuses to leave a building without first being pat-searched. Do not be alarmed if you notice him stashing small, seemingly useless materials on his body or in his room.

Avoid any of the following, as they may elicit a violent reaction: walking too closely behind him or standing too near, prolonged eye contact or watching his actions, offering him anything sweet or smoke-able without expecting anything in return, unsolicited physical contact, reaching over his food while seated at the dinner table, and anything that may be mistaken as an insult or test of his manhood.

Do not correct him if he chooses to cut his meant with a spoon rather than a knife; eats by placing his head less than six inches off his plate, encircling it with his arms; constantly monitors the activity taking place in the room, or places any leftover portions in his pockets. Do not be surprised if he goes to his room whenever a bell rings; simply pretend to count him, wait 20 minutes, yell “Count has cleared!” and open his door. Do not be concerned if he wanders around the back yard looking for the iron pile or spends hours lapping the back yard with his head down and his hands in his pockets, even in the worst of weather.

For the first few months, don’t be alarmed if he swipes the toilet paper, hoards the sugar, or stashes spoons under his bed. Pretend not to notice if chunks of wood or metal are missing from your furniture; these have been fashioned into weapons and stashed around the common areas of the house and you will find them while cleaning.

His first reaction on meeting an attractive woman will be to stare. Wives and sweethearts are advised to take advantage of this momentary shock to leave the area. Upon meeting any other new person, he will automatically be paranoid about the person’s motives, and begin to test him or her in various ways. It is best to advise any person to remain calm and submissive, but not overly meek.

Keep in mind that beneath this prison-hardened exterior beats a heart of gold. Treasure this, and feed it, for it is the only thing of value he has left. Treat him with love, kindness, and an occasional drink, and you will be able to re-fill this shell of a man.

If for any reason you have betrayed, hurt, snitched on, or in any way “f***** over” the above named man, please do one of the following:

1) Leave town immediately
2) Attempt to appease him by offering him a large sum of money
3) Practice yoga until you are able to touch your lips to your ass

Monday, November 29, 2010

When It All Comes Crashing Down

It has been a while since I have been able to write a new post. For a long while, the stresses, emotions, issues, and daily occurrences that I experience in my life have been relentlessly building up, and it has been a constant struggle to find a way to 1) handle what could be dealt with, 2) to keep that which couldn’t be dealt with at bay, and 3) maintain a level of sanity that allows me to function in this environment without slipping back into old behavioral patterns.

This is a very difficult task in that my challenges, old and new, never let up; therefore neither can I. Despite my enormous reserve of inner strength and defensive barriers, it was only a matter of time before the circumstances of my life became overwhelming. The question that arose in my mind was: Would it result in disaster as it had in the past, or would I not panic this time, and instead use what I have learned to limit the damage?

It all came crashing down after my parole hearing seven weeks ago; which, by the way, did not go very well, though I have no decision as of yet. At first, after the hearing, the initial feeling was one of relief—the initial part of my sentence was almost over, I did my part, did all that was required of me, and now any more time spent in this particular world is no longer my responsibility. My debt is paid, freely given. Any more time I lose from my life is only that which is taken by others.

Of course, as is always the case, when one burden is lifted, the overall balance is lost and temporary chaos ensues as new burdens and responsibilities that were balanced atop the one now missing all try to fill the void it leaves behind. Focus and concentration are needed to maintain a semblance of control, so you don’t get crushed by the enormously overwhelming weight and movement of them all.

I have learned that the easiest way to accomplish the concentration needed to regain the order is to eliminate everything in my life that is not necessary for my own survival. While dealing with this situation I fall into myself, becoming completely oblivious to anything not related to the struggle, or my ability to function in daily life. My closest friends, I think, understand this enough that they do not take it as a personal affront when they do not hear from me for an extended period of time without an explanation.

Extra-curricular activities such as yard, playing the guitar, and writing cease; hence the reason I have not written a new post until now. My daily activities become limited to those I can do robotically, without thought or strain. In essence, I withdraw and mentally cut myself out of the world.

The reason for this is quite simple: It eliminates additional, unnecessary stressors, leaving me completely free to reorganize my priorities, restructure my defenses, and regain my inner strength. At times, I need a break from even that, and the only way I have found to take that break is to escape from my world by diving into a different one—I read. I find a completely fantastical world and immerse myself in its story.

When I return to this world, I find myself a bit refreshed, and ready to battle the depression and chaos bred by my life until I’ve recovered enough to begin the cycle once again, hopefully continuing to make better and better decisions in how I deal with it.

This is a far cry from letting the chaos control me until I lose my mind and turn to drugs, violence, and impulsive decisions. I know my new way of dealing with being overwhelmed causes--and will continue to cause--its own unique set of problems, annoy and alienate other people, and cause interruptions in the continuity of life outside prison; however, if I were to continue letting the chaos control my life and drive me to the brink of insanity, there would be no life worth living.

When it all comes crashing down, what matters most is that there is something left to recover in the aftermath.

This may be the most important lesson I have learned in my time here and is definitely the one that has saved my life.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

When I Dream...

It’s four o’clock in the morning, the alarm clock wakes me up by playing “Redemption,” a song holding a special meaning in my life—and not simply because I wrote it. I climb from the bed, careful not to wake my beautiful wife, and dress for work. It may be Saturday, but I like to be present at the Center on the day someone graduates from the program and is born into the world a new person.

Today is Greg’s “birthday” as we call it. We have a surprise planned for him. He thinks he’s just going to leave the front gate behind and drive to his new apartment in his own recently purchased car. He has no clue that his parents will be waiting outside with little Benny, the eleven-month old son he has never laid eyes on. They haven’t told him that they won custody of the child after Benny’s mother was arrested for selling heroin out of her apartment a second time since having him. Once Greg is ready, custody of Benny will be transferred to him.

His is an amazing transformation, as are most who complete the program. Just after he turned sixteen, his parents brought him to me, hoping against hope that my program would help him, though nothing else had. He was out of control when he entered the program. He had a history of assaults and drug use for which the juvenile justice system had locked him up twice before. He’d been on probation since the age of twelve, and even though he spent a total of nine months in two different juvenile facilities, it didn’t deter him from doing as he pleased.

Though he is very intelligent, he simply quit going to school, preferring to sell drugs, party, and fight. His behavior was ripping his family apart with the constant fighting and irresponsibility, eventually escalating to abusing his siblings, and physical altercations with his parents. They feared for their lives near the end, so much so that they threw him out into the streets. Even though they took extreme measures to keep him out, such as changing the locks and installing an alarm system, it didn’t work. He would just kick the door in or break through a window.

Now he is a week into his first semester in college, pursuing a degree in electrical engineering. He works full time as an apprentice to an electrician. He has paid off all of his fines and restitutions. He even volunteers as a tutor to children diagnosed with severe learning disabilities.

Greg and others like him are the reason I have chosen this path in life. I was once a trouble
d teen with problems similar to his. Trouble at home, trouble with the law, and in school. There was no help for me; doctors failed, the juvenile system failed, loved ones failed. I fancied myself an outlaw and a rebel, thought I was a hard-ass, and had a misplaced pride in my criminality. I was too naive to even care about what I was doing to myself and my family. I landed in a real adult penitentiary for a decade and a half after being convicted of attempted murder.

Prison changed me; or rather prison helped me to see the error of my ways, and provided me with the time, resources, and opportunity to right those ways. Now, at the age of forty-five, I own a completely self-sufficient building renovation and maintenance company, and a real-estate firm. They have earned me enough money to be considered wealthy, and provided me with the means to do everything else I’ve ever wanted to do.

I have earned the right to sign my name beginning with “Dr.” after receiving a Ph.D. in psychology. I have founded the Centers for Troubled Teens: Behavior Modification Program--a program designed by myself to provide young adults and teens the opportunity and help that I never received before I ended up in prison or dead. I have also founded the Centers for Troubled Teens Emerald City Resource Assistance Program; a program developed to aid teens and young adults who are otherwise unable to find and stay on the right path, by providing guidance and assistance in obtaining and using resources such as education, career training, housing, child care, parenting, psychological support, legal aid, financial aid and management, and personal and family counseling.

In this way I can bring balance for the wrongs I have done.

Of all my achievements in life, none compare to the family I have built and my ability to provide for them. The angel whom I do not deserve as a wife, yet still has given me her heart and soul, the two beautiful little girls who have pushed all of the guilt, regret, ugliness, and pain from my heart, and filled it with pure joy and peace, have left me with a permanent smile affixed to a face once marred by a bitter scowl. My daughters’ love is the reason for which I live the life I now do.

On the way home from the Center, I think I’ll pick up the ponies I bought for them for Christmas. It’s still three months away, but I can’t hold out any longer. I keep daydreaming about the glowing, surprised smiles that make me putty in their hands. I want to see those smiles today. Besides, the fence around the field behind the house is finished and it’s a beautiful day for riding. I’ll get a dozen roses for my wife, too, to—

It’s four o’clock in the morning, the alarm clock on my television wakes me up with a loud crackle of static. I can’t afford cable. I climb from my bunk and dress for work, careful not to wake my cellmate. Another day in prison. Too bad I had to wake up. If it weren’t for the dream, I don’t think I could wake up and make it through another day.

Maybe one day, instead of waking from the dream, I’ll wake to the dream.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

The relationship that I share with my family has never been that great. I’m the oldest of four by almost three years and from the age of eight the responsibility of maintaining the household was mine, as both of my parents worked long hours. I never had a normal childhood because of this, and a close sibling relationship never developed because I was seen as more of an authority figure than a brother.

When I was younger, my father had an affair which produced another child. My mother found out about this and attempted suicide after a legal separation. I was old enough to understand the situation in part, but never knew the truth. Eventually my parents worked their relationship out and renewed their wedding vows.

Growing up, I can remember that there was a distinct lack of emotional and affectionate expression within the family. Anger was the one emotion shown freely and though instances of physical abuse occurred near the time of my incarceration, verbal and emotional abuse was a constant occurrence in my life. For some reason, my siblings were almost never the focus of it; I drew the brunt of it all.

When I was 14, I discovered the details about my half-sister for the first time. I instantly resented the years of deception by my parents and my relationship with them, however twisted it may have been, was shattered. From that point on, I chose to do whatever I wanted to, and often times did things to instigate trouble. In combination with other aspects of my life, things quickly spiraled out of control.

Today, our relationship remains toxic. Because of the things that were done just prior to my incarceration, my family places the sole blame for every problem in their individual lives on me and, admittedly, I deserve some of the blame. There exists a great amount of anger, resentment, and fear within the individual members of my family that is directed toward me.

The trouble is that my family is completely blind to the issues that we face as a family. I am constantly reminded of the part I played in our issues, and the effects that has had on the family. I am also made a scapegoat for their own unresolved feelings and issues. It is as if resolving my personal issues will also resolve theirs.

This leaves me with a troubling problem. More than anything else in this world, I want my family to be healed and to be a part of my life. As things stand now, that cannot happen. Though my own issues are no longer an obstacle to healing, theirs are still in the way. I realize that I can do nothing about this and that, because they continue to deny the reality of the situation, things will probably never be resolved.

Because my family has such a negative effect on my life, I can now clearly see that in order to continue my own progress and have a chance at succeeding in life, I must cut them from it.
Only it’s not that simple. First of all, I love my family, no matter how dysfunctional it is. Love is what makes any decision regarding my family important and hard to make.

Also, I’m extremely stubborn. I know that my family is bad for me, and cutting them from my life is the right thing to do at this point, yet do I want to do it?

I know that I cannot heal my family on my own. I can do nothing to resolve their issues. I cannot change things. Yet I don’t want to give up. Even though I know that the issue is not mine anymore, I see my family the way it is as a failure of mine and I never let a failure go unresolved.

I must choose between three options. The first is to cut my family from my life and move on. No doubt this will cause me a great deal of pain and guilt added to that which I already feel. It will also hurt them and leave them with unanswered questions. I do not know if I have the strength to spare for the weight it will place on my already overloaded conscience.

The second option is to let my family know exactly where I stand and let them choose to either acknowledge and resolve their issues or continue with their lives without me. This could completely backfire on me by allowing them to the opportunity to deceive me as they have in the past.

However, it could open their eyes to reality and be the first real step in achieving my goal of repairing my broken family. What I need to say to them though, will definitely stir the pot of already volatile emotions, and make it fairly easy for them to blame me for shattering the fragile relationship that is currently in existence.

My third choice is to accept things as they are and continue the charade that suggests that things will eventually get better. If I do this, my family’s toxicity threatens my very life. The constant negativity that exists in my family has caused me to break in my past; twice leading to violent encounters that have resulted in incarceration, and once in an attempted suicide. It is almost certain that if things continue as they are, such an event may occur again--either by my own actions or the emotion-driven actions of another family member.

Coming up on parole, the need to make decisions such as these are instrumental to my chances of success in life. My issues run far deeper than criminality, incarceration, and the need to learn how to live an adult life. My family issues further complicate an already complicated life, and the decisions I must make regarding them are far from easy.

Whatever decision I make, I can be sure that its consequences will affect the course of my life.

I only wish that I didn’t have to choose.

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

The Reality Of Prison

How do you imagine the reality of prison? Imagine that you have spent the last ten or so years behind bars. What do you imagine you would feel? What is your life really like? What is it that you miss the most? What is it that you hate the most about being in prison? What is the emotional impact of the experience as a whole?

Most people can not imagine the reality of being in prison. The thought of being in prison never crosses their mind, and, likely, never will. Of course, people believe that they have an “idea’ of what it might be like. This “idea” is built from a mix of Hollywood portrayals and reality television. However, Hollywood strips the experience of most of the truth and fabricates action and plots that make it more exciting than it really is. Reality television or documentaries cover only the real action, exaggerating it to seem like riots and stabbings occur on a daily basis. I have yet to watch anything on television or read anything in a book or magazine that accurately depicts the prison experience on a real and personal basis.

So what is it really like? The answer depends on whether you are a true criminal; a person who exhibits anti-social behavior in every aspect of their lives and a thought pattern that leads to negative actions and consequences without any real caring, exhibiting a maturity level comparable to that of a young child; or a “normal” person; one who values family and freedom, has a care for the rights and feelings of others, respects the manners and morals possessed by most of society, and grasps the concept of rules and why they are important.

For a true criminal, the lack of guilt and the inability to sympathize and empathize with others prohibits them from understanding the effect their actions have on others, Their narcissism prevents them from caring. They are able to accept prison as part of their normal life because they are able to see it as an inevitable result of their conduct. While they are in prison, they spend the majority of their time playing card games, laughing and joking with other like-minded individuals. They tell their “war stories” and take pride in their criminality. The reality of prison for them is just a continuation of the life that they lived outside of prison, without the “perks.”

True criminals believe that the world is centered around them. Their family and friends are believed to be obligated to take care of them while they are incarcerated. The have no care for rehabilitation in any sense of the term and put on a show when it is time to show they are a changed man. They constantly complain about “the system” because they feel they are being treated unjustly and unfairly when they are not being catered to. It is the ultimate “me against the world” mentality. Prison is just another place to them, holding no special meaning.

I know. I used to fit right in with them.

For a normal person, prison is very different. It is not the loss of freedom that affects a normal person. It is all of the little things that are experienced because of a lengthy prison sentence that hold meaning. It is all of these small things that are never thought of by anyone until they are pit in the situation to experience it. It is all of the things that are taken for granted outside of the cage.

In the beginning, the emotions are a gamut of negativity. Guilt, heartache, anger, sadness and fear overwhelm you to the point of agony. The sum of these emotions is so great it totally consumes you. However, these emotions are only the beginning of the hell that you are about to face. They barely scratch the surface and are the product of the shock of what led you to the situation in which you find yourself.

When you first come to prison, you find that it is not at all what you thought it would be. After the shock wears off, you fall into the typical routine: eat, sleep, and recreate. You will find that you do not really “fit in” with those around you. You begin to shun the normal activities everyone else participates in, avoiding conversation and contact with other inmates. Being around most other inmates makes you feel uncomfortable. You start looking down on the people around you because you disagree with the lifestyle they lead and feel as if you are a better person than they are.

Yet even this is tolerable.

What makes being in prison hard to cope with for a normal person are the moods that you find yourself in due to the things outside of prison that affect your emotions. A year or two into your sentence, your friends start to disappear. At first, you received mail every day from everybody. Now, however, you do not get as much mails as you used to. You start to feel as if time has stopped for you when you were sent to prison, but has continued on for those on the outside—a feeling that never leaves. You tire of the routine and look for something constructive to fill your time with be it work-related or education; anything that keeps your mind from getting dull and takes it off the fact that you are in prison.

After about five years, you find out who your friends really are. Maybe one or two still write or visit, everyone else has moved on in their lives without you. Even the majority of your family no longer writes on a consistent basis, if at all. You immerse yourself in school or work to keep from sinking into a depression. You feel forgotten and forsaken. The loneliness of not being able to have physical contact with those you love is all but unbearable.

This is also about the time you realize that you do need to change some of your ways after seeing yourself reflected in your peers. You go to the rehabilitative programs, which rarely teach you anything or show you something about yourself that you don’t already know. You figure out that that these programs do not have much to offer you and you are on your own when it comes to fixing the problems that you see in yourself. This is a long road, but it is the necessity of it that drives you to take it.

After about ten years, there is nothing left to focus on but prison. The routine is set and even transferring to another prison doesn’t change it. There aren’t any more educational opportunities to take advantage of. You really loathe the people you are forced to be around 24 hours a day. Your focus shifts to internal thoughts.

The internal thoughts dictate the emotions and moods so deep into a lengthy sentence. All memories, good or bad, do nothing but bring pain. Writing to the one or two people that you are still in contact with becomes an arduous task because you have nothing to say that isn’t related to the negativity of your experience. Thinking about getting out scares you. Thinking what your life will be like when you get out seems like nothing more than a fantasy. Thinking about what your life could have been makes you cry. Thinking about your life as it is makes you depressed and angry.

For a normal person, it impossible to avoid depression in prison. Ever day becomes misery, and is reflected in everything you say and do. You feel totally empty and unfulfilled. There is nothing to fill that void except hope and even that is weak. You seem emptiness of mind and escape from your prison outside and in. For a normal person, prison is the embodiment of misery on a level that can not be described, only experienced.

This is what makes prison life hard to cope with for a non-criminal. This is the true penalty for losing control and committing a violent crime. This is the justice of the justice system. The loss of individual freedom is small in comparison.

As for me, I fight the depression and loneliness on a daily basis. I struggle to mate the “What could have been” with the “What could be” and the “What I want,” every day--for that is the source of the strength I need to cope with my life as it is.

Imagine that.

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Power of Choice

With my potential release from prison looming on the horizon, I am struggling to prepare myself to face the many challenges such a transition will undoubtedly present. One of those challenges has been foremost in my thoughts recently and has elicited a fear response from my psyche because it is something that I am unable to prepare for. Overcoming this challenge is probably the most detrimental part of my success in the transition from prison to life.
For my entire thirty years my life has been dictated by others and lived within the bounds of a tight structure. The few instances that I have deviated from the structure in my life and made my own choices didn’t turn out so well. I am accustomed to being told what I can and cannot do, what to wear, what to eat, and how to spend my time.
We all experience limited control over our lives as children. Our parents dress us. Our parents feed us. Our parents tell us when it’s time to go to sleep. From the age of five until we graduate, we go to school, which has its own set of rules, its own dictates and runs on a tight schedule. There is surprisingly little freedom of choice as a child, and in that respect, prison life is similar to life as a child.
I went directly from childhood, albeit a troubled one resembling more a life of abusive servitude than that of a child, to prison. I have spent nearly half my life in prison where I have absolutely no real freedom of choice. I do as I’m told, eat as I’m told, wear what I’m told, and even wake when I am told.
My entire day is rigidly structured around four head counts and three meals. The time in between them is spent working as I’m told, where I’m told, and when I’m told; in recreation which is limited by certain guidelines; or in educational or rehabilitative programming. I have been doing the exact same things, in the exact same way, at the exact same times, for years on end. My life can be lived mechanically.
There is a certain comfort to be found in all of this. When decisions about how to live your life are not yours to make, the responsibilities tied to them are also out of your hands. Worry and stress all but disappear. I know exactly what the next day, or week, or month is going to bring. This is how my life is different from yours.
I’m not na├»ve enough to believe that people get to dictate their own lives. I know that life dictates itself but that as it plays out, circumstances present themselves that require choices to be made, and that people are free to make choices that determine the outcome of the circumstances.
What triggers my fear is how foreign that concept is for me. My choices have been limited by both the rigid structure of my life and limited to those not already made for me. The only important choice I have had to make in my life is the one that led me to prison.
What is going to happen when I am free to make the choices that determine the path my life takes? What is going to happen when I find that I enjoy something, but that something is counterproductive to the goals I have set for myself? What is going to happen if the road I’ve taken begins to get a bit rough and I have the option to continue on or take the easy way out? What am I going to do when I don’t know what tomorrow will bring?
The truth is I don’t know. I can’t even imagine it. Of course I know already what the right choices are for almost every decision I will ever face in life, but I don’t know if I will be able or willing to make the right decisions. There is no way to prepare for that.
Hopefully, I will find it to be easier than I think it will be and I’m making much ado about nothing. If not, I hope my fears about failure push me always in the right direction.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Preparing for a Life I Have Never Known

I have now begun my final year and the end is in sight though it seems as if it is as accessible as Saturn viewed through a telescope. Unlike the passing of any other type of anniversary, the passing of this one certainly does make me feel different. Since I awoke on January 23rd, I feel a growing sense of anticipation, anxiety, and urgency with each passing day.
There is so much I have to do in preparation for the parole-related interviews and for my release. I must plan as if I will be paroled, no matter how unlikely the probability of my actual release.
Preparing for the interviews I the easy part for me, I have to be ready with an answer for any questions they may ask and I must be confident when giving the answers. That much comes to me naturally; it is the other stuff the interviewers want to see that is a bit difficult.
I need to show everyone that I have a short-term plan for my transition back into society. I want to have it written out in a professional manner for the purpose of appearance. The problem is that I have never lived life as an adult outside of prison so I am trying to plan for something in which I have no experience.
My confidence dies here. I don’t know how to live a normal life.
I also want to have a long-term plan to present to the Parole Board, detailing where I want to be in life five, ten, and twenty years after my release. This is much easier than the short-term plan. Of course, my long-term plan will be an honest representation of my goals, but even I know that the dynamics of life make long-term planning more fluid than short-term planning. My goals will change, at least a little but, to fit the circumstances that life presents.
The Parole Board requires that I submit a home plan, a definite address to which I will be released. My options are very limited here. Due to difficulties in the relationship that I have with my immediate family, the only options I have are a cousin and his mother. If they can’t or won’t let me use them for my home plan, I must find a halfway house or other transitional housing that will accept me.
The Parole Board also requires that I provide a written version of the offenses I am convicted of, but it is not that straightforward. They are looking for signs that you are trying to justify your actions, signs of remorse, and signs of rehabilitation. A copy of the police report doesn’t cut it, nor does a casual, nonchalant explanation of events. I am not looking forward to having to re-live the emotions I felt that day of my crime as I detail it in writing.
Finally there are a lot of things I must do for my own personal preparation. I must study the driver’s manual so that I can get my driver’s license as soon as possible after my release. I must review everything that I have learned about personal financial planning so that I do not end up in a dire position because I did not manage my finances properly. I must research technical schools, colleges, and financial aid options so that I can continue the education I need to make my career goals achievable. I must get a handle on the real cost of living in the area to which I will be released so that I am not blindsided by it. These things and others related to living outside of prison may seem small but they are important.
My plate is full. In the back of my mind there is a fear that I may not be able to handle all of it. There is also a fear that I may sabotage it out of my anxiety over the coming transition. The best way I can describe what I will be facing is to compare it to a phenomenon in the animal kingdom; I am being born into the world and abandoned to learn how to survive on my own.
Wish me luck.