While we, at The Band, work tirelessly to bring you expert resource pages, sometimes the best advice is from someone who has been where you're standing. What follows is a mixture between a resource page and a post.
I introduce to you, The Band, a Demo Tape.
Take what you need and leave the rest.
Part of what makes reintegrating into society after being in prison so difficult is healing from the experience that landed a person in prison in the first place. Many ex-offenders are saddled with PTSD from prison itself, and many struggle with guilt over the offense that sent them there. Aside from working through all the random little things that crop up in daily life and tackling the major issues of employment, living arrangements, and repairing relationships, ex-offenders need to address the mental and emotional ramifications of prison and release.
These are the things that aren’t so easy to let go, the things that keep people awake at night, the things that might very well land them back in prison. Things like dealing with the guilt of what landed them in prison; the depression and fatigue that comes with trying to rebuild a life, facing obstacles at every turn; the fear of dealing with law enforcement in any circumstance, even when one is the victim or knows for absolute certainty they have done NOTHING wrong.
It is the RARE prison facility that has any kind of mental health care available for inmates; no therapy, no medications, no follow-up care. Inmates are left to deal with the guilt of their offense on their own, or maybe, with the help of a 12-step program, if it’s available. Prisons don’t do shit to help these people prepare for life after prison, or even to live with themselves and what they’ve done. Granted, not all offenders feel remorse, but those that do deserve some kind of counseling to help them deal with it.
The guilt over having caused someone else’s death, even though the other person wasn’t blameless, is soul-crushing and crippling. People need to know that being the surviving driver in a two-impaired-driver-crash is traumatic. People need to understand that some offenders truly feel remorse and need help to deal with the trauma. Had my friend Michael not found a way to forgive himself, he would have returned to prison again, sooner or later. It took him years of step-work and another program to begin to deal with the trauma, to begin to forgive himself, and to “rejoin the human race.” Had he not gone through that program, I truly believe that he would have used again and subsequently returned to prison or died. He had to find a way to feel like he was a human being worthy of love, respect, and peace in spite of his past mistakes. (Of course, he was always worthy of those things, but he had given that away. This feeling of worthlessness among ex-offenders is probably more common than people realize and something that should be addressed in order to help ex-inmates reintegrate more successfully.)
When you’re released, if you’re very lucky, you get the parole officer whose mission in life is something OTHER than finding an excuse to put you back in prison. You pay your fees, stay clean, show up for your scheduled appointments, start putting your life together, and chances are good you’ll stay out of prison. But what happens if you’re the victim of a crime? Who do you turn to then? Fear and distrust of law enforcement are hard habits to break for ex-offenders.
One time, Sunshine and I had spent the weekend in south Louisiana for some N.A. something-or-other. We came back to his place to discover that some of his nephew's dumbass friends had broken into the house while he was gone. I immediately grabbed my phone to call the police and make an incident report. Sunshine and I argued for quite some time about this; he didn't want police at his house because it might cause him trouble with his parole officer. He feared the police might arrest him because he had delinquents hanging around his property and he was on parole. I made the arguments that: a) the police are there to protect and serve; they are there to protect citizens--even the ones on parole--from delinquents that break into houses; and b) it would be far better for his parole officer to hear he had contact with the police because HE called them on his nephew's delinquent friends than for something those delinquents might do in the future to bring the police there without anyone having knowledge that Sunshine was trying to stop the behavior. I think argument B convinced him, because he let me make the call.
When Sunshine completed a major contract doing masonry work on the house of a sergeant in the Louisiana State Patrol, his next major contract was for an investigator in the D.A.'s office. His first reaction after getting the job was to start thinking about everything that could put him back in prison: “Has the statute of limitations run out on all the shit I did in active addiction?” (Yes.) Are my business practices possibly under investigation?” (No.) He finally realized that these people just saw him as a business-man; that the police and D.A.s are not to be feared, they are a source of prosperity for him today.
If we get pulled over for a traffic stop, there is always the distinct possibility that the vehicle is going to be tossed. A game warden searched the hell out of Sunshine's truck based on nothing other than the Narcotics Anonymous key-chains holding Sunshine's keys. This asshole game warden actually said something along the lines of "once an addict always an addict", searched the truck based on that reasoning alone, and left the truck a mess, too. My car has been searched and torn to shreds (the visors were ripped off, the console was destroyed, and the turbo-charger didn't work anymore) over the course of a THREE hour traffic stop (for not using a blinker when turning) based solely on the fact that the asshat cop that pulled us over saw my face and said "I know you". (He was one of the officers that questioned me after my first drug arrest in Louisiana seven years before that). Three hours and hundreds of dollars of damage to my car later, they had to let me go because they found no dope in the car. They did call my parole officer to tell her she should drug test me, and she made me come in the office right then. She sat in that office for over two hours waiting for me and actually called the cops later to verify that I wasn't lying when I said they kept me on the road all that time.
We were recently the victims of a theft at Sunshine’s business. One of his employees stole some very expensive equipment. Again, Sunshine didn’t want to report the theft because he was afraid the cops would come after him instead of the asshole employee. I finally managed to convince him to make the call, but the fear of losing everything he has worked so hard to build since his release is very real and always on his mind.
Truthfully, Sunshine and I have been luckier than most. We had parole officers who were willing to give us a chance. We had employers who looked beyond the convictions and saw the person inside, willing to work hard, grateful for the chance at a life beyond prison. We have a home, friends, and family who love us and are willing to stick by us. We’ve searched out and received the mental and emotional help we needed. So many others have not. That’s what pisses me off and what keeps me writing about mine and Sunshine’s experiences. People need to know how it REALLY is for ex-offenders out there. And ex-offenders need to know that they are not alone.
It would have been simpler if you had just hit me with your fist.
It would have hurt less had curled your fingers up and slammed your fist into my gut.
No. Oh no, you would never hit me. You claimed you would never give in to the urge to physically hurt me. You denied that the urge was there, but I could see it. Please. After nine years I can read you like a book.
On the good days we inspired each other, brought out the best in each other. On the bad days we would stand, six inches apart, applying the verbal lash over and over. Flaying one another to the bone, stripping defenses down until nerves were raw and exposed.
Even after all those years, all those fights, all the pain, I never threw that kind of insult at you. I never said anything that literally took your breath away, never dealt you a verbal sucker punch. Don't get me wrong, I'm certain that I hurt you. Intentionally or not, I know that it's true. I know we both bear scars on our hearts. But I never spoke to you the way you spoke to me. I never poured salt on the wounds.
You took every single self-doubt that I had, every aspect of myself that I hated, and threw them all at me. I sat there, wounded, in shock, seeing the rage and pain blaze in your eyes like wildfire.
If you had just made a fist, punched me in the gut, maybe we'd still be together.
No. You had to wound me and then grab the salt and just rub it in there, didn't you?
Fat. Lazy. Selfish. Mean. Bitch.
Those words hurt. Can't deny that. But I've heard them before.
Do you want to know what the last straw was? The word that hit me like a fist to the gut?
How dare you?
How DARE you throw that in my face?
You. You of all people. You who knew how I struggled with that diagnosis, who saw me weep every month, watched me grieve for another lost chance every time I bled.
Four years of a thousand tiny deaths. Every birth announcement, every baby shower, every happy family in a grocery store: they all left a scar.
Countless appointments, driving back and forth to clinics to undergo tests and invasive medical procedures. Always alone because your work schedule wouldn't allow you to join me. Trying to reign in my crazy mood swings from the drugs so that I didn't take everything out on you. Slogging through life on a second-string antidepressant because it would be safer during pregnancy. Drawing fluid into a needle and shooting myself up with hormones in the bathroom, alone, because you're afraid of needles.
If those scars were physical instead of emotional I don't think I'd have an inch of pristine skin left at this point.
You condensed all of that pain and anguish into one little word.
It took my breath away. I felt a chill ripple from the tip of my skull down to my toes.
And it was over. Over. In that moment, we were over. No going back. No patching it up this time.
It would have been simpler if you had just hit me with your fist.
Going through old emails, I found interesting things. I was in the middle of my "Boy of the Week/Cursed Vagina" phase. I fought for every single one of those boys when that week was up and they decided to end things (with the exception of Irish Guy since I was the one that ended that - with good reason). I remember fighting with The Genius because his reason for ending things was that his friends didn't like the fact that I had kids.
Looking back, it was probably stupid of me to fight them over it. Maybe it was the fact that I was jumping in with both feet every time that was driving them away. Or maybe I was just waiting for the guy who knew that the jumping in, the giving so much away, was a misdirection to keep them from seeing the parts of me that I didn't want anyone to see.
I've found that man, the one that stuck with me through that and who I have stuck with through hard times.
But here's a window into my past.
Below is the email I wrote to one particular boy who was the best of the Boys of the Week. He didn't get a nickname because I liked him enough to call him by his own. I wasn't honest with him at the time because I wasn't honest with myself, but the uncomfortable twistings I felt myself doing when he asked questions that went to the center of my problems started me on the path to being who I am right now, to admitting the reality of things and accepting them.
This post is a little bit apology and a little bit gratitude to that boy three years ago. He was only in my life for a week but he changed my life for the better.
So here's the explanation, my argument for being in your life.
Assume that if you got involved with me you'd be rebounding, as you have decided that you are. I think only you can make that decision since I am a believer that strong positive emotions know no time frame and can coexist with strong negative ones, can ride them out and that compatibility will exert itself regardless. You either don't believe that or you don't feel this to be the situation. If the latter, please stop reading right now because it is all a moot point.
Could riding out the rebound and finding out that we're no good together be any worse than what's happening right now? Well, I suppose that assumes that I can fathom how you feel about what's happening right now - which I can't - or that you know the depth of my affection for you (one of the reasons I like you so much).
I don't understand you. You render me incapable of playing games and make me want to know myself. I suppose that's a way of saying that I want you for selfish reasons, the way you make me feel about the world and myself, though I want you for more than that. It's the sum of you that makes me feel that way; those are the symptoms of the persistent intoxication/happiness and you are the cause.
I want to give you answers. I know that you wanted to find through all the questions that I am different than your exes. My answers didn't provide that reassurance. I don't know your exes well enough to tell you that I'm not like them, but I can tell you that I think you're wonderful and I have no intentions of deceiving you.
So part one of this argument is that I believe that the kind of relationship I seek, and which I see the possibility of, would outlast rebounding. If it does not, I would rather know and in the meantime create a hundred new moments that can be separated from whatever comes after.
For example, I have in my head this moment where we were making out up against my bedroom wall. I wanted you so bad that my muscles had a prescience. They felt the moment and I lived the moment, but I could feel the next, too, even though that next moment didn't come right then. My waist could feel your hands sliding down to my butt and my thighs could feel the weight of you between them. I can separate that moment from every other one. It's one of my favorites to relive.
The second part of my argument is that, assuming that the stars align such that it becomes an issue that you leave, aren't those moments in between worth more than the aftermath?
I'm a believer that we give too much weight to the bad moments. In my own life I'm learning to let the bad wash over me, experience it, forgive it but not forget it, learn from it but let the happy moments outweigh the bad ones. Even if this gets an icy reception, I have a dozen or more moments where I'm happy to have met you and been in your life for the exceptionally short time of one week.
I'm sure most of you are like me and wish a money tree would just sprout up in the middle of your home/yard.
Since the likelihood of that happening is pretty slim, I've had to look for ways to make our budget stretch. I'm big on clipping coupons and watching for sales. I've also gotten really into thrift shopping. It's more like a treasure hunt to me, and I'm always excited to see what I can find.
This weekend my fiance and I stopped in at a local thrift store on the way home from a date. We didn't have much time or a clear idea of what we were looking for. Sadly, he didn't find anything that he couldn't live without.
Me? I struck pay-dirt! I found a novel that I read as a young teen that has always been on my "books to own" list as well as a summery t-shirt dress.
Finding fun deals makes me happy. A cracked but well loved novel on my bookshelf makes me even happier.
What's your Happy?
Don't think you have one? Look harder. Something will make you smile today.
We want to know!
Share it with the world on your blog and then link up below, tweet it out (hashtag #DOHMonday #WithTheBand) or share it on Facebook. Whatever you want to do, do it. Just find a bit of happy in this Monday!
Goodness, I sound like such a child.
"I feel left out," I told my husband recently. Slighted. Overlooked. Ignored, even.
Sometimes people I refer to as my friends go ahead and do things without me.
Then I see it. Showing up on their Facebook walls.
Dinner and drinks. Lunch with friends.
Am I not their friend, too?
What about me?
It's often rougher in the blogging world. You think you're connected to people. You've established what you find as SOMETHING. You think that maybe you're finding your way. And then you're the only one not included.
You know what?
That kind of sucks.
And yes, it's true that sometimes friends are not really friends. Does that even make a stitch of sense? I don't know. But Facebook friends are often acquaintances. And yet, when the community you think you belong to goes ahead and does a big bloggy thing without just you? You feel like crap.
You read into it. You withdraw.
You remind yourself that these are not the true friends you have made in this world that you exist in. The real ones, sadly, live too far away for the occasional lunch or dinner. But they're there, and they are real.
They represent the support you need and the circles you WANT to play in. The ones that open wide, take you in, and never ever make you feel left out.
It's true, some of them out there DO ignore. Not everyone who is far away is all-encompassing and that stings too, but in a different way.
Because you've learned to shrug it off. To unfriend, unfollow, stop tweeting at when you get no replies EVER.
But when it's someone you relied on to be a connection in this non-virtual aspect of the virtual world? Then it sucks. You're allowed to say so. Or at least I am. For now.
And then you move on.
I do. I did. Keeping that tie, but hiding that bullshit. Because there's no reason to torture yourself with people who don't care, or like you enough, to include you. The tie is enough for now, but soon you'll let it slide. You'll cut that string. Loosen the ribbon. Let it go. You'll feel a lot better. But for now you'll smile and just know. And take it from there.
If you can relate to this I'm sorry. I'm sorry you have felt it, too. Because it stings. And it's okay to say and feel so. You're not alone. I'm not, either. I just needed to say all of this anyway so I could feel better now.
At least just a little bit.
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