Is Substance Abuse the Core Issue with Regard to My Circumstance?

I’d say No, & Yes. For me substance abuse was a social vice used to help me feel I fit in, and also a bit of escapism to run from the pain of loosing both my parents. I never used alone, nor did my days revolve around the pursuit of substances to use. Yet, yes, because my mother had drinking issues, she was violent on a regular basis without the drinking. When she drank she was fun, nice, relaxed, and paid attention to me. Thus, this shaped my views on drinking. It made me see substances as less dangerous, thus it was later easier to fall into binge drinking and other recreational use. I was lucky that my using never crossed the line to “hardcore” drug abuse, on the road I was on it may have if my life was not cut short by a Life sentence at age 18.

What I can say to our young people is that I may not have been some junkie, but by using substances to run away from the problems I didn’t want to deal with in the long run did a massive amount of damage to myself, my family, and led to me lashing out in reckless ways once those emotions could no longer be bottled up, avoided or “used away.” You must face your problems head on, they will never go away until you deal with them. You must take responsibility for your actions, face the harsh reality of who & what you are. Then do the hard work to repair the damage inside you, then the damage you’ve done to others, and your community. You will find that there are no shortcuts to recovery. No easy way not to face your fears or heal your emotional wounds. God, is not going to fix it. Your parents can’t always rescue you. Your friends will not always be there. You have yourself, and it is your own personal responsibility to mold yourself into the person you want to be. You will fall, but we each possess the strength to carry our own burdens no matter how heavy. Yet, moments will feel like you can’t go on, but I assure you, you can conquer anything in your path.

Being in prison, sentenced to die, has shown me the depth of human strength, and if I can struggle and fight not to loose my humanity in a place like this, you can find the strength to make positive choices and become the person you envision yourself to be. There is no perfect road, or master plan, just dedication, determination, and discipline. Those are the keys to the future you dream of.

that’s the best and realest advice I can give to any young person coping with substance abuse, peer pressure, and the trials of adolescence. Be brave, make the hard choices and hold onto the vision of the person you want to be.

When you look at the intersection of the popular media and the prison system today, you would think that no inmate in our prisons should ever be released. In shows like MSNBC’s “Lock up” or NATGEO’s “Lockdown” and many other clones, these programs showcase nothing but build, tattooed, violent inmates. They highlight violent incidents from only the most violent prison systems, in states like Texas, California, and other states with over crowded penal systems.

This is done to sensationalize the prisoner and doing time. The true fact is most days are uneventful and boring. Yet, that TRUE depiction would not push the ratings up, nor entertain viewers. So, these shows find ways to reinforce negative stereo-types, and put the focus on the minority of inmates, the ones in high security levels, at institutions with reputations for violence and insurrection. They are profiting from putting prisons worst on television during their worst moments. This destroys the public’s ability to perceive the truth, that men only act like animals if you treat them like an animal. These shows only dehumanize prisoners to the public. This fosters fear in John Q public. After viewing one of these programs you can only be left with the “tough on crime” mind-set. When what we really need the public to push is a “Firm on rehabilitation” stance to its state’s House and Senate. Without that mind set, prisoners will keep coming back, and will gradually turn into that small percentage you see on “Lock up” and those other shows.

Even in prison these shows do damage to the inmate population, as the new and/or more docile prisoners see these shows believing this is what prison is about. Some inmates even try to emulate what they see on those shows. Lamenting how “soft the system is” thinking things need to be more like on T.V. What they don’t understand is that what is depicted is not what prison is supposed to be, or how the average inmate acts, so it paints a false standard that the new inmate thinks he has to live up to.

The truth is for most inmates prison is a time of reflection and rebuilding. A lonely, boring time, some use it to grow and others just get by as best they can. The most important thing is finding ways to make the days go by faster, this is not accomplished by violence, lock downs, and insurrections. Truly only a small portion of the population are gang members, and many of those members do their best to keep the peace, maintain order, and keep things calm because chaos is not conducive to the illegal activities they participate in. The best way to describe doing time is, that it’s like the movie Groundhog’s Day, the same day replayed over and over again. Sprinkle in a few good days, and a few chaotic days. The inmate population does have its monsters and they are bad. Yet, there are just as many extraordinary men as well, who strive every day to grow. They accomplish incredible things from inside a prison cell, but you’ll never hear any of those stories because it doesn’t fit the stereotype. I am one of those stories and there are many more like me.