Category: Growth and Change

4 Years After Prison, I Reached a Milestone

Well, y’all, I have officially reached a milestone of sorts. I have now been OUT of trouble… that means living fine, working hard, and loving life in general… longer than I have been IN trouble, as an adult at least. I guess this is sort of a skewed way of looking at it, because I am counting the time since I got locked up, rather than since I got let free. That is because, for me, locking me up is what got me on the right path. So since that day they closed the cell door and I knew I wasn’t coming out for awhile, things turned around.

I guess that can be an encouraging thought for those folks who are just now facing incarceration, or the incarceration of a family member or loved one. As ironic as it may sound, getting locked up can set you free. It’s up to the individual of course. Some guys will use the time to do nothing more than get tattoos, work out, and perfect their scrabble game. All that is fine, too. Nothing like being able to kick some butt in a friendly game of Scrabble. And getting strong and fit are great motivators and you feel good walking out of prison in tip top shape. No doubt. But you have to invest some time on the inner self as well. Read some, think some, make some decisions about what you want from life. Find out who you are. A lot of folks did nothing with their teen and adult years but spend them getting f’d up and in trouble haven’t really thought about themselves until they get into prison.

While I was incarcerated, I read a book by Bo Lazoff named “We are all doing time” and it made the point that monks and other religious folks seek simple surroundings and lack of freedom of choice to do deep meditation and work on themselves. When you go to prison, you basically have some pretty good surroundings to do some deep thinking. Yeah, it can be noisy and dirty and of course violent so it’s not exactly an ashram, but it can serve the purpose.

So I would say to anyone facing imprisonment, if you have no choice and have to get locked up, use the time productively at least. Work on yourself somehow, some way. Learn something, study something, get better at something. You may as well, it will give you that much more of a chance when you see the light at the end of the tunnel when your time served is done. Good luck and peace to all of you. Stay cool. ~ Magnum

Never let yourself forget

As a person who has been incarcerated and spent a couple years in TDC, I have an automatic mark against me. I am a felon. Everything from being disqualified for enlisting in the military or for benefits like food stamps or public assistance in housing are denied a felon living in Texas. I have worked hard and I don’t feel it is necessarily holding me back today, but it most definitely has an affect on me and my family in some form or fashion. There are plenty of jobs and positions I cannot even consider due to this label of felon. It doesn’t do any good to complain or feel like I got the short end. After all, it’s pretty much my own actions and choices that landed me in that position. I would never play the “it’s not fair” card anyway, because life isn’t fair. And, in this case, it’s just the way the law reads so it’s the consequences of my actions and nothing to do with fairness. The only thing I can do is to keep doing the next right thing. I just need to keep working hard, keep providing the best I can for my wife and children, and keep trusting that with time I will erase as best I can any stigma that being a felon holds. I figure if I keep up the way I am going, there should come a day that nobody really gives a rat’s ass that I once made some stupid mistakes.

The main thing I try to remember is how sweet my freedom is, and how I would really hate to lose any of it at this time in my life. I wish I had a bottle of the pure awesome feeling I had the day I walked out those TDC doors. It is something you can’t explain to someone who hasn’t been locked up and stripped bare of all their rights and freedoms. And it’s something a lot of us felons do start to forget. Life gets easy, or life gets hard, or life gets boring – whatever – just something makes us start to lose our gratefulness and let’s a seed of bad thinking into our head. That’s the danger. It’s important that every one of us who did some time and now walks free never allows themselves to forget. Don’t forget those shitty days and nights stuck in a shitty, overcrowded, stinking, loud, and dirty hell called TDC. Don’t forget being mentally and physically challenged in ways that made you a little more afraid than you would like to admit. Don’t forget how achingly lonely you could be, wishing to hear just a word from someone you left behind at home. Don’t forget.

Having said that, it is my opinion that it’s time for some changes in the way we treat those arrested for drug charges. Not dealing, but personal possession. There are far too many folks just like myself that have a felony record because they messed around with drugs and got caught. I have a guess there is an equal number of people who messed around with the same drugs but didn’t get caught.

Once a person convicted of a drug crime gets home, they might already have other factors working against them like no family support or living arrangements that are unstable and somehow they just never get it together after that first stint doing time. They end up being part of the recidivism revolving door. I don’t have the answers. I don’t think it’s as simple as just shipping every one off to rehab because I personally went to rehab a bunch of times, and I can’t say it got me straight. But the fact that the US has the absolute highest percent of incarcerated individuals tells you something. Our system needs a major over-haul. Maybe the fact that Obama himself visited a federal prison a few months back is a good sign. It’s the first time any acting president has done so. Here’s to a good year in 2016, folks. If you have a loved one who is incarcerated, keep the faith. If you were once incarcerated yourself, don’t let yourself forget. And if you are somehow engaged in activities that might end with you locked up – take my advise and just quit now. Whatever you are doing, it’s not worth it, really.

4th of July, 2015 – Can you find freedom while in prison?

For those of you with family and loved ones in prison on this 4th of July holiday weekend, especially those imprisoned for crimes of drug use, I will tell you this – freedom is a state of mind. A person can be more free while incarcerated than they ever were on the outside.

When I was going through real bad times with drug use I was not free. Sure, maybe I could jump in my truck and drive to a party on the 4th, drink some beer and eat some barbecue and that is so-called freedom, compared to being locked in a prison environment. But the reality is – that freedom isn’t real at all. My days and all my actions were consumed with getting drugs and maintaining my habit. I lied, I stole and I got pretty low during that time. I resorted to some things I didn’t think I would ever do. I didn’t care for the person I had become and I didn’t care that I didn’t care. It was best not to care actually.

In contrast to that, when I got sent to prison it was a time for me to get straight with myself. I am not just talking about kicking the dope. I did a lot of soul searching during that time. I read a lot of books that were deep and got me thinking in a few new ways. One of my favorites was “We Are All Doing Time” by the late Bo Lazoff. There were two major ideas in that book that helped me cope with imprisonment. One was that “everything is going to be OK”, regardless of the situation. I know that sounds too pie in the sky and kind of stupid. Sometimes things aren’t OK. Terrible situations exist, in prison and out. I won’t get into the whole idea behind it but basically it’s a way of looking at life and the situation you find yourself in, no matter how shitty, and accepting it for what it is, and finding a way to be OK with it.

The other concept I pondered a lot and still hang onto today is, you are only as free as your own mind is. When you are incarcerated and being treated like crap all the way around and living in conditions that are uncomfortable and lonely and sad – you can still choose to be free in your mind. You can have good thoughts in bad situations. You can be kind to others and to yourself even in an environment like prison, and you can grow and rise above a lot, if you choose to.

For anyone, incarcerated or not, who isn’t feeling free, I recommend this book. It’s a classic in the prison world but a good read for anyone. It is spiritual in nature but down to earth and easy to read. You can find it at The Human Kindness Foundation, a group that does prison outreach that was started by Bo and his wife Sita years ago. If you want to read a quick summary of the ideas behind Bo’s book, this write up about Bo Lozoff by Douglas Goetsch does a pretty good job. I like where it says “listen to your better angel, see the cell as a world, see the prison block as a garden, see the divine in the faces of the guards, the bullies, prosecuting attorneys, parole boards; write your daughter, apologize to your ex-, renounce your pals—they’re not your friends— forgive your father, forgive yourself.”

Peace out everyone. Hope your 4th is a time of freedom for you and your loved ones. ~ Magnum

The National Registry of Exonerations

Have you heard of the National Registry of Exonerations? Founded in 2012 by the University of Michigan Law School in conjunction with the Center on Wrongful Convictions at Northwestern University School of Law. The registry keeps track of every overturned conviction and exonerated person in the United States since 1989. With the ability to use DNA evidence, the list is ever growing.

It’s a fascination website full of information for anyone interested in social justice and change. There is a list of recent exonerations with some details, recent news in the progress of exonerations, interesting graphs with statistics, and more. What a worthy project this is to gather all this information in one place. The site states that to date they have over 1550 exonerations listed. Wow

Many, many people are incarcerated for crimes they did commit, including myself. Sometimes the sentence seems harsh and sometimes it seems not long enough. But they did the crime, and they are being punished as a judge or a jury of their peers deemed fit. That is our system and overall its fair and better than a lot of other places. But when a truly innocent person spends years in prison for something they did not do – I cannot even imagine! All too often the person is not of means to properly defend themselves or to understand the system fully. What is the answer to this? I don’t think there is one, really.
But the fact that today we can read of those exonerated and have hope for those that might still be in this predicament is very hopeful. Peace y’all.

The Holidays – Then and Now

While I was in prison, the holidays were sad days. I couldn’t help but feel alone and sad and think of my family and friends more than usual. I think it’s safe to say that was something almost all of us in prison dealt with, although some tried to act like they didn’t care. Maybe they didn’t, who knows. We did try to make the best of it. We were given a better meal than usual, with baked chicken and turkey. Baked chicken is one of the few things that prison cooking can’t screw up, since it’s relatively simple and doesn’t require much in the way of seasoning. We also would make our own spread, pooling all of our items from commissary on one of the tables in the common area. Might not sound like it, but a buffet of ramen noodles, tuna fish, peanut butter and crackers can be downright festive if that is all you’ve got. We tried to have some laughs and have a little holiday spirit but I will be honest, it was a stretch. At night, when it was time to go to sleep, my last thoughts of the day were spent imagining the smiling faces of my family and dreaming of a future I wasn’t sure could ever be mine. I never want to be that lonely again.

This year my Christmas was like the exact polar opposite of those darker days. I had my wife and my son, who is 1 month old now, beside me. We took a couple nice drives to look at Christmas lights around town, and we listened to Christmas music quite a bit. Money is tight but we got lucky. We got a Christmas tree from my grandfather which added a lot of Christmas spirit to our place. Then I got a little Christmas bonus at work so we went shopping for ourselves and got a few necessities like some new work clothes for me, and things for my wife and son, and we wrapped them up and put them under the tree. That might sound a little goofy but it was fun.

If you are spending the holidays away from your loved ones, if they are incarcerated or living the life of addiction somewhere, hold on to hope. Things change. People change. What I learned is life is good when you let it be.

Imagine me, a father and husband, celebrating the holidays with my family, surrounded with so much love and happiness. This is the dream I had and now it is true. I have a lot to be thankful for, and a lot to look forward to in 2014. Peace to y’all ~ Texas Magnum

It’s been awhile – Now I am married and a father!

Hello all, I have been very lax in keeping up with the blog. A whole lot of real life got in the way. Just let me take a minute to brag. I am married to the most awesome woman in the world. We got married on 9/11. A funny date for a marriage but that was the same day I had parole, and I had to consolidate everything so I didn’t miss much work, lol. The way I look at it, that is a good and happy thing that occurred on a day remembered for something unhappy and bad. Maybe over time, when enough babies are born on that day, and people get married on that day, and other happy events, we won’t only remember it as bad. So I did my part.

And, guess what — we just had a baby! Yep, I am a father to a big healthy son. He is so cool. Lays there and sleeps a lot now, but he’s GOING to do great things in this world. And if I have anything to do with it, going to TDC won’t be on his list. Nope, none of that for my son. I hope I can be a good father and good husband. I am trying my best. I will admit, it’s harder some days than others. And having a family changes everything. Before if I screwed up I was screwing up myself. Now a lot of other people are going to get affected by it. I got to keep it together.
I am working hard pretty much every day. Construction so bad weather means no work. And I am broke most of the time, lol. But hey, I have a little place of our own, and we get by.

Hope you all are hanging in there. If you are reading this because you have a loved on incarcerated somewhere, don’t ever give up on them. Everybody deserves hope. Some of us have pushed things too far over and over and maybe you feel things will never change. I am proof that things do change. I am not saying I have it all figured out, I don’t for sure. And believe me, I know I got a ways to go. But look how far I have come. Less than two years ago I was locked up for the 4th year in a row during the holidays, between rehabs and prison. Now I am a married man and a father, holding a full time job, and stressing about paying the light bill rather than stressing about where my next high was coming from.

Oh and by the way, for anyone looking for some kinship and advise regarding the incarcerated, I strongly suggest www.prisontalk.com. It’s a very strong forum with lots of good information. For anyone wanting to help or learn more about helping the incarcerated, a great organization is The Human Kindness Foundation. It was founded by Bo and Sita Lozoff. Bo wrote “We’re all Doing Time”, probably one of the most widely read books by inmates ever, and one that brought me great hope and a better understanding of myself and the world. Check it out, you don’t need to be in prison to get a lot out of it. You can buy it on the Human Kindness site at http://humankindness.bigcartel.com/product/we-re-all-doing-time. They send this book for free to inmates all over the world. If you buy a book on their site, it helps their efforts.

I am hoping for all of you out there that you pass the holidays safe and sound with your family and friends. If you have someone incarcerated, keep the faith. Keep the candle burning. Peace out y’all. I will try to be more regular on here, but I do love you all.

Changes in my life, changes for this site

While I was locked up I spent a lot of time dreaming about being on a river in Central Texas, listening to music, playing my guitar or harmonica, singing, and just having a good ol’ time. I have done just that as often as possible this summer. I want to share a song I really enjoy, by Jason Boland, called Backslider Blues. Fantastic lyrics on this one.

Friends, I have really slacked off when it comes to writing blog posts. I had already known that once I got out, the site was going to need to change it’s direction, because reading about a guy on the outside just plain isn’t as interesting as reading about a guy in prison. And, the truth is, now that I am not locked up 24/7, it’s pretty hard to make myself sit down and write.

Sure, I can tell you about being on parole. Basically, it sucks. But it doesn’t suck as bad as being locked up. Some days I think differently, there are literally some days when the parole process is such a pain in the ass that I think I ought to just go serve out the rest of my time. But just a little rational thinking usually gets me off that train real quick.

The way parole works, as time goes on you see your parole officer less often. Right now I am still on 2 visits a month. One in her office and one at my home. It’s kind of funny, she seems to be scared of dogs, when she comes to my house she literally stays for all of 5 minutes, tops, and she is out of there. My dog isn’t mean, but there is a tip for someone who might have something to hide from their parole officer, get yourself a mean dog. Ha ha, just kidding.

My parole officer seems OK, I don’t feel like she is out to get me, but then again, I don’t feel like she is necessarily real enthused about me either. I am sure I am just another parolee to her. I think that probation and parole officers are underpaid and overworked, generally speaking. I imagine they go into the job thinking they will make a difference and get burned out pretty fast. And, unfortunately, I am sure they see a lot of us just go right through that revolving door, straight back to prison.

What about me, you might ask. How have I been doing? Well, I won’t say it hasn’t been challenging not to fall back into old ways. I have felt good about most of my choices, and overall I am doing good. I ended up getting a new job, it’s in the welding business. I have a girlfriend, which of course I am glad about. I have had some money problems, my vehicle needs a new engine, and my living situation has been sort of up and down. I am trying to just concentrate on keeping one foot in front of the other. Living simple, keeping it real. See? I told you, not near as interesting as reading about someone locked up, fighting to survive every day.

So, what to do about this site? I want to keep it up, it has some good traffic, and people have been so supportive. After some thought and research, I have made some decisions. I found a few guest editors to start posting news we come across about Texas Prisons, the inmates, conditions, jail, probation, parole… the whole correctional institution business. (Because it IS a business, of that there is no doubt.) Some of them are ex-cons, some are family, and some are just some cool folks with something to say.

I am also going to start offering some more resources for the many folks who have family members and loved ones currently incarcerated. Links to other useful sites and information, and links to books and other materials that can be helpful. I am thinking about trying to offer prison stationary items too, but I know that is a whole process to get approved by TDC to be a vendor. I still might try to do it though. So stay tuned, over the next couple of weeks you will see some changes on here. If you like what you see, let me know. And, if you have ideas for the site, it would be great to hear from you.

Thanks, y’all, for all of your support. I apologize for the big gaps in posting. But things are going to get better now. Stay tuned. And stay cool… your friend, Texas Magnum

A new job, some alright friends, and a couple tough days

Well – what’s been going on with me for the past 2 and a half months? The usual I guess. It’s hard to describe in a way, what your mind goes through when you get home from prison. But I will try to let you know what this next part of the journey has been like so far.

At first, that first day when Texas Department of Corrections let me out their front door and I saw my mom sitting there waiting for me, it was pretty strange driving away. As the prison became just a bad memory in the rear view mirror, it didn’t seem real, and I felt a little freaked out. My mom had brought me my own clothes and my boots and my hat. It felt good putting them on, but it didn’t even feel normal any more.

The ride was good, it was a beautiful day with the sun shining, and in just a couple hours I was home. Getting to see my dog was great, I picked that big guy right up off the ground and we had a big slobber fest. My wish was to have some good pizza, so we went to the pizza place and then that night we had a campfire outside and I played my harmonica and my guitar. It was good.

I suppose anyone that has been locked up will tell you freedom never tastes as sweet as it does that first day. It’s almost like you are experiencing everything for the first time. There is a down side thought – it’s almost too much… and within a couple of days things start to feel normal and it is almost a disappointment or a let down sort of feeling. I guess in your mind you have this illusion about coming home, and being free. And really, life is full of ups and downs and ordinary moments, whether you are locked up or not.

S0… fast forward another couple months. What am I up to now? I got a job, a good one with a new high end restaurant in town. I got on with them before they even opened and worked on a lot of different things to help them, painting, installing the kitchen equipment, working on the chimney, stocking the place, moving in furniture, all kinds of stuff. Now they are open, and I am just starting to learn to cook. I am learning to cook all kinds of food, some I have never even tried before, and I am going to learn to bake pastry and bread as well. I already got one raise, and they seem to like me pretty well. I am always on time and I work hard, so they ought to like me. They also don’t judge me. This is a pretty small town and before I got this job I went to like, 40 places and wasn’t getting anywhere. But at this place, the owners aren’t from here, and the tattoos all over me or my history isn’t so important to them as it might be for some people. There are a couple other people working there now too, and they are all pretty cool. No doubt, this is a very good opportunity for a guy who was locked up by TDC just a couple of months ago. I could be doing a lot worse in the employment world.

I should be pretty happy with my job right? Well, it’s still called work for a reason, and at some point you wake up and don’t feel like washing dishes or sauteing mushrooms or lugging a bunch of wine down to the basement. But you have to, and you do it. I see that a big part of learning to live right out here and staying out of trouble is accepting that you have to work and just be part of the big machine like everyone else.

Other stuff has been hard to. I can’t sit here and tell you it’s all been easy and fun because it hasn’t. I have struggled some with it. I have times when I just want to be crazy and go wild. I have days when I am down, and I just want to lay in bed and sleep. I get lonely. I have met some people, some are probably good for me and some are for sure bad for me. I am trying hard to make good choices but I don’t always succeed. I think I am doing good, but sometimes the next 2 years on parole feel like an eternity, and some days I wonder if it’s all worth it. I am still pretty broke and I don’t have much to show for myself yet. It’s hard to be patient. It’s hard to notice the progress although I know that it’s there. As far as parole, that seems to be going OK, but I can’t say I feel my parole officer really cares all that much, she is just doing her job. That’s cool, I imagine it’s a pretty sucky job overall. She is probably just happy I am employed and not causing her trouble.

So, like everyone in the world, I have some good days and some bad. What I can say is this – I can wake up and look at myself and know I have choices today. I can choose to walk out the door or not, and I can choose to go to work or not, things I couldn’t do just a few months ago. I going to try to keep my attitude positive, and try to post on here a little more often.

Peace out people ~ TM

I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get, but I’m better than I used to be

I am about to write a post to update everyone on what’s been going on the past 2 months that I’ve been home. But first, I am posting this song by Tim McGraw, it has some good lyrics about bettering yourself. I hope all the mothers had a good Mothers Day yesterday.

“Better Than I Used To Be” by Tim McGraw

I know how to hold a grudge
I can send a bridge up in smoke
And I can’t count the people I’ve let down, the hearts I’ve broke
You ain’t gotta dig too deep
If you wanna find some dirt on me
I’m learning who you’ve been
Ain’t who you’ve got to be
It’s gonna be an uphill climb
Aww honey I won’t lie

I ain’t no angel
I still got a few more dances with the devil
I’m cleaning up my act little by little
I’m getting there
I can finally stand the man in the mirror I see
I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get
But I’m better than I used to be

I’ve pinned a lot of demons to the ground
I’ve got a few old habits left
But there’s still one or two I might need you to help me get
Standing in the rain so long has left me with a little rust
But put some faith in me
And someday you’ll see
There’s a diamond under all this dust

I ain’t no angel
I still got a few more dances with the devil
I’m cleaning up my act little by little
I’m getting there
I can finally stand the man in the mirror I see
I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get
But I’m better than I used to be

I ain’t no angel
I still got a few more dances with the devil
But I’m cleaning up my act little by little
I’m getting there
I can finally stand the man in the mirror I see
I ain’t as good as I’m gonna get
But I’m better than I used to be

I have served my time and I am going home!

This is the post I have been waiting for all along. By the time it is received in the regular mail and posted on here, it will just about be real.

I AM GOING HOME!
I AM GOING HOME!
I – AM – GOING – HOME!!!

I am so ready, I can’t wait. Time is crawling now but it’s OK, it’s almost here. Just 10 days to go.

I can’t wait to look up at the sunshine, to breath in the fresh air. I can’t wait for a pizza! I am damn excited and happy to go home and see my family, hug everyone, and my dog too! I CAN’T WAIT!

My mom is coming to pick me up, it’s about a 3 hour drive. She is bringing my good boots and some jeans and my hat. She is bringing a couple of my favorite CD’s, the one I can’t wait to hear is Legend, the best of Bob Marley.

So how does it feel? I am anxious and excited, maybe a little nervous. I am feeling very positive though. I can do this. I have changed, and it’s a real change. I am not the person who got locked up in 2009. I know that what I make of my freedom and my life will be up to me. I am going to stay positive and enjoy every minute of it all. It’s what I have learned more than anything. Live for the moment, be in the moment. That is really all there is. I have some goals, and plans, and dreams, but I am not going to get all caught up in them and forget to enjoy right where I am at.

I don’t know what will happen with this blog. Maybe I will post a little when I get home, but the truth is I know people are more interested about reading about the actual prison experience. Nobody cares about the guy who USED to be in prison. (That might turn out to be true in more ways than one. But like I said, I am staying positive.) I am trying to think of how to turn it into something good now, something that will help those that are still incarcerated and their families. If you have any ideas, send them my way.

What an awesome time of year to get free in Texas. Spring is almost here. I love summer! I love the sun!! I am going to enjoy this summer more than any I have ever had, that I know. I plan to be grilling, tubing, swimming, camping, playing music, hearing music, and SMILING and LAUGHING A LOT, of that you can be sure. Hope you all do the same, wherever you are.

I will be in touch, people. Thanks for hanging in there with me.
Peace out ~ Magnum

So this is Christmas…

This week  I sit here, away from my family at the holidays once again, and I find myself thinking. I am where the universe wants me to be, or else I wouldn’t be here. Since I don’t want to be here, I realize I need to look for the lesson in the situation.

Christmas is in just a few more days. It is hard to believe that last year at this time of year I was in prison too. And, the year before that I was in a long term rehab at Thanksgiving, Christmas and New Years… and the year before THAT I was also in rehab during all the holidays. It makes you think I must like being locked up and I must care less about days like Christmas and holidays, right?

No, that is not true. I can’t wait to spend next Christmas with my family.  So, what’s the lesson in all this? I think the lesson is – Whatever stupid shit you are doing that will put you in prison, think about it. When I was out there and I knew I was screwing up on my probation, I wasn’t thinking about things like missing my family so much, and the good times spent with them at the holidays.

What I was thinking back then was that probation was just as bad as prison would be, it was keeping me from doing what I wanted, and stressing me out, and I wasn’t free with probation hanging over my head. I was thinking that my probation officer was an asshole for making me piss in a cup. I was thinking it was cool to put off my community service work when a friend wanted me to do something with them. I was thinking my friends had my back, just like I had theirs. I was thinking that AA was bullshit because when I tried getting sober I was bored and didn’t have friends and it wasn’t possible to hang out where and with who I wanted to.  I was thinking shooting heroin wasn’t that bad because it mellowed me out, and I barely drank at all when I used. I was thinking a little meth mixed in was ok too. And I was thinking if I ended up having to do some time in prison, well I could handle that, it wasn’t going to be that big of a deal for me. I wasn’t scared of it. That is what I was thinking.

What I was not thinking about then, was that in all this time since, not one of those friends have written me, visited me, or asked my family where I was for that matter. For all I know, they think I am dead. I was not thinking that the scariest, hardest, worse part of prison wasn’t going to be the fights, gangs or the shithead guards, that it is the gut wrenching, lonely pain in your heart when you think about your family. How you can be a grown man and miss your family enough to make you cry but you can’t cry, because you’re in prison and trying not to get your ass kicked too much. I was not thinking that I would have all this time to sit and think. Would it have been better to do things different than I did? Yes, it would, but I really wasn’t thinking.

We’re All Doing Time

Update from Inside: Life here continues to be busy for me, work is trucking along, and so is the rehab program. The days are going by fast overall. Over all I am in very good spirits. I got a book called “We’re All Doing Time” by Bo Lozoff. It’s a spiritual book, not a religious book, but it pulls from all the major world religions. It quotes the Bible, Buddhist teachings, Hindu, Native American, and more. It talks about Christ and Mother Theresa and Gandhi.

It is REALLY, REALLY good. The author Bo Lozoff puts in words just what my personal beliefs about spirituality and religion have been for awhile now. It has a lot of lessons in spiritual practice to try, including prayer, meditation, and yoga. I have started working on some of these practices and I feel good about everything and I am in high spirits. I feel positive about the future.

For awhile now I have had this feeling that I can be as free in my mind in here as I can outside, it’s all about me and the way I feel inside. And the book I am reading says that being incarcerated may be more of a gift than we realize and that the richest man or woman on the outside may be more of a prisoner than those of us inside, depending on how they feel spiritually and how we feel. This is exactly how I feel too. I know I am more free now than I ever was when I was shooting dope and living the life of addiction.

The author says that being locked up in such harsh conditions without the comforts most people take for granted is a lot like what a monk chooses as a way to grow spiritually. He says us inmates can choose to spend the time with the mind of an incarerated inmate, or with the mind of a monk seeking spiritual growth. That we can come out of prison better for the experience or worse, but it’s totally up to the individual, not the programs we are enrolled in or the people who choose to go up against us. The positive and the negative we find here is all what we choose to do with it.

I find myself laying in my bed at night dreaming about life and what it may have in store for me. Life is full of possibilities and I can’t help but wonder where I am going. I try not to get too wrapped up in it, ’cause I know this very moment is what counts, but I can’t help dreaming. We all have dreams, right?

Another thing that is going on with me right now is I have decided to start to speak in our Group. It is optional, and up until now I have not chosen to. But I figure if I’m going to be here I might was well express who I was and where I am going. That way I am working on being open and honest to myself.

I am now in Phase 2 of the program and that includes some marching which probably sounds a little cooler than it is. We get out there at 6:00 am and march around the perimeter of the unit, once around,  twice a week. We yell out some stuff, go one time around, and that’s about it. We don’t do it enough to get really good at it. A lot of the guys hate it, but I don’t mind it, things could be a lot worse.

I just recently got letters about a couple things. My sister got hurt, broke a couple ribs. It was an accident that could have ended a lot worse, so she is lucky. Also, she is pregnant and the baby is OK, so she is double-lucky. And my old dog back home is getting really bad off. He probably won’t make it a lot longer. It really caused me to reflect and it also made me think of my grandfather who passed away several months ago and about death in general. It makes me realize that there are so many things we have no control over. We are all the same in so many ways, in spite of our outward differences, and we all come into the world and go out of it in the same way.

We all drive different vehicles through the streets of life, but we all have to figure out how to drive those streets, one way or another. Life will always keep on going, no matter your situation, so all we can do is go with it and do our best to find happiness and inner peace. I hope today that those reading this blog find themselves on a street going in the right direction. For anyone who might be seeking spiritual guidance, or who knows an inmate that could use some spiritual help, I highly recommend the book I am reading.

Peace to everyone ~ Magnum

Editors Note ~ I received an email this morning from Bo Lozoff’s Foundation for Prison Ashram. They let me know that if I changed the link to their Human Kindness store rather than Amazon, the proceeds are used to send free books to inmates all over. So, of course, I made those changes. I urge any of you who might be considering the book to purchase from this very worth organization.

Officially a cook in Texas prison!

Well, how about that? I have been promoted, after just a short while on my job as pot and pan washer in the prison kitchen. The kitchen boss told me he had observed I was a hard worker, and he needed someone who could learn and work hard, and offered me the position. I accepted the offer (ha ha, as if I had a lot of options) and now I am officially a cook, in prison. Ain’t I the shit? All progress is good, and I take this as progress. And, I get an extra meal for my effort. It’s hard work and it’s kicking my ass because I like to work out so after working my 8 hour shift I hit rec for my routine. Then it’s a shower and sleep, then I do it all over again. Peace out ~

In the mirror

I had to laugh the other day. I caught sight of myself in the mirror, and for a moment I was really shocked. For just a minute, I didn’t recognize the person looking back at me.  I saw a serious man with a square jaw. Someone with dark hair, sort of large green eyes, a pale complexion – yes, it was me alright.

But this person looking back at me looked older and harder than I think of myself. Many times, I feel inside just like the same 17 year old kid I once was. It’s literally shocking to see myself in the mirror and realize with a jolt that the 17 year old is long behind me.

Now, it doesn’t get much more adult than sitting here in prison, paying the penalty for my crime. I am changed in many ways. I think for the better overall. But it makes me think, is it this way for all imprisoned people? Do they wake up in the morning, and for just a minute before reality sets in, do they feel like a kid again? Does the lifer spend a moment feeling hopeful and alive before the 4 gray walls and bars on his door close in around him?

I don’t know if that is a good thing or a bad thing. Is it better to have that shred of optimism even when there isn’t much reason for it? Does that mean that the convicted killer feels a moment of reprieve from his fate and his guilt every day? For that matter, does his victims’ families wake up in the mornings and spend a moment feeling normal, before the reality of their loss again sets in with a clang just as loud as any cell door?

I am grateful that the crimes I am being punished for have been against myself. The victim, if there is one, is that 17 year old kid I sometimes still feel like. He was the kid who’s teachers would say over and over “you can be anything you want to be!” He is the same kid who had a couple really sweet girls like him, and who had a couple adults think he had potential in one thing or another. He had some good friends, and a family that trusted he was going to turn out just fine, after he got through the teen years and a little “normal” trouble.

The truth is, I no longer can be “anything I want to be”. I can’t be president, or hold any public office, or be a member of the military, or a person who votes, or a person who wants to rent an apartment in a complex somewhere, or even a person who wants to work at most stores, restaurants and businesses, or service positions that involves going into someone’s home, like an electrician or a carpet cleaner, because as a convicted felon, I am not eligible, either by law or by the rules of that company, to be any of those things anymore. My possibilities have narrowed.

That’s OK. I accept that as my condition, I may be down but I am not done. There is a country song that says “I’m not as good as I once was, but I am as good, once, as I ever was.” Silly lyrics, but along those same lines, I feel that for many of us who are here, incarcerated, that same logic applies.

We can still make our mark in a positive way on the world. We can still have a good life with a family and a job and a home. Some of our possibilities are gone right out the window. Sometimes that is going to feel unfair to us, if we are trying to get back on track. But we knew it going in, it’s the rules, whether they are reasonable or not. I know I am going to have to work harder,  longer, and take a bit of rejection and “no’s” along the way. But I can find my spot and maybe this experience will cause me to find a path I never would have otherwise. And I can be as good as I ever was. Maybe I will end up being better than I ever was.

Today when I look in the mirror, I hope to see a face looking back at me that has hope. One that looks like they can have a good time but who looks like they care, about themselves and others. And, I hope that the 17 year old in me can stay lit up always, in some small way, and shine through the serious, hard face looking out at me, because I liked that guy.

Peace ~ Magnum

 

“I can” – the strength of those words

Within the last two days, two of my buddies here in the unit got moved. I was really sad to see them go. One in particular had become a really good friend. He was a good dude and I had spent a lot of my days talking and sharing stories and thoughts with him. He was really good at Scrabble! I felt sad for him, as intelligent as he was, he has spent 15 years in prison and was doing another 3 this time. He is the one who described the experience of getting out of prison and wanting to live too much. Like me, he had used heroin and meth. And, previously, getting out had only resulted in him falling back into those old habits again.

It’s funny, because you learn different lessons from the various people you encounter in life. Of course, I had heard the expressions “don’t say you can’t” and “just do it” but I still doubted myself in many areas.

But, after working out with my buddy several times, I started to believe I could do things that previously I had told myself “I can’t.” I would say to him, “dude, I can’t do a handstand” and sure enough, with that attitude, I couldn’t. He encouraged me to believe I COULD do a handstand, to tell myself “I CAN”. After awhile I started to embrace that thinking while we were doing our workouts. Now, I still can’t do a GREAT handstand, but I am doing handstands. I believe I can, I have it in me now, and I am getting there. That is truthfully the only thing that changed in my workout, my attitude went from “can’t” to “CAN”.

To take this in another direction, I have had it in my mind for awhile now that I don’t have to abuse drugs anymore, or live selfishly, and I feel this in my heart. I believe it. I told my buddy in one of our conversations, “You know what, I am not doing it any more. Life is too fragile to die that way.”

The day before he left, I had spent some time talking with him, he was really feeling down. I know why too, I could see it, that same feeling I’ve had when you find yourself in the same damn rut as before, and you wonder if things will ever change.

Well, when I recognized that in his demeanor, I told him, “you know what, it doesn’t have to be this way for us. We just have to stop telling ourselves “can’t”.

I realized right then that has been a lot of my OWN problems in the past. I have made a firm decision now that I am not gonna allow myself to let my life fall apart behind selfish desires. Heroin, meth, all that crap, it isn’t worth it.

My friend thanked me that night for being a positive influence on him. Imagine that – a 39 year old man thanking ME for influencing him. If I can influence him then I can damn well do the same thing for myself.

You know, life is crazy. Sometimes it seems you meet someone for awhile, then they are just gone from your life again. It seems that you are supposed to take that experience and what you learned from it, and share it with another, pass it along. Take the good from anything you can and leave the bad behind.

For many of us who are incarcerated, it’s time to leave our childish ways behind and to become real men. We CAN become men who use our hearts and minds above their fists, and men who act for reasons beyond selfishness. Men who CAN succeed and enjoy living free.

Ha, it’s just like Obama says —  “Yes, we can.”

Peace out ~ Magnum

Letting go

I’m mad. I’m anxious. I’m just all around worried. I sit here and sit here and sit here. And I go over and over how I could have lived my life different. I know I could have done better. I am scared for my future.

All these thoughts bring nothing but negative emotions and urges. I feel like starting a fight with anyone who crosses me, I have the urge to use drugs, drink, shoot up. And I find myself judging others, in an attempt to defend my actions and outbursts and bad attitude.

I know at moments like this, I am my own worse enemy. I am letting my old ways and my old thinking get the best of me.

When this happens I remember a saying from A.A.-  “Let go, and let god.” I remind myself of this with a serenity prayer, and I try to reassure myself by letting my higher power know that I acknowledge that he’s the one who is in control, and I’m just gonna let him handle the things in front of me that seem impossible. Meanwhile, I will try my best to do the next right thing.

Doubts and uncertainty have found a foothold

Hi everyone, I want to share with you that I have been feeling so restless lately.

To be honest I have been having a lot of urges to use drugs, and also a lot of doubts about being able to stay sober. I think some of it has to do with knowing that I am going to need to spend the rest of my life without drugs, and as strange as it may sound to some of you, that realization causes me some stress. Drug use has been a part of my life for so long now. That was my way to cope with pretty much all the emotions and feelings that I had. I know I need to learn different ways to deal with feelings like anxiety, loneliness or sadness, and I need to be serious about that. It’s a scary and challenging thought for me, and the very thought of it causes me the sort of feelings that just a few short months ago I would have dealt with by getting high.

Another reason I may be having these thoughts and doubts now is that I have had a stressful situation arise here in the jail. Recently, a man who is accused of the murder of an acquaintance and friend of mine that occurred this past summer has come into our tank!

To complicate things even further, this friend, the one who was murdered, had previously been the boyfriend of a girl I was spending time with right before I was arrested. (There is even more to it than that but I won’t get into it for this post because it already sounds like one of the soap operas I have found myself watching on the television in here.)

The other day, I overheard the guy arrested for my friend’s murder, and he was talking bad about the girl. It really bothered me for some reason. Not because of feelings for her, she and I have no relationship any more. She actually left me high and dry when I was arrested. But, it still bothered me a lot when I overheard his unkind comments about her. And, of course the fact that he may have murdered a guy I considered a friend is really bothering me too. That guy was involved in some of the same drug using habits that I was, and we were both on the wrong path, but he didn’t deserve to be killed. He wasn’t a bad guy.

So, all this is stressful, and I suppose this is a chance for me to learn better ways to handle things than doing drugs. But, as I said, to be honest I have been having the urge to use, it seems to be the first thing that pops into my addicted head when things don’t go my way. And it’s making me doubt myself and my ability to handle the difficulties in life that I know are still out there. I need to do some deep thinking and reflection on all of this. I appreciate all the positive energy you can send my way, I think I need it.

Peace ~ Magnum

A fellow inmate reaches out

Today is the 17th of November, and it is a great day! The reason it is such a great day is that last night a fellow prisoner here at the county jail reached out. For the sake of this post, I am going to call him “Ali”. Ali and I were  just sitting around, and laughing with the guys.

Anyway, I went back over to my bunk, deciding to call it a night. I was just getting ready to go to sleep, when Ali surprises me by saying “Man, it suck’s that you’re leaving already.” At first I was a little confused by his comment, so I asked him why. He responded by telling me he hadn’t ever heard anyone be so open and candid about their addiction, and that he had wanted to talk about his own addiction with me. So, I invited him to sit and talk for awhile.

He told me about his addiction to meth as well as many other substances. He told me how embarrassed he was about being an addict, and he asked me, “Magnum, why aren’t you ashamed or embarrassed of your addiction? You seem so open about it.”

I told him that I am not ashamed of my addiction, but that I am ashamed of many of my actions that came about due to my addiction. I also told him that I am not embarrassed by the fact that I was shooting up, as I don’t think I would be the me I am today if I didn’t have those experiences. And, that I couldn’t be where I am spiritually and mentally at this point, if it wasn’t for that part of my life. I told him for me, my addiction doesn’t have to be a dark secret, but instead a learning tool or a spiritual tool that has helped me.

All in all, the conversation gave me such a good feeling. It is hard to explain, but I felt a true joy to listen to someone else, and to have them express that it felt good to talk about it with someone honestly, and to have them thank me for that. It was a conversation that also helped me express some thoughts that I had floating around in my head, and once I put them together and said them out loud, it reassured me that I am going in the right direction.

I just thank God so much for these types of small gifts he gives us. And, I am grateful that I am at a point where I can recognize this sort of random conversation as the gift that it is. I hope that all of you can have the experience of sharing with another what is inside your heart today or sometime soon, and that you find it as gratifying as I did.

Peace ~ Magnum