It was Tuesday, October 11, 2011. I slept in a little late that morning as it was my day off. One of my room mates woke me to let me know I was wanted in the office. I got up and dressed, let some people know where I was going and headed up the walk. It was a cool morning. The building I stayed in was the second farthest from the main building and classrooms. I enjoyed the walk up. It was quiet and the grounds were clean and looked good. If it weren’t for the chain link and razor wire you might mistake this place for a college campus looking at it from the yard. This was New Castle Correctional facility, one of the newer prisons in Indiana.
I wasn’t sure why I was wanted in the office. I had been here about a year. My first nine months had been spent in the county jail. I was scheduled to be released in January. When I arrived at the office, I was told to take a seat and wait. Standard procedure at a government office. After a few minutes I was called back. Still unsure of what was taking place, I asked why I had been called to the office. The woman behind the desk smiled and told me I had been approved for Community Transition. This was a program that would release me from prison three months early. I would be spending my nights in the county jail, but I would be released during the day to look for work and prepare to reenter the real world. If I remember correctly, I cried. I had been told when I arrived at New Castle that I wouldn’t be eligible for this program.
Two days later, on October 13, 2011, after I had turned in my jump suits and signed the last of the paperwork, I walked out of the office for the last time to find office workers, correction officers, and anyone else in the area lining the hallway applauding. I don’t know if this tradition still takes place, but it was a regular thing at the time. I’m tearing up as I write this. Those people will never know what that meant to me. I walked out a side door, climbed into a van and rode three hours back to Clark County.
I’m writing this on October 8, 2023. This coming Friday will mark twelve years since I left prison. I rode through that gate that day thinking my struggle with addiction and compulsive behavior was behind me. It wasn’t. It was just beginning. I had almost two years with no access to my “drug” of choice, but I didn’t have freedom. When the stress, the anxiety, the triggers that had been there before, returned with a vengeance, my response was to reach for what had provided relief in the past. The shock of how easily I returned to unhealthy behavior is what drove me towards recovery.
Today, just a few days short of twelve years since I left prison, my sobriety is now measured in years. It has taken focus and hard work. It has taken community and support. Most of all, it has taken God’s grace and mercy. When I was arrested, I thought my life had come to an end. Looking back today, my arrest was the very gift of desperation that God knew I needed if I were ever going to be able to change. What was the worst, most painful experience of my life has become the event that started my journey towards freedom.
Maybe you have just experienced D-Day. Perhaps your darkest secret has been revealed and you are reeling. Maybe you’re sitting in jail, or your most shameful behaviors have just been made public. Like me, you might not be able to see it yet, but this may be your answer to prayer. This might be your gift of desperation. I’d be honored to talk with you as you walk through this time in your life. Shoot me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Let’s talk.