When they closed the door behind me, I was somewhat grateful to be alone. Too many conflicting emotions were vying for attention in my mind. I lost everything. Even the hygiene products I received yesterday were gone until they replenished them but I still did not have a comb, just a toothbrush and paste and a complimentary hotel-sized bar of soap. Unlike the first unit I was placed in, with plenty of men and four televisions and a large recreation area, here I had nothing. The manual I was given—gone. In its place was a Spanish version I could not read. I hadn’t time to read the English one so I did not know the rules and services provided, nor did I know even whom to ask.
I took off my jumpsuit and laid down, filled with anger and questions of the unknown, fear, sadness about my relationship with Mayra having such an abrupt interruption or ending. I couldn’t tell her what was going on, nor did she even know where I was? I tried looking out the small narrow window and although dirty and positioned awkwardly to have a real good viewing vantage, I was able to see the bay where cruise ships pass El Morro, the historic site Mayra and I visited twice.
Complete silence was broken from time to time with the movement of guards, the clanking of their heavy key chains, muffled voices of other inmates, one orderly free to roam and perform his duties. Through the small window on the door, just above the narrow slot, a small passageway where they removed my cuffs would also serve as my way of getting meals. Dinner arrived shortly composed of two Styrofoam containers, one holding a salad and bread roll, the other meat, vegetable and more likely than not—rice and beans, and two cups of warm, watered-down beverage which looked like fruit juices I normally drank but these were unfamiliar to me. After they determined we had time to finish the guards would come around with their cart on wheels retrieve the refuse, slamming the narrow door completing all basic contact with a human for that day, until later when they did their rounds and noticed you asleep and turning out the dim overhead light. It was mostly dark with a little light coming in from an already darkened hallway with minimum light coming from the narrow window leading outside.
As I laid in the darkness, my emotions again came rambling competing for attention with thoughts flooding into my mind. However, through it all, I heard a voice. A voice calm and peaceful, a voice I would often hear in this room filling me with proper thoughts and direction. I came to know it as the voice of God. The same voice I had heard specifically on those separate occasions in my life, when I dramatically underwent changes. The first word given to me was clear. It was:
“Do not masturbate. I have many things I want to show you, but I cannot if you do this.”
This was asking, for what I believed, was the impossible. How could I “not” masturbate? It was something I discovered at age eleven. I had no wife here with me. The first time I was in prison, it was understood and acceptable for a man to have these feelings and masturbate. If you felt your bed rocking whether he is above or below, you never said anything nor moved, allowing him those free and special moments without distraction and they were given to you when it was your turn. Pictures from magazines or sent to you from women from home, were used and passed around for a few cigarettes! So, how could I be expected “not” to do it? I had the ideal situation. No other “cellie”, too; completely alone. God showed me that first night what to do and this enabled me to make it through the night. Whenever a thought would enter my mind, instead of dwelling on it, just say the words,
“Lord, please change that thought” and God would do the rest. And He did! When the thought entered, and they did, I kept my hands away from my body, placing them beside me like lead weights to keep them from touching me, but it was only until I said those words, then the moment of temptation would pass. I learned I could create all kinds of methods not to fulfill the urge, but the urge remained. Only until I asked Him to remove the thought, and He did, then there was no temptation and no need to play games with my limbs. Games do not work. Transformation of my mind is what I needed. I had never gone much more than a week, and as of this writing it has been more than a year since I had completed the act! Praise God!!! I can remember during the first month waking myself in the middle of the night, hearing my voice speaking aloud, “Lord, change that thought.” Now this had become a habit to do!
What I learned as time went on, now that my mind was being cleared of the garbage of lust, is how this would relate to other areas such as drug addiction. I was right after all. Instead of attending sessions where they teach you to rely on each other, to avoid persons, places or things considered “triggers” for your addiction, were only good for symptoms and not the root cause. Only God can get to the cause, the very root, and pull it out completely. Now, I cannot even imagine I had ever done such a thing before! It is so foreign to me. In fact, I know I never need to do it again, even if I should remain single the rest of my life.
The cleansing of my mind also allowed me to begin to experience those natural, normal and loving feelings for my wife, which were before tainted and polluted and not God-given and proper. I now desired her and had pleasant thoughts of intimacy. God was even able to show me how my exhibitionism and voyeurism issues I struggled with so many years, how it came about and were constantly being fueled. Now, it is over. Even my drug addiction to Crack which potentiated those activities would go away. You see, God never asked me to “stop” doing drugs! He wanted to stop the “core” the “root”, and the symptoms, like addiction to Crack, would, too, go away. This was what I knew existed but did not know how to introduce it in my life from the first A.A. meeting in 1991, eleven years before. I have found it now and no one can ever take it away. I found the answer. In proof of this, the total twenty-six months, locked up, not one time did I violate this first command of His.
God would follow that first one by a second word. It was:
“Give Me your wife.”
When I first heard God asking me to give Him my wife, I was confused. I did not know what He meant and yet I did. I was completely filled with fear and anxiety wondering how Mayra was handling this matter. I imagined only her last moments with me in the car, angry and speaking about a divorce. I felt cheated because I made the determination to go back home, forego all drug and sexual immorality, but the truth was, I wasn’t sure I knew how to go about making those changes, but I did want to. Here I was ready for the first time in my life to be a good husband, wanting to, and then to be snatched from being able to do so! This was not fair. And now I’m being asked to give her to God!? How? And, in what way? The answer came to me clearly:
“Give up your hopes, dreams, ideas and thoughts regarding her.” Yet, He gave me a promise in a sort of vision.
Out my window I am able to view the Bay of San Juan and can see the cruise ships and tankers as they go back and forth. At night, I would be up watching the floating palaces, lit up and headed out to sea. When they backed away from the pier, they continue backwards until they are nearly out of the bay, turning around to face forward. I was amazed as to the amount of time necessary for them to achieve such a goal. I couldn’t tell how late they would do this nor how long to complete the process because I had no concept of time when it got dark. I would continue watching them until their lights would fade completely as they approach the horizon. All the ships would pass the place where Mayra and I visited on two occasions, El Morro, where hundreds of years before the island were protected from invaders by a very steep wall with a fort-like appearance, small domed stone rooms with small windows which allowed them to shoot at invaders. I never really cared for the site because there was not much to see, although the place affords awesome views of the ocean. God presented me with a vision showing me and Mayra walking across the field, holding hands and Him telling me upon my release, I would do this with her during an evening as the sun begins to fade, and from this vantage point we would be able to see across the bay to where I am today, because of the security lighting, and share with her what I experienced there and the promise God made that as I had given her to Him, He was now giving her back to me. I held onto that promise with my whole heart, because I had nothing else.
Whenever the enemy would present me with thoughts to cause me to become discouraged or anxious, wondering what she was doing or thinking, I learned to release those thoughts and give them to God who now was responsible for her. I could not do anything. Having to wonder about your loved one(s) while in isolation is enough to drive anyone crazy and it was only by the comforting words of God did I find peace and comfort stilling the forces outside and inside me.
The third word from God,
“Go to trial”, was something I heard clearly. While thoughts of my legal concerns were flying left and right, concerning myself with what the agents told me of being imprisoned ten to fifteen years, disturbed me greatly. I continued imagining myself finally deciding and calculating I could do ten years, if necessary, putting me at the age where I could begin drawing my pension from IBM.
Although having been before a Judge many times before, nothing as quite as serious nor involved as this would I have a point of reference or experience. Even the time when incarcerated for my first major offense, a felony, there was no discussion of trial with a jury. No discussion of pleas being mentioned, in fact, I was advised to plea “no contest” and let the Judge make a ruling, therefore exempting me from the actual admission of guilt, but I was now in the big leagues, a game I knew little about except for what I gleaned from watching hours of my favorite television show, “Law & Order”.
The Lord helped me tremendously in an area of my life which I am certain is the bane of all inmates who are faced with serious legal troubles, and that is the constant imaginings of the actual trial, where you are being asked questions and the answers you are giving. Over and over, time and again, I would role-play in my mind events which I thought would take place, the arguments and the responses, back and forth. To settle the storm on this onslaught, causing me to daydream during the day, with nothing else to entertain or distract my mind and causing me to stay awake at nights, constantly seeing court scenes in my imagination, God solved the problem by having me to understand I did not have any idea of the court proceedings, the date of my trial, who the legal players were, nor the faces of the jury or witnesses, therefore without any prior knowledge of these things why was I tormenting myself with what I could not possibly know nor predict or understand? God called them “vain imaginings” and they were not healthy, nor from Him, and I should stop them for they served no actual purpose. Often, what we are thinking is quite far from the actual, so stop thinking of what I could not possibly know or understand. It made sense, so I took on learning how to stop this. All I knew was no matter what would take place during the process of my case, I was going to trial.
The effects of these three words from God helped me tremendously in the present to settle conflicts I could not handle without His word, as well as future conflicts to come which I could not possibly see from where I currently sat. Everything bordered on trust. Trusting God. It is where all sins find their starting point due to a lack of trust. And mine, lack of trust, or faith would now find its being tried and developed as never before. Those three words dealt and covered all aspects of life: the physical, mental and emotional of the individual, one’s dealing with others, and one’s dealing with God. God presented me with an ideal situation where much could be accomplished, which needed accomplishing to prepare me for this life and the life to come. I couldn’t see it then, but looking back, I see it now. Now as I write this, October 1, 2003, still here and still learning, a year plus change since my coming here. (Note: Now October 17, 2007, as I am editing this book, it is interesting because today I’m faced with another difficult decision in trusting God and learning how to listen to His voice determining where I should go as the next phase of my life begins.) (Note: Now December 12, 2008, as I am doing the final edit of this book, am still faced with issues which having learned this word of not role-playing in my mind events which I cannot possibly understand or predict, but let God handle all matters and trust Him to resolve them in the way in which is best. Lessons learned six years ago are still playing a major role in my life.)
This whole process of changing my life would begin the first morning of my waking in “The Hole”. Even before breakfast two verses floated in my mind:
“All things work together for good, for them who love the Lord, who are the called, according to His purposes.”
And the second:
“In everything, give thanks. For this is the will of God concerning you.”
Previously these were not my favorite verses but they have become so. They were dropped into my mind and as I reflected and meditated on them, they began to open up to me meanings never before contemplated. To put it simply, nothing is happening to me without God being in charge, and it’s for my good, if I remember this and secondly, no matter how difficult situations become, give God thanks. All of this, these two verses’ foundation is: TRUST. Can I trust He heard and answered my prayer of September 3, 2002 of saving me, and this is how He chooses to answer it? Can I believe this? Then why worry? For worry is the direct result of lack of trust. God is not blind that He cannot see. He is fully aware of what is happening because He is Sovereign. These two verses I began to quote whenever my eyes first opened in the morning, and soon as I followed with this positive statement:
“Lord, I commit myself to Your care and guidance knowing nothing can affect me unless it is in Your will. I commit this day to You.”
When the first Sabbath came, I was too angry, still, to pay it any attention, but when the sun set I made a commitment to the Lord I would begin to keep the Sabbath. I am fully convinced because I have been shown, by God, had I been consistent and honored the Sabbath and found myself fellowshipping with like-minded believers, God could have given me, outside, what He is giving me while incarcerated. It had always been my choice on the method of delivery, and my actions determined this was how I had to learn. So, on the following Sabbath, September 21st, I made the commitment to keep and honor the Fourth Commandment. I claim September 11, 2002 as the day of my rebirth. Although it was the day of my arrest and struggle, no birth comes without the labor pains announcing and making way for the imminent. Imminently, this man was “reborn” in Christ.
Day after day I would eat and sleep, my waking hours filled with battling the enemy as he tried to plant thoughts of fear and discouragement. My only companion was the presence of God and His voice I often heard in my ear. I welcomed the distractions of the guards when they brought me my meal, slipping it through the narrow opening in the door. I would spend the day looking out across the bay and I began to observe shadows since I could not see the sun itself. Soon, I could tell when it was almost time for meals or wake-up was near by watching the pattern and volume of cars on the road outside my window. My only company, a mouse, would appear during the night looking for food. Why not feed him? I was eating.
There were several people, not guards apparently, who would look in on me and others from time to time saying something in Spanish. I would look up and smile and they would move on. This particular person, more regular than the others, I determined to be a chaplain, who was, thankfully, bilingual and I requested a Bible, preferably King James Version. He wrote a note to himself. Later in the week a guard opened my slot and this chaplain slid through a New Testament in Today’s English Version. I thanked him, thinking it was what I requested, and when I examined it later became disappointed. What was I to do with half a Bible and in a version I’m not accustomed to? The Lord spoke to me and made me aware I received what He wanted me to have. So, being satisfied began devouring its pages. I had to assign a portion for each day because I was reading it too rapidly. I finished it in less than a week. When I completed it, I wanted more, so I began with Matthew and read it again! This particular version opened my mind to new insights I’d never considered before. The Lord was speaking directly to my heart.
My other discomforts were I began suffering hygienic problems. The shower would not give a steady stream of water but a spray which was cold. I could not take a shower. The soap provided was not good for my normally sensitive skin which began to flake as well as my scalp. When the itch became intolerable I was able to get the attention of a nurse, who seeing the flakes on my face and head assured me she’d get to me something for my face and a medicated shampoo for my scalp. I began, at one point, to rub butter given when we had bread or saved the fat from the bacon, or even rubbed peanut butter on those dry areas on my nose, bringing quick relief but the salt would eventually irritate it further. When the cream came, it soothed my skin and gritting my teeth, I was able to use the medicated shampoo which burned but relieved my itching and bleeding scalp.
Later, another knock on my door brought me several Time magazines and a container of deodorant from my next door neighbor when both of us were called for a legal visit. He must have noted my offending body odor and felt sorry for me.
On my legal visit I met my attorney for the first time and I related my case to her. She seemed very competent and interested in my case; however, making me aware I was facing serious charges, which could result in being incarcerated the maximum of ten years if found guilty, although more than likely the two charges would be rolled into one and I would only have to do five years. I previously received the Indictment which charged me with “Possession” of a videotape with child pornography, but the second had another possession charge from two diskettes found during the search of my and Mayra’s home. I felt somewhat relieved and began to settle within myself if I had to do five years, I could do it, but made it clear to her I would be seeking a trial and not a plea. I shared with her my belief the police had broken into my home and confiscated my computer. I also accused them of listening in on my phone conversation with my wife the night before and gave her my reasons why I suspected so. She, my attorney, was uncomfortable with the thought of her accusing the police agency and I told her she didn’t have to worry saying it because I would. In the end, she did not feel or gave me much comfort we had a chance at winning and to be honest, I did not either. She expressed concern I was in “The Hole” and mentioned she would talk to someone about having me join the regular population. I was grateful to hear that.
On my return to my cell as I was speaking to the guard who was searching me, a gentleman popped his head into the room and said, “You speak English!” I told him it was all I spoke. In our discussion, I learned he was the Associate Warden, a black man, from the same area of New York I was. He mentioned he would take steps to see I would be removed from this unit. This seemed to be a good day and I returned to my cell pleased something good was to happen despite my circumstances. Several days later the Unit Counselor of the unit I first was assigned the evening I arrived came to visit me asking why I was here! I looked at him in amazement and asked he should be asking me?! This was his facility, I was brought here and it is he who should have the answers—not the questions. Later a psychologist appeared after my constant refusal to take his prescribed medication, when I admitted I had a problem with depression during my intake and wondered why I was not taking the pills. I told him quite strongly, why would he think I’d take medication when he, himself, had never examined me, nor ran any blood tests, in fact, wasn’t it a violation of Federal law to do so, especially in a federal prison! He walked away without making any attempt to respond. What kind of place is this? I began to get the feeling I’d better be awake and stay in control or anything could happen here.
The next couple of days God began doing something wonderful for me. He started putting all the pieces together. For too long I was seeing things the way I had known them and could not see how they fit, because I was too close. He shared with me how He saw them and my life’s meaning and involvement went through a revolutionary change. He showed me two things. The first was what happened to me which had been the root of my problem and second, what brought me here. The sequence of events.
I always suspected during my childhood certain things occurred to me which precipitated the compulsion and behavior to exhibit myself to girls and as I got older, to women. A boy of six does not drop his pants or seek to expose his genitals if he is developing normally. What I did and have done for the next forty years was the result of an emotional disturbance. God showed me what the incidents were which created this disturbance. I am unable to print it because it involves very close family members who did know what they were doing and did not perform their duty to protect me or assist in seeking medical treatment for me, and I will remain silent to provide them their opportunity to face God. I will only say to the offending party, “I forgive you” and realize you did not do it on your own willingness to ignore the problem. You had your own troubles and we often do things we ordinarily would not do in ideal situations. God has been with me all these years protecting me and guiding me despite my propensity to do wrong. It has been a torturous life but I made it. It has made me strong. God used it to be a part of the tool to save me. It is okay—now.
The other event God displayed for me was what really happened behind the scenes of my actual arrest. By combining the two events I was able to do something told to me by Pastor Trevor O’Reggio more than ten years ago. It was his words which came back into my mind,
“Roy, you must surrender to God. I cannot tell you how to do it but it is something you will learn to do when it is time.”
It was now time. When I was given the privilege, in vision, to see from my childhood to the day of my arrest, what was a puzzle and now coming to be formed into its connecting parts to present a total and complete whole of my life and God’s involvement in every step of the way, it was then in the middle of the night I lifted my hands and voice, in tears, and in the act of submission prayed a prayer of submission. For the first time in my life, I surrendered all. As my brother Brian shared with me at one time, how often in church we have sung the hymn, “I Surrender All” when in truth we do not. Why can’t we be honest and sing it the way we honestly believe and do and sing, “I Surrender—SOME! Some to Jesus, I surrender, I surrender SOME”, because we really don’t surrender all, but I now made the decision I needed to make and that was to surrender it ALL to Him. My ideas, ideals, goals and even past accomplishments and future accomplishments. I surrendered them ALL to Him. There was nothing I could claim my own other than my sin. Those were mine, but everything good was due to Him and I had no right to hold them as my own. And, in order to fully, and I mean “fully” come to Jesus, I had to surrender the one thing He gave me which I could claim as my own and that was my will, too! In truth, although I went through the actual surrendering, it would take the next few months to actualize it by acts and steps, similarly to what God did for me the night of September 3rd. I had the “will” now to be a good husband—despite what would occur. By giving your “will” does not mean at that instant things will get better, but in the timing of God, things are indeed better because He is able to work out His will through the surrendered will, which will bring about the desired results. And we should not forget the enemy will be involved to counter this activity, for it was our will he sought to control. He takes it by force and deception, but it has to be offered to God in love and only achieved by trust. There is no other way.
I saw that night of surrendering the actual power of sin and its hold upon our lives, and it’s far reaching control on us. We, especially men, are held to a higher calling having dire results on our families. Remember Lot and how his family was destroyed by “his” actions or lack, not his daughters although because of his behavior they were able to commit the sin of incest, but his wife. The one he was supposed to be “one” with him, who failed in making the journey with her family, hesitating. Remember Korath and Dathan. Just remember Adam. We, too, have to step up to the plate, as men, and good things can result. I like to describe the effect/power of sin as one who drops a pebble in a still lake. Although at a point you can no longer see the result of the dropped stone, the ripple, but that whole lake’s composition changed. We cannot see the far reaching result of that one act but be sure it does not stop with you. Your spouses, children, grandchildren, friends, everyone is affected by just one mistaken step. Surrendering is the required and necessary step in counteracting against the evil influence.
When I lowered my hands and dried my face and finished talking to God and then listening to Him is when peace and security entered into my heart. No longer had I needed to be afraid. What I long sought for had now been achieved. In the words of God almost a month before, “I ‘was’ going home.” Just the home He meant in the first place. The one no human hand has constructed.
On October 4th, my birthday, God asked me if I were willing to share the message He had given me to others. I told Him I was willing to resume the ministry. How could I not? I had something to say. I finally had that testimony I longed sought for. Like Ezekiel I could not remain silent. It is like fire being shut up in one’s bones because it burns deeply within you, and God recognizes the need to find a way to release that power and provides the opportunity to speak, teach or preach. It’s the reason why so many messages are weak, because there is no power, there is nothing to say, it’s a message of manufacture. It is easy to tell the difference. Thus, when the guard informed me to gather my things, I was overjoyed to be moving—finally, and on my birthday such a pleasant gift from God. There could not have been any other better gift other than letting me go home and being free.
Imagine my surprise when the officer and I went through an adjoining door to the other side of The Hole, opened another cell, introducing me to an inmate who was to be my roommate, still in “The Hole”, but with a complete stranger! I was crushed! I felt tricked. I questioned God why was I not put within a unit. His word came back,
“I told you that you were to move and asked you would you share My word, and you were okay with both of these ideas. You assumed your move would be to Population.”
He was right and I did. Fortunately my new roommate, Jose, was bilingual and I could tease him, saying, “Here I have been in The Hole almost a month thinking I was going to Population, on my birthday, and they stick me in here with you! What a gift!” He enjoyed it and laughed. I was his first roommate as well.
Jose had been in this room since his arrest July 17th! Now, I had no further complaints. He still had no reading material, no personal hygiene products other than what was given initially when you are brought here, made no phone calls, didn’t go out to the recreation yard, as I did not, so basically I was the intruder on the space he had come to call home. Talking with him further, I learned he was five years older than I, the day of his arrest occurred on his birthday, lived in Reading, PA, as I did at one time and drove a Cadillac, as I did, too! The coincidences made me feel uneasy thinking he might have been a “plant” or “snitch” to see if I would speak to reveal anything about my case. What I also learned was Jose was in for similar charges. He received a videotape, watched it and had it in his possession for one week prior to the agents breaking down his door and arresting him and taking his computer, the same model as mine! He, in the beginning said he was facing fifty years, leading me to joke I was placed with a mass murderer and I would have to sleep with one eye open. He hadn’t company or spoken to anyone in so long and because of the nature of his case, which was going to trial later in the month, he was suspicious of me at first and was reluctant to talk about it until I shared with him my case and then, he began trusting me, when I asked him were we similar, too, in our cases. He relented and agreed, we were. And then God took charge and I began to share with him what God had done for me. Beginning in the evening and lasting well into the night, I sat on my bunk bed, he on the hard cement stool, looking up at me with mouth open listening as the Holy Spirit went to work. Jose reminded me of my first father-in-law in appearance and I felt sorry for him. I later learned he received thirty-five years as a sentence. There were other things he had done but not willing to share with me.
Being locked in twenty-three hours a day, neither he nor I wanting to go to the recreational yard, there are those very uncomfortable moments when you cannot hold your bowels any longer and you needed to use the bathroom. The position the toilet is is so you can be seen by a passing guard doing a room check and quite visible to any cellie you have. So, there must be an agreed upon system. When it becomes apparent you can no longer hold it and the gas buildup is too tremendous, you inform the other it was time. The other would turn on his bed and face the wall. The user would sit draping a towel to maintain some sense of dignity, not worrying about the other inmate but someone passing the door and looking in. You dropped and flushed. Dropped and flush. This kept the stool from sitting and allowing gas to escape into the room. Wiping became even more strategic as you tried to wipe and keep the towel in place. In my case, because of uric acid problems, within an hour it would be necessary for me to wipe or suffer from chronic itch and later swollen and bleeding tissue. In the ideal situation, if both had to go at the same time, it would be beneficial because at least for the next twenty four hours or so, you were free from having unpleasant smells. If your cellie was one for the recreation yard or called for court, this would be the best time to handle all of your personal needs without worrying about loss of dignity.
The one benefit, the shower was hot in this room and I was able to enjoy a good shower and shampoo. His room faced the opposite side of the building, which depressed me at times, because I could see where I driven daily going back and forth from my job, and I was able to see as far enough to see the industrial park where Mayra worked. Every day, I looked and longed to be with her.
My first testing would occur in the middle of the first week when one of the orderly’s, a friend of Jose, shoved some magazines under the door. Although they were in Spanish, Jose gave me three of them so I could at least have pictures to see. As I began turning the pages, some of the pictures were revealing and I thought to secretly tear one out to use later when Jose slept and masturbate. It was the strangest thought but it was as if my guardian angel, not God this time, came to me and said,
“Roy, you’ve done so well, almost a month. Do you want to sacrifice your good progress and revert backward? Remember the word God said, He has more to show you but cannot if you do this.”
I closed the magazine and gathered the others and handed them back to him. I did not desire to look at them anymore. I did not want to ruin such good progress and the future promises. I wanted to honor God. As a result of overcoming this test, God honored me by sending me to Population on October 10th; however, I knew I would be going to where the television would be on, where pictures might be made easily available and I knew what I had to do. Follow the first word, “Do not masturbate.” No matter what.