#124 After you know you’re not alone (retro)

April 1, 2010 at 3:08 am 1 comment

After you know you’re not alone

This is kinda a tricky subject, but one I don’t have a problem attacking. This is a blog based on something I read the other night. I’ll get to it in a moment.

This week is my “mailing” week, where I get all the orders and requests of things I said I would send out and mail them. I will be sending out the “Grades of Honor” books that some of you requested starting Thursday and until Friday, and finish up on Monday. If you ordered a book from me, or sending something for one, then I am going to be mailing those out in that period of time.

I have a few requests for those, and it always makes me kinda fulfilled to be able to send one or more of my books out. If you have not asked me about them, please do at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com.

Anyway, I was looking at some prison issues on a few sites and I noticed one written by a person who has just had a loved one go into the prison system. If I am correct, it was either her boyfriend or her husband, can’t quite remember. At any rate, she was clearly stunned by all this and wondered if anyone else was going through this very difficult situation.

I read a bunch of the following posts on the thread, and I noticed something kinda familiar…most of those people were saying about the same thing. It basically boiled down to a couple of things:

“I’m sorry to hear about your situation” and

“You’re not alone”.

Now, to be sure there is value in this, especially when the person is really looking for some support. No doubt this person probably got some feeling of encouragement in the numerous responses…

But if you’ll allow me, I am going to challenge that.

“Why would you do that, there’s nothing wrong in those responses”.

I beg to differ, and I’ll tell you why.

My challenge here is directed at ANY so called “prison support site” and even you the reader as to what it really means to get support. What I am going to challenge you here is whether you are looking for sympathy…or ANSWERS.

“That’s foolish, any person with a loved one in prison is looking for answers!”

Uh…yeah, right.

My challenge here to you today is this: After you realize you’re not alone in your prison issue problem…THEN what are you going to do? This can easily be directed at a wife or girlfriend, but I also extend this to a mother, or even a pen pal. If you have a loved one in prison, this is my challenge to you.

There are three words we need to define if we are going to make sense of this situation: Support, Sympathy, and Answers. Now play along with me here, there is a method to this madness.

Support: To keep from falling or sinking: to hold in position, to bear the weight of: to give strength to, to enable to last or continue

Sympathy: Sharing or the ability to share another person’s emotions or sensations: a feeling of pity or tenderness towards one suffering pain or grief or trouble.

Answer: Something said or written or needed or done to deal with a question, accusation, or problem.

Do you notice that it can be seen that the definitions of “sympathy” and “answer” is not quite the same? Sympathy does not give solutions to problems, it only shares them. And in some ways, the definition of “support” tends to lean more on sympathy, rather than solving problems.

This is one of the biggest problems with the term “prison support”. Many sites claim to be a support, when really all it is, is sympathy. Just like the post I mentioned about the lady who is discouraged, what she got a lot of is sympathy…very few answers to her problem. Everybody said the same thing, all agreeing that “you’re not alone”.

And the interesting thing about this is that deep down, she KNEW she wasn’t alone in this, and I direct this at you the reader too. You might feel really down about your loved one being in prison, but do you REALLY think you’re the only person going through this. I mean, come on, is there only one person in prison in this country, or are there MILLIONS that are currently in, and MILLIONS more that have done time?

You kinda knew the answer all along. You are not the only wife in the country with a husband in prison. You are not the only girlfriend with a boyfriend in prison. You are not the only mom with a son or daughter in prison. You knew that, but you didn’t want to really embrace that. Heck, you’re not even the only one in your state with the same situation…even further, you’re not the only one in town with that situation.

“So what’s your point?”

The point is that when something very difficult like this happens, it is human nature to look for acceptance and belonging. A mom, wife or girlfriend can’t help but feel an immense amount of burden because you just lost someone you care about. When that happens, there is then a void in your heart, and it hurts.

And to those of you that have never been in this situation before, it can make you feel like you are the only person on the planet Earth that has ever had a loved one go to prison…but you KNOW deep down you’re not the only one. Nobody ever visiting a prison support site or my blog can truly, truly say that they are the only person that has a loved one in prison.

But yet, it’s some of the most common words we get in “support”. So then some of you might say to me, “so what’s wrong with that”. My answer… nothing’s wrong with it…unless you are just looking for sympathy.

Now don’t take offense to that, I am trying to challenge you out of the normal way of defeated thinking and try to get you to think more constructively. IF you are going to get through this, IF you are going to be a help to your loved one, IF you are going to seriously try to get your life back, then you simply cannot reside on the foundations of “prison support”.

There’s a lot of definition for “support” especially when you talk about prison support. It can be a lot of things, but what it is really defined as is how a site treats it. For example, Prison Talk has numerous post that have nothing to do with prison “support” rather prison “fetishes”. Lots of women with “thugs” share issues that have really not an ounce of help in them. It’s like drinking coffee for the Vitamin C….you ain’t gonna get it.

If you are looking for true support, then it has to be something that first and foremost gives you strength, or something to help you continue. If you have a loved one in prison, you need to find some level of strength to continue to see the next day, rather than hide under the covers every day and walk around with a defeated attitude.

Now, if you are new into this genre, having just recently lost a loved one to prison, then this can be hard…very hard. But when people come to my blogs or other sites, they are trying to do what? Look for ANSWERS, or to try to make SENSE of the situation.

They are trying to understand what is going on, but more than that, they are trying to find a solution to it. If I got a headache later on today, I don’t just sit around feeling sorry for myself, I try to find a solution. If that means taking a nap, fine, if that means taking some medication, fine, but I am trying to find a solution to my problem.

This, in essence, is what is missing in prison support sites.

I don’t care if 1000 people make a post saying, “you’re not alone” or “I’m sorry about your situation”, if there is no indication of an answer, all they are doing is handing you sympathy. And I want you to understand that in the definition of “sympathy” there is no angle or venue to offer a solution. If you have sympathy, you are not trying to help a person in a situation. That does not mean you don’t WANT to, it just means you are not doing it.

I can have sympathy for a mother across town with no money to pay her rent, but if I do nothing to help her, then my sympathy is faithless and worthless. If I read about a mom who lost her only son to prison, and does not know what to do, I am in a position to help her by talking about prison and encouraging her to do the same for her son. But if I don’t and just say, “I’m sorry to hear about your son” or “you’re not alone in this”, then I am just showing sympathy…and a lack of compassion and faith.

This is where we all miss it when it comes to prison issues. So many people spend the least amount of time on a site just to get some damn post count up so it looks like they know what they are talking about. Sympathy involves pity and tenderness, not some cheap statement that you could have written blindfolded and with half a heart.

Here is something else…sympathy isn’t judged by what is written, it is judged by the CONTENT of what is written. I would not have written this much on prison issues if I didn’t care about some of you.

But ironically, many people get sympathy and just call it even. You have a loved one in prison, so you join a site with a multitude of similar people, and you seem content. WHY? Didn’t you come looking for solutions? Why stop at just sympathy?

It’s not enough to just know that there are thousands of other wives out there suffering like you. It’s not enough to know that there are thousands of other moms suffering like you. It’s not enough to know that there are thousands of other girlfriends out there suffering like you. You see, sympathy does not solve…it only shares.

If prison support is the house, and sympathy is the people, then how SAD is that house of so called “support”? It’s full of people that are sharing pity and grief for those suffering….so where then is the encouragement going to come from?

Think of it physically as a building having a “prison support” rally or meeting. 500 people show up, all needing “support”. Many are moms, some are wives, some are girlfriends, all having similar problems. You share your situation with others, and get a good feeling that you are not alone, that there are others just like you in this difficult time.

Ok, after you have met with all 500 people, and you all know that you are not alone, then what? Is this where it turns into a pity party, or some cackling hens party, or will somebody sit up and say, “what are we going to do about it”?

That folks, is your challenge…to find an answer. And ironically, this is where every prison support site will miss it. Why? The answer is simple. Prison support sites have virtually no input from those who used to be in prison. How can you claim to be a prison support site when nearly all of your intel comes from people who have never set foot in prison. How can you truly be of help to thousands when less than 1% of the members have actually been in prison and can share from the “insider’s point of view”.

How then, can you truly supply support when your sources are second or third hand people? You can have a site with 2000 people in it making posts regularly, but if there is only one or two (if any) that can speak from a direct perspective of prison, then the foundation of prison support is in serious question. If you don’t have that kind of information, then your support is basically made up of people who never have been in prison before, which creates only an air of “sympathy” talkers. Or you’ll have current and former prison employees, which will give their side of what happens in prison. Or you’ll get people who are too busy trying to rack up 10,000 posts to look good, and end up just copying and pasting cheap one liners. Or you’ll get people who go to other sites scooping up recent news to copy and paste on the site.

Folks, none of these creates answers, which is the number one reason you came to the site in the first place. You didn’t come to join a pity party, you came to find answers, didn’t you?

So, what do you do after you realize you’re not all alone in this prison situation? You look for something to help you deal with the problem…you look for answers. How can we apply this to prison issues? First off, we have to get you out of the negative into the positive. This isn’t easy, as anyone can tell you. But this cannot be about just holding position, as the definition of “support” says. We have to find a way to get you to overcome the situation….

See, this is something support sites don’t do.

Sometimes that means to endure. If I had a headache with no aspirin, I may have to just try to endure it, if I had no means to buy some medication. It means being patient through the difficult times, BELIEVING that it will end soon, and looking expectantly to that end.

I mean, how many of you keep rehashing your problems on the negative end? Yeah, I talk about prison issues here on this blog, but I am using it to HELP others, because I got through it.

Still, sometimes your problems can have solutions (actually, every problem has solutions, but most people don’t believe that). In prison issues, you have to first solve your problems of feeling defeated or stressed, then you can turn your attention to that loved one you have in prison. One of the best ways to do that is to defeat the fears you have about prison, and the unknowns of prison.

This is why ex felons are invaluable to this situation…and ironically so very rare. Who’s gonna tell you about the showers, or visitation, or canteen, or the food? Sure, there are many that can talk about what their “man” told them, and I guess I can’t argue that some info is better than none, but I say this to you, what some person with a boyfriend doing 10 years says is not as credible as what a person who did 1 year says.

The difference is the true heart of what is shared.

I said this before, I have been writing since about 2002, after I got out in 2001, and in those years of writing, I might have come across less than 10 people who actually wrote from direct experience. Of those, I think 9 of those 10 do not write much at all, just a few posts and after maybe a year or so they disappear.

If you have a loved one in prison, it’s NOT ok, to just feel like you’re not alone, not if you’re going to make your home in the house of sympathy. You came to find answers, you came to fight this situation, not to just give up and accept whatever happens. Lots of people are content just knowing they are not alone in their misery. Come on folks, you gotta get of that!

Let me use myself for an example. As an ex felon trying to get my life back together, I have run into a lot of problems…A LOT OF THEM. Getting my life back has been a hellish fight, questioning my sanity and faith in a loving God. I have seen the greatest ironies in me trying to do my best to help. I have been kicked in the face by not one, but two so called “Christian” radio stations. I have been spat on by so called “prison support sites”.

I have given up on blogging more than once, and have believed more than once that my “Grades of Honor” books will never be bought by anyone because people just can’t trust “ex cons”.

I like watching the Travel Channel and some of those shows to see far out place that I can only dream about…because it gives me something to look for. I watch lots of sports dreaming of one day being able to afford to buy season’s tickets to see those games in person. I go to the mall window shopping about things I look forward to being able to buy one day.

I got dreams too folks, just like you. Me being an ex felon does not mean I am forbidden from dreaming.

Am I the only guy in the world going through this? Of course not! Now that did not make me feel better when I was trying to address this situation, but once I realized I was not the only ex felon in the country, the next issue I had to address was, “what am I going to do to overcome it”?

And I’ll be honest, I didn’t make that determination on Monday and by Friday was booking a week-long trip to Tahiti. There were lots and lots of struggles (and continue to be), but my determination is to overcome these things. I am not satisfied in just knowing I am not suffering alone…heck, why should I accept the suffering anyway, if there is a better way to live and a more positive way to live?

This is something you need to address within yourself if you are going to fight this problem. If you have a loved one in prison, ask yourself is you are content sitting in a luke warm pool of sympathy, when you can get OUT, and look for answers.

How do you keep your son, husband, boyfriend or pen pal encouraged? How do you keep them positive? You can’t if you are not positive yourself. Sympathy does not help you feel encouraged, it simply says “there there”.

So that person who wrote that post has to decide for herself what she will do. She can embrace the dozen or more simple quotes or be aggressive in trying to find answers. You can sit there reading all my blogs, copying it out to share with others while never really trying to find an answer. You can have read every one of my current blogs, but if you have never took a step to find answers, then you will continue to be stressed and depressed.

It’s funny because with 7 different prison blogs, I actually have a very large audience of readers, yet the percentage of those who email me are very small. Hey, it’s not like I am going to email you back to hustle you out of some money. Some people read my invitations to support my blogs and think I am trying to con people out of money…

Folks, you really need to get a grip on yourselves.

The key about my blogs is about helping, if I can. Support is very helpful to me, but I also try to sell books and cards to help my writing. But I blog because people who can’t afford it need it. I GLADLY do that, and it must be sincere because I have over 400 pages on each of my sites…which is only a FRACTION of what I have written thus far.

So ask yourself this next time you read about “not being alone” or “feeling sorry for your situation”…. what are you going to do about it? You’re going to do one of two things…accept the comfort of sympathy, or stand out and look for answers.

Gotta fly, email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com.


Entry filed under: girlfriends with boyfriends in prison, God and prison, inmates, jail, LostVault, mothers with sons in prison, prison, prison abuse, prison blogs, prison books, prison cards, prison food, prison jobs, prison mail, prison pen pals, prison support sites, Prison Talk Online, Prisonbid, rehabilitation, son in prison.

#123 It’s not too late (retro) #125 Sunsets in Prison (new)

1 Comment Add your own

  • 1. nolaw97  |  May 5, 2010 at 4:09 am

    Thanks for a lot of positive feedback from people who emailed me and said they were members of other sites. Lots of people have asked particular questions about how to get answers, and to find hope. You already know you are not alone, now let’s make some steps in the right direction to help build some faith and encouragement with you for yourself, and your loved ones. You can do it, just hang in there ok?


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