John wrote this and I wanted to share it.
With every minute that we live, life presents us with new obstacles and new challenges, a constant stream of new experiences, many of which, if not most, resulting in nothing but a fleeting memory. It’s the few moments and experiences, those which hold so much power as to define you as a person, which truly matter. It’s just as much the event as our receptiveness and perspective that makes this true.
I want to make it very clear, I HATE prison. It is a detest I could never put into words. In it being the most miserable and horrible time I can remember, I am still thankful for it. I realize how incredibly ridiculous this sounds, as when hearing this, the first thing one would ask themselves is “what could possibly instill a sense of gratitude in someone for time in prison?” That is what I wish to explain.
I recognize that prison is a punishment, much more than it is a deterrent. If it was an effective deterrent, none of us would be here. Its punishing you for actions which the law dictates as wrong. Whether they are or not is beside the point once you are in prison, as you are going to be here regardless. I definitely feel as though I am being punished, I think you must have something wrong with you if you don’t. The federal prison system is not about rehabilitation. With all of this in mind, life is about making the best of any situation, and I try to look at my daily life in prison with this in mind. So how does that even begin to equate to my being thankful?
It is no secret that I was using drugs, heroin and other opiates for the most part. I wasn’t just using them socially here and there, I have a problem with drugs. Time and time again my drug use hurt those around me and myself. Yet I ran right back to drugs every time. I was on a quick path to prison or death, I ended up in prison.
I remember the countless nights I would talk to Sarah, telling her how badly I wanted to quit, everything in me wished I could, but I just couldn’t. This may be the hardest thing to explain to someone who has never had a serious addiction. That is where I was when I was raided, on a downward spiral, leading to nowhere positive.
March 20, 2012, I quit drugs that day, I don’t think I will ever forget the date. When I was on pretrial, I was required to attend group meetings twice a week. They helped me stay clean, although it was a constant struggle, and still is. I took the power back that drugs had taken away from me.
So here I am, sitting on a plastic stool in a prison, eating a cheap, disgusting pack of tuna, writing this; and in this moment, being truly thankful. Even I find it a bit ridiculous, but I am. When I was free, I never would have just sat, even for five minutes, and thought about how I need to improve myself. Not how I could help someone else, but in all sense of it, focused only on what I need to do to better myself. I have a lot of issues I need to focus on, and for once I am doing so without hiding behind the numbness of the drugs to quell the pain I feel. I have been given a second chance to be a better me. A sober, confident, positive, and healthy me. I have been given a much needed break from my life to evaluate what I need to work on within myself. I would never have taken the time to reflect on my life if I was still out looking for my next fix.
I think Western culture plays a huge part in this constant need to be busy, be it the demand for productivity or just the thought that downtime is wasteful. This culture where we live in the future, always looking so far forward that we ignore the present, so busy doing things we never just stop to be, to just exist in the moment we are in and appreciate it, to recognize just how crazy it is to be alive at all, to exist.
A few days ago someone said to me “Your surroundings should not dictate your happiness.” I think this is what I need to focus on while I am here. This is my time to embrace a bit of selfishness and focus on improving me.
I truly want to use my life to help others, but how can I help others when I have not helped myself? I truly believe we should all set aside 30 minutes to an hour a day to do nothing but sit and reflect on what we can to do better ourselves, because not one of us is perfect. It just so happens I’ve been given some time away from everything to fix me. Of that time, I have about 11,000 hours left. I am more than thankful for that opportunity than most of you could begin to imagine. I needed a break to reflect on my life more than most.
Yesterday, someone on my unit, when talking to me, said “You either leave prison more negative or more positive.” I fully intend on the latter. A better person, not only for my wife, my friends, and my family, but for me.