#186 Help me, my son is in prison (retro)
Help me, my son is in prison!
Tonight I want to do something I have done a few times, and tonight I want to try to talk you through a problem.
This blog is for anyone who has recently (or at any time) lost a loved one to the prison system. While the title says “son”, it can mean anybody you love that has gone behind the walls of prison.
Tonight, I am going to try to talk you down a bit, if you will let me.
And this is where is starts folks, at the very point of panic and anxiety, something has to prevent you from going further down into depression. Why is this important? Because the human body does not function well when it is severely depressed.
If we do not give you some hope, it is quite possible that you can go into a tailspin and dramatically affect your health. The body will start to break down and you begin to get sick. From there you will start to rely on medication either to help ease the anxiety or for sicknesses that came from your extreme depression.
Folks…we simply must prevent that if you are going to make it. We cannot allow you to fall down completely because of a loved one you have in prison. To slip, to slump is one thing, and yes, maybe even fall down, but not in a total heap.
You need something to believe in when all seems lost.
How many of you feel that way tonight? (nod your head if you are reading this)
(see, that’s interaction…smile)
Tonight I am going to try to talk you through a very hard situation, to someone who has lost a son, daughter, husband, boyfriend, or whomever to prison, and for the life of you, there just seems to be no hope at all.
It’s like your body is screaming, “help me!” and there seems to be nobody willing or able to help. You need something to get you through this time, and it might be worthwhile to think of taking sleeping medication just to get through tonight…but what about tomorrow…or the next day, or week, or month?
How can we help you get through this, even if for a few days? When a person emails me and has such fear and panic in their words, my heart really, really goes out to them. Why? Because I have been there.
I’ve done time, and it almost killed me.
The burden of prison time was so heavy on my heart that it drove me to attempt suicide…many times. And if I felt that way on the inside, I can imagine how some of you may have felt when someone you really cared about went to prison. If it was a physical pain, you could take something for it, or go to the hospital. But this is emotional, mental and yes, spiritual.
But it still hurts so very bad.
So what do I do when somebody comes to me and says, “my loved one is in prison and I feel absolutely terrible, and I don’t know what to do”.
How many of you feel that way right now, whether your loved one has been in prison for 24 hours or 24 months? How do you overcome that terrible feeling? Let’s fight that right now:
The first thing I will want you to do is determine why you feel so down. A lot of you may mock me and think I am being a jerk in asking that, knowing that your loved one is in prison, but you will miss what I am REALLY asking.
Why do you feel so bad right now? And your answer would be:
“Because he is in prison!”
No, that isn’t the real reason why you feel so bad. There are a few reasons why people feel so terrible, one is separation, the other is fear of stereotypes. A third is the condemnation that goes with it.
Why do you fear so much about your son in prison? Because you are going to miss your loved one, AND you may fear what “they say” about prison. Follow me here, because I am going to try to get right at some of the things many of you worry about.
Don’t tell my mom, but when I first went to college, and got on the bus to take the long trip across the state by myself, I shed a few tears. Why? Because I was, for the first time, actually leaving home, being separated from something I was very familiar with, and would be “on my own” for awhile.
My mom did the same thing when my older brother got on the bus, headed for the military. I remember riding back with her as she shed a few tears, because that was her first born going to the military, leaving home for the first time.
In both cases, a person can cry because someone is leaving home, whether college or the military…even prison. Your tears for a loved one going to prison may be heavy because of the separation of someone you really love.
The second reason is as we said, fear. We all know all the stories about what “they do” in prison. Not very many good stories come out of a prison, only tales of chaos, and more chaos. Many of you fear that your son may be a target of a gang, or some huge hairy looking inmate who has been down for 20 years. Many of you fear what prison will DO to him, that you may not even recognize him after he gets out.
And then there is the condemnation, the mark that is branded on an ex felon, like myself. Life after prison becomes harder because society does not practice what it preaches, and we tend to not want to give ex felons a second chance. There then appears to be no future for your son in prison, so you worry not only that he is now gone, but that he is living in a “hell” and when he gets out, life gets no better for him.
All these things come with a loved one going to prison…and perhaps more.
So at the point of the incarceration, these feelings will overwhelm you like a flood, and there seems to be no way to stop the terrible feelings. Sadness, fear, stress, anxiety, depression and confusion make these days very, very hard to bear.
But I am here to tell you something most people won’t tell you…there is a way to get through this.
There is a way for you to hold your head high and find days to smile in. If you are willing, we can fight the separation, the fear and the condemnation, but you have to want to do it.
And that means no crawling up under a table and crying a river. It means not going to a prison support site and making 99 posts about how miserable life is. I didn’t say you can’t feel down, because that is natural. But I want to share with you some things that must might get you through this, and create some faith and hope inside of you during these very difficult times.
Right now you may be a wreck, but we have to quickly find a way to reverse your way of thinking. It’s like poison, once it gets into you, you have to act to remove the poison, or neutralize it, before it does more damage to your body. And right now, you are being broken down emotionally, mentally and spiritually.
Separation from a loved one can be a very tough emotional obstacle to get over, let’s tackle that first. You feel terrible because your son is in prison, and you miss him. Or, your boyfriend is in prison and you just can’t bear to be without him. How do you counter that emotional scar?
At such a very emotional time, you must take heart that time will help you get through this, especially the initial days of a loved one in prison. I didn’t cry all the way to college, my mom didn’t cry all the way home because we knew that the separation was temporary. Yet some of you may argue with me that your loved one may be doing a much longer sentence than a mere 4 years in college or a few years in the military. True, but that does not change what time does for a heart.
Remember also that you are talking to a guy that spent time in prison, so the burden of separation was also on me as much as it was on my mom. But when I felt lonely while in prison, when I was missing my folks, I tried to remember only the good things and developed amnesia about my current situation. Many inmates do a very good job of remembering their loved ones in their hearts…not their minds.
I say again…in their HEARTS, not their minds.
Are you really, truly separated from your son if you keep him in your heart? No prison could ever, ever take your son, boyfriend or husband from your heart. That will always stay with you, and those are more precious than you can ever know. It’s weird because I didn’t think much about my family in my head, because when I did, then came the doubts and other fears and problems. But as long as I kept them in my heart, I was fine, and could do my time as best I could.
Separation anxiety is indeed a powerful emotion, but if you keep your loved one in your heart, you can, with time, overcome this situation. I say again, it takes time, but you can get through this.
The fear of what happens in prison is a very dangerous mental obstacle you simply must defeat. Whereas time can ease the pain of being separated from a loved one, the fear of what could happen to him can torment you every single day. When I was in county jail, the worst days were court days, because I never knew when I was going to be called. There was such a fear that gripped me like a vice, like few I have ever had in my life.
Every time someone else’s cell door was knocked on, my heart jumped in great fear because I feared that today would be my judgment. Not knowing exactly which day it would be, or when, was a tremendous fear that I lived with every single court day.
And on the day I WAS called, I was shaking with fear. My life was about to be decided, and I had no idea how it was going to end. The fear inside me was critical because I did not know what the future held for me.
How did I beat it? How can you beat this fear? I tell you folks, you MUST beat it because it will determine how you will be able to cope with this situation. There are two ways to do it, one is information…the other is faith. Used together, it can be the strongest elements to get you through the worst of times. It did for me.
As many of you know, I spent almost 17 months in a county jail before I eventually went to prison, but I spent a lot of times reading scriptures, praying and doing everything I could to stay in faith. I read everything that any ministry sent to my cell, and poured over it many times. I read so many scriptures until I started to put some real faith in what I was reading. I had to believe that there was a God that would listen to me, hear me and not only that, to answer.
I was scared beyond measure, and needed help.
So you can imagine how I felt when the day came and it was my “day in court”. I was so scared I didn’t know what to do except tremble. But before I went, I had decided to whisper some scriptures of faith to myself, any scripture having to deal with faith or deliverance. I was by myself in the holding room before going into the courtroom, and while I had a moment, I gently whispered those scriptures just to keep myself from falling apart. And after awhile, an officer would come back and tell me to get ready to go back to the cell.
Today wasn’t my day in court…which was VERY calming to me.
In fact, this happened more than once. I prayed not to go to court because I was so afraid of the future. And more than once, I got “saved” from the day in court. But I realized that I could not keep praying forever, that sooner or later I had to go to court. When I finally did, my verdict was far better than anyone could have imagined, even my lawyer was completely amazed. To him, it was like a home run, although to me, it was a complete failure. I was not able to see the miracle I actually got, because to me, any time in prison was a loss.
But faith played a part, even though I didn’t quite realize it then.
Still, fear is offset by faith, but it has to be faith in something, not just “faith”. If you have a loved one in prison, and scared sleepless, you must find faith to offset the fear you have. The two are complete opposites, you cannot be full of both, you are either full of fear, or full of faith. The balance of the two determines how well you will be able to get through this situation.
I also mentioned information, it is the most natural way to curve fear of a loved one in prison. Note I said NATURAL, not spiritual. Faith can help offset fear, but so can information, which technically is a form of faith. So many people are scared for a son or boyfriend in prison simply because they don’t know what goes on in prison.
Did you bother to ASK anyone what prison is like? Why not? Because you are afraid of what you might hear? Then you have already given in to fear, and chosen to embrace that rather than hope. Did you ever email me to ask what the prison canteen is about, or how I was able to do my time, or what the meals are like in prison?
Listen to me, the more you know about prison, the more at ease you can be about this. Your fear is based much on lack of knowledge, not necessarily of what WILL happen to your loved one. Yes there are gangs, yes some guys get raped, some get stabbed, some get advanced on, and sometimes there are fights. But lots of guys go through years of prison without ever getting in any of that. Just because you read an article about a fight in a prison your loved one is at does not mean it was YOUR loved one.
Fear of your son in prison will continue until you take a stand to learn a little bit about the world he lives in. I don’t mean you have to know how guys make shanks or things like that, I mean the normal world of an inmate, and what he goes through or thinks. I went through that, and I can tell you about that.
Prison clothes, the cafeteria, the canteen, grievances, visitation, phone calls, contraband, showers, count time, correctional officers, faith in prison, inmates, wardens, these are just a tip of the things we could talk about if you want me to. My goal here is to try to ease your mind on the fear of what might happen and try to give you some sense of calm by understanding the environment of your loved one. Not as one who “heard from another” but as one who has actually been there. Information will break those walls down and get you to see that your loved one can indeed make it through prison.
Fear folks, is torment, and we have to eliminate that if we are going to get you in a better position to be encouraged.
Condemnation is the final piece here, one that is more spiritual than anything else. How many of you are worried about the future of your loved one after he gets out, because he now has a record? How many of you are worried that his past will condemn him from ever having a better life? Is he condemned to a circle of going in and out of prison or jail, or doomed to just have a low-paying job, never getting a chance to enjoy the fruits of success?
I used to worry a lot about it, a LOT. It gave me many sleepless nights where I just sat in my bedroom, asking God why bother living if life itself has closed its doors to me. I did my time, I paid my debt to society, yet I am still seen as a convict. I am condemned, and I felt that there is no real hope for me to really be successful. Oh, I may be able to get a job at McDonalds or some minimum wage job, but my dreams were lost forever.
How many of you feel that way about your loved one?
That has to stop.
I went through that, and it made for a lot of miserable nights, but I started realizing something as I wrote my blogs and posts. For a lot of that time, I wrote with a heavy heart, yet still trying to encourage others to hang in there. And so many people said how much of a blessing I was to them, because the info I shared was something they could not get anywhere else. Nobody was really talking about prison the way I was, nor written so much about it. Without realizing it, I was doing something right.
I was writing about the worst days of my life as an example to help others. It was never my intention, nor my desire. But deep inside my heart, it just felt like the right thing to do. And oddly enough, it then reminded me of some words I “heard” years before, while I was in college. The words, “write for Me” seemed odd then, but years later, I see now that what I am doing is perhaps what God wants me to do….
(you know, God wants everybody to do something, most people just don’t do it)
And now after doing time in prison, it seemed natural to write posts on as many prison sites that I found. After a few years of falling on my face, but not giving up, I have found that God apparently seems to be on my side, I know that He isn’t against my writing, because too many people have said to me, “God bless you”. So I know I am doing something right.
But I still felt that my past, my record, had condemned me from living a decent life. I really started to believe that when I tried to sell my “Grades of Honor” books, and was being kicked out of sites like PTO and others. It had me thinking, am I REALLY condemned, why am I going through so much hell when I am doing my best to help others.
The first thought was to think that maybe I wasn’t in God’s will.
But the greater thought was that maybe all this was happening because I WAS in His will. In the natural, I have been condemned, but my faith in God tells me that He does not condemn me. And if not, then I have His blessing, not His condemnation.
And that seems like blasphemy to some of you, to think that an ex felon can be viewed by God as a “good citizen”. It may even bother some of you to think that God cannot bless your son in prison, or your husband in prison. Some of you think that this is the punishment that your loved one must endure forever…but that is not true at all.
If a man is willing to change, and do his best from his heart, God sees that and will not condemn a person, even if human beings do. Remember, we are the same human race that condemns on color of skin, age, sex and amount of finances. We are not quite qualified to condemn as we think.
When you break down the walls of condemnation for your loved one, and get him or her to believe it, things WILL change for the better. When you understand that God is not looking to “get you”, but rather loves you unconditionally, it will create a level of faith that will be hard to defeat.
I mentioned months ago that I wanted to do a short series called, “Scriptures for Inmates”. It was going to be a series of discussions of scriptures written for inmates, to give them hope. Few people talk to inmates about redemption and hope, they only talk about God giving His Son for our sins. That is true, but every person walking this earth is a vessel for God to work through. Imagine for a second if just 5% of all the inmates that ever did time would write blogs or posts in a positive or constructive manner, to help the millions that are looking for hope.
You can’t do that if you feel condemned, your heart would betray you. And even though I felt that way many times, something deep inside would not let me give up. There was always a very gentle nudge, encouraging me to get up, and try to write some more. Even when I gave up on my blogs, even when I was getting no support and had no money, even when I was being attacked by other members of sites, there was always a gentle strength that said, “don’t give up”. A condemned soul cannot give hope unless he first had it to give. A condemned soul cannot give faith unless he had it first.
Tonight I sit here before you, sharing my best to you in hopes to get you to see that you can get through this, and even overcome. Even if sometime this week I run into problems, it still will not change what I wrote before. Just like you, if you are doing well for a week, and one particular day the weights of your loved one in prison come down on you. If or when it happens, that is ok, do NOT give in and think that it is a failure. Do NOT give up on that person, or your faith. If you fall down, that is ok, I have done it many times myself. But take care to get up if you fall.
Listen to me, you can get through this. Even if you feel just plain terrible, with your heart on the floor and tears flowing like a waterfall, barely able to read this blog. I have been there folks, as an inmate, and even after I got out in 2001. I have been there, but I also have seen and believe that things can get better…MUCH better.
Today I have people who read my blogs and share them with others in prison. I have people from other prison sites who regularly read my blogs. I have people who support my writing with gifts, and I am always getting emails from new readers. Things are changing for me, and I am starting to see how I am being used to help others…and it is a very warm thing to do. I used to beg people to support my blogs and buy my books, now I just make mention of it because it allows me to give thanks to those who sent me gifts to encourage me to keep writing, or so I can buy a new computer soon, and a new printer, and maybe even offer some free encouragement certificates soon.
It didn’t look that way when I got out in 2001, or even a couple of years ago, but by enduring and having faith, I am able to continue to help share things about prison. Now, don’t go putting a halo around my head, I am nobody that important, but I do believe that like everyone else, I am VERY important to God. Just like your loved one…and you, if you are willing to believe it.
So you can choose to embrace all the negative things of prison, or you can roll up your sleeves and get some faith in you. You don’t have to have those sleepless nights if you can understand how to get through this and build some faith. I am here to help if you if you need it. I do not promise to have every answer, but if you are willing to have a little faith, maybe I can help you develop it to empower yourself to help that loved one in prison. You don’t have to be a first class Christian for this folks, you just have to love somebody in prison.
You can start from there.
Email me at derf4000 (at) embarqmail (dot) com. If you want to ask me about my prison books, my prison cards, my prison encouragement certificates, feel free to ask. If you want to ask me about prison issues, feel free to do so. If you have been following my blogs and want to support it, feel free to ask.
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