Tag: circumstances

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 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

Missing out on life

After being incarcerated for the last seven months, I have learned the truth about what being locked up and the loss of freedom means to a man.

Before all this happened, losing my freedom meant something completely different to me than what it does now. I thought losing my freedom meant not being able to come and go as I wanted, not being able to sleep in when I wanted, stay out late when I wanted and to do what I wanted. I thought it meant not having a corrections officer telling me where to go or not go, and I thought it meant being able to jump in my truck and go float the river or hang out with friends or play music whenever I wanted to.

Well it does mean all of that. And of course I miss those things. But a person gets used to whatever their circumstances are, and they find a way to make a little life out of it. I have my people I hang with here, and I have my routine. I find things to laugh about and things to think about. I watch TV, work out, play dominoes, read and write. I skip breakfast if I want and I buy snacks or other foods in the commissary if I don’t like the meals. So in short, although I am incarcerated I am not stripped of all free will. I still have a voice, and some options.

Here is what I don’t have – being a part of my family and their lives. Here is a short list of what I have missed out on during the past seven months of incarceration:
– My mother’s birthday
– Thanksgiving
– Christmas
– New Year’s
– My birthday
– The death of my grandfather
– The birth of my first niece

The holidays and birthdays are days I hate to have missed but I can deal with those. But, the death of my grandfather and the birth of my niece have caused me to feel deeply how cut off I am from those I love and who love me. The most severe punishment of not being “free” is missing these milestones in life. In not being there to support my grandmother and father when my grandfather passed, I feel I have let them down greatly. I feel my selfishness, which got me here in the first place, is once again to blame for a failure to be the person I should be in life. In not being able to celebrate the birth of my sister’s beautiful new daughter, I feel I have let her and her husband down.

My family has always tried to love me and be there for me, when I needed them, yet I am not there for them now. I pray that when I am released I can make up some of this to the people I love. This is what the REAL punishment of incarceration is. Not being behind a locked gate, not living with a bunch of other incarcerated men in a cage like an animal, but the loss of my freedom to BE THERE.

Freedom isn’t about walking through a door or jumping in a car, it’s about picking up a phone to call your grandmother and talk about fond memories of your grandfather. It’s about sending your sister a bouquet of flowers and sending your niece a stuffed teddy bear. It’s about taking your mother out to eat on her birthday or handing your brother-in-law a Christmas gift.

If you are reading this today while free, take a minute to call the people you love and tell them so. Use your freedom to reach out to someone you care about.

Pieces of the puzzle

Today is Nov. 1st, the beginning of a new month and one month closer to the end of my sentence. The fact is I don’t wish for the time to race by, not even under these circumstances, because I know that one day I will miss even these times and that each day counts for something. What life is showing me is that I may not like my circumstances at the moment, but at some point in my life I will look back, maybe even with a smile, and understand why God cut my puzzle pieces into these shapes.

What I try to tell myself is that it doesn’t matter how difficult the puzzle is, or how long it takes me to find a spot for every piece until the picture is revealed. Every piece has it’s own place, each groove is made to fit into a notch, and it’s up to me to piece them together in the right way. Some parts will be easy to figure out, and some are going to be more difficult. I might need to work on a few of those corners and tough spots to get it right. But there is a whole picture there, and my puzzle pieces will all fit together if I keep working on it every day.