The next three months seem slower than all the time prior. This was, now, for the punishment of my wrong acts. I could not realistically consider all the prior time punishment because until the day of sentencing, in my mind, I had done nothing wrong! How can one be punished if not made to understand their error? It goes back, at least for me, to my youth when my parents, before a whipping, discussed why I was going to be whipped. I had to acknowledge I was wrong and then deserving of punishment. After the struggle I endured and acknowledgement, now I could be punished and the time seem to slow down and was exactly that—punishment!
During the first month I struggled because I believed there was no further need to examine self-help books as previously done. Even writing this book was completed except for writing the last chapter when I was released. My chapter notes written and ready to finish. I did not want to involve myself with others, still, in terms of watching television or spending time in the recreation yard. I just wanted to do my time and leave. I even considered doing this time in “The Hole” for two reasons:
- I would be safe from the senseless requirements of the staff regarding maintenance I avoided this far because of not being sentenced, and
- It was where I began and learned valuable lessons. I have always been a nostalgic, sentimental-type person.
Yet, I could not bring myself to request solitary confinement because although I spent most of my time in my room there was something to be said for the freedom of movement, telephone usage and occasional five minute walk to the yard and back and my fifteen minutes of CNN every morning and daily newspaper. I certainly would miss those.
My room began to take on a new meaning. Four persons were brought and pretty much left the following day when they could see the counselor and by my encouraging them to do so and my snoring! I was tired of the struggle here, too. The next person, Ricardo, a Dominican, I decided since being newly inspired and insight received by talks with Mayra about my being happier living alone. I wasn’t! I liked living with people, as long as they adhered to my way of living. I realized not everyone will. The Lord presented me with this thought:
“If I can accept everyone the way they are, why can’t you? Everyone brings their own gift in their individuality.”
I listened to these words and my eyes were opened. Those who whistled, acted childish, and ignorantly were who they were for whatever reason I may not, would not ever understand. But it was who they are. Accept them as such. Ricardo returned from “The Hole” for smoking in his room. I said nothing to him of my room requirements and he fell into place as if he’d been here all along! When the opportunity came for him to have a room change, he asked me if I minded him being here, if so, he would move. I told him if he wanted to stay he was welcomed! It was nice to hear his words, “I like it here.” Wow, what a difference! Sixteen roommates in nineteen months and one likes it here! With me! Actually, now I think about it, fifteen roommates in eight months because for eleven months I was alone. Another inmate, Eddie, at one time number two on the FBI’s Most Wanted List said to me, “I like talking to you. You make me feel good. I know you won’t laugh at me when I tell you I’m scared.” That’s the problem, with not only most men in prison but most men and women everywhere. We have trouble admitting our fears, our disappointments, even our likes to others for fear of being rejected. So, we come up with this image of who we want to be seen as, and we get lost in those identities, some never ever being able to return because they don’t know who they are anymore, hence, the question God had me consider during my time here, “Who Are You?”
The first three months was torturous because the enemy, well, maybe I can’t blame him, because I wanted to fulfill a fantasy I had since first being locked up in Cleveland six years ago. I wanted to take a hit of Crack, up to 5 hits at one time, have my mind completely obliterated while in the presence of a strange woman and have her humiliate me! This thought being rehearsed and planned mostly every waking hour. At times it interfered with my prayer time, and my Bible reading, until I fell asleep. I cried out to God as I sensed myself falling into a depressive state and not wanting to go there, to help me, telling Him I know He has the power to remove this from me. I acknowledge the weakness of my flesh but due to my spiritual life, now, did not want to fulfill this fantasy simply because I was afraid and experienced enough to know if I returned to the very same reason that brought me here, I stood a good chance of being doomed and I did not want that. I begged Him for help, even suggesting Him to overpower, to remove this thought, don’t let me go until it’s done so I won’t fail. (Note: October 25, 2007, I now understand why the thought continued to haunt me, as you shall read in later chapters. God would not remove this thinking until I “surrendered it” to Him and made the effort to stop glamorizing and fueling it. I don’t think about it at all now and was surprised, as I’m editing this chapter, how it could still been a problem, three years later, if I wanted it to continue to be so.) I know if I did this, it would be mockery to God, and in my opinion, time was too close to the end, or it could be the end of me, to take such a potent hit especially having been away from smoking for nearly two years. I don’t think my heart could take it.
The following day while waiting in line for lunch the chaplain had bags of new material for the chapel library. After eating I visited the room where I found this book, “The Ultimate Freedom” by John H. Wyndham. His story was having been a POW during World War II. As I began to read it, I felt a similarity. I, too, am a POW in my war against drugs. He made a statement that was the beginning of the change in my life. He said,
“Also from my Bible companion book (Science and Health with Key to the Scriptures by Mary Baker Eddy) I had learned that we must shut the door of our consciousness against evil suggestions in order that it may be open to the Word of God. In short, I saw that controlling my thoughts meant praying. And praying that wasn’t just asking God to do something for me, but praying that meant thinking truly, deeply, spiritually. From that moment, fearful suggestions, resentful suggestions, hateful suggestions were barred from entering my consciousness. When they came, and they came daily, hourly, and sometimes moment by moment, I absolutely refused to let them in. As these mental suggestions were kept out, divine thoughts began to flow into my consciousness. With a rusty old nail, I scratched the letters ‘C.T’ on the wall of my cell as a constant reminder to control thought.” Pgs. 16, 17
I was overwhelmed. Here was the solution to my problem, and it was not new. Something I had to re-learn. In fact, it was something I had learned the second night of my journey in this place, in “The Hole”, when God told me not to masturbate, to change my thoughts by saying these words,
“Lord, change that thought.”
To date, nearly 21 months later I am still free from that old sin and why could it not work with this one? I submitted. I prayed knowing I did not have to return to “The Hole” to get what I already had. All I needed to do was practice what had already been shown. The first twenty-four hours were successful. The depression was lifted and my mind free of the torture I experienced for these three long weeks.
This morning, as I laid in bed a little longer due to being the Sabbath, a thought came to my mind as a result of this victory, from God, which said,
“It’s really very simple. Either you do it or you don’t.”
The power “does” come from God, but I initiate it by my willingness to comply with a very simple act of letting Him do it.
I asked God to permit me to have two things:
- The gift of healing, and
- To be a prophet.
I believe He is leading me into these areas. I believe my own victories will experience me so I can lead others, as affected as I was, to receive the sobriety I have today. To be a prophet, a “mouthpiece”, for God. To allow myself to be that vessel whereby others can hear from Him, through me. It starts by clearing one’s mind and allowing himself to be open to the indwelling presence of God’s Spirit. True, I shall perhaps never attend Loma Linda University to major in Health Science, nor shall I ever attend Oakwood College in preparatory for ministry, but to have been a student of the University of the Holy Spirit will accredit me to go out and be an effective worker for Him. It has been said the “laity will finish the work”. For too long I have been passing myself off as being a part of the clergy. Not anymore. There is a benefit of being a part of this glorious group, the laity, for it is truly who I am.
God gave me another verse which would now take place of the verses I previously recited every day. It is Isaiah 26:3:
“Thou will keep him in perfect peace, whose mind is stayed on Thee, because he trusteth in Thee.”
Those other verses carried me through the battles I would face prior to this point in my experience, but this verse would carry me until the end. I know upon my release, I will be subjected to temptations both sexually or drug related, or in my case both at the same time. In order to effectively wage a successful war, for me, and I cannot see how it can be any different for others, the battle will be in the mind long before it is ever carried out in the flesh. When I was free a lot of my lost battles were due to having time with nothing to do. I could not lay down and just relax. Not with money in my pocket and a drug dealer on the corner. In here, now I’m learning how to rest. My free-time could be occupied constructively with divine thoughts and not those which will lead me to sin. Programs for drug treatment will try to keep one busy with various vocations to keep one’s mind active. But it will not work in the end because eventually we grow physically tired and must rest. The mind does not need rest, necessarily, and this is where we will lose. We must learn to rest, to be alone, even with a pocket full of money and leave those fears behind and give our minds something worthwhile to think and reflect upon.
God also gave me a vision regarding Luke 17, March 23, 2004, as I began this part of the journey. He showed how those lepers did receive healing as they went forward on their journey to the priest to be accepted; however, one stopped as he recognized a changed appearance of his being and returned to Christ. It was this man who received an extra gift, or finishing of what had begun, a “wholeness” to his life. Not just a change on the outside, but a change inside.
It would be my mission, to a dying world of fellow addicts, prostitutes and those who have given up on life. No longer would I be fearful of attending NA/CA/AA meetings, if required, by my probation officer. I have a message to tell them and it begins with “thoughts”. The Bible is clear that whatever a man thinketh, so is he. So, if you profess to be an addict, guess what? You are! If you believe you will always be one, guess what? You’re right, you will.
Now, I understand what God was revealing that day, years ago during my first meeting in Poughkeepsie, when I could not accept the philosophy of their method of healing. Yes, it’s a good place to begin but not to finish. No born again Christian could ever settle for this method of help as being final. And like the other nine lepers, somewhere down the road, there could be a reversal of their healing experience because they were not made “whole” as the one who did return. Those who profess membership in these pseudo-religious groups are healed but are not whole. They are still held bound by their addiction but do not live a life of true freedom. This is what I want. This is what I want to give others, this knowledge, there is a better way. And it is simple, nothing hard or complicated. Now, I do not have a fear of returning to the outside. I got proof now that this works.
I am the proof!
I was told to pack up my things and was moved to a unit, the last one before it is time to leave. This unit was coveted because from there you would go to half-way housing within six months of your leaving, but I recently learned I could not qualify because of the nature of my offense. All sexually based crimes are exempt. Every day you are assigned a task and many are outside the Unit and/or outside the facility. The Unit is an open which meant we did not lock up as the other units, able to stay out of our cells, watch television at all hours of the night or shoot pool in the recreation yard. Perhaps the one good asset of being in this unit was you had visits every week, twice a week and could make telephone calls later in the evening. Anyone having spent any amount of time here, to reach this unit, know it is a step toward finally being released and men were willing to do whatever it took to get into this unit to have access to these benefits. Those who had any incidents of violent behavior were not permitted and those who received long sentences would be shipped to the Mainland to serve out their time. When I had two months remaining, I was shipped to this unit, with great trepidation because I didn’t want to involve myself in any work requirements which are mandatory to be in this unit. I used to see these guys dressed in different uniforms, looking out the window from the previous units, out to cut grass or other maintenance work. I never wanted to be a part of this crew. My getting outside, fresh air and sunlight only to be teased with having a taste of freedom, was not worth it.
I avoided being chosen for any job the first week and in the second I joined a crew of guys who were painting inmate lockers. I didn’t mind the work and it gave me an opportunity to visit units to see friends. I enjoyed the benefit of being able to speak on the phone longer and more often with Mayra and play pool. When the assignment ended I was asked to sweep and mop one section of our unit. This job would take about an hour to complete and then I was done for the day. Not bad until the Unit Counselor called my name and mandated I should have to wax the floor. I told him I could not. When asked why I couldn’t, I told him I was unable to use the machines because of a previous back injury. He stated there was no record of my having a back injury and I would have to do the work. I refused and later in the day I was again placed in “The Hole”! With the time I had left I didn’t mind. Certainly I would hate not enjoying what freedoms I did receive but I had been here several times before and knew the drill. For me, to stay here until my day of completion was fine but my main concern was I didn’t want to lose my credit for “good behavior” and instead of being released in November having to stay an additional three months.
During this time I wished I had been able to get the first cell I was in when I was first brought here. I asked for it but was given one along the same row. It was a time for me to reflect on this journey. I found it easier to adjust than previously and thought how just two years ago I was first brought here. The fears, anxieties, and doubts I suffered those days and how they resolved themselves into something productive. How so much time passed and how much better I felt as a man, a person, a Christian. I considered what I would be doing upon my release, and settled within myself my future would not be here in Puerto Rico and return to the States. I thought about the Words given to me by God and how He helped me during this time to be determined and not return to the world the way I left, struggling with substance abuse and sexual compulsions. It had to be over, my previous life; otherwise, this whole time spent here was a waste.
When I had my interview with the Counselor to discuss my reason for refusing work, it was determined I would not return to the coveted unit but placed within another unit. He thought it interesting when I requested to just remain where I was until my time to depart but my request was denied. I made him aware I would not be changing my position regarding working here and had no problems whatsoever being returned here and if he felt this is where I would end up, again, let me stay until my release. I was given my date to leave “The Hole” with the suggestion of seeing a doctor to have it noted of my physical debility and it would satisfy everyone and I wouldn’t have to be concerned with doing anything that might prove to be harmful to myself; however, I would be required still to do something in the unit being a “sentenced” inmate now. Again, I made it clear, I had no trouble remaining assigned to this unit. The message was understood—by both. I was assigned to a unit originally reserved for illegal immigrants. The facility was undergoing reorganizing to accommodate staffing requirements as well as one particular unit taken offline for some reason or other. I was reunited with a few friends as well as mixed with Haitians, Dominicans, Chinese and others who attempted to make it to our shores unlawfully and failed. It was my intention to maintain a low profile because my days were few and I didn’t want to chance risk loosing my “Good Time” credit based upon some guard or counselor’s quirk or personality conflict. I was nearing the door and could not see myself being here after Thanksgiving and the other holidays and let out in February 2005. In a way, I didn’t care because I would remain in good weather here in Puerto Rico as long as possible without seeing the full brunt of winter in the States, where I knew I eventually would be headed, but I just did not want to stay a day longer than I needed.
The one downside of this time of my life was losing my visiting privileges with Mayra. A counselor, going through records, learned she and I divorced the previous year and she no longer qualified as “family”. I didn’t mind , although our visits were going well, but not only for me being a hassle having to deal with lines, strip-searches, etc., but I’m sure it was becoming a hassle for her as well, conforming to the less frequent visits now I was back in a less privileged unit. We could still talk on the phone and write. I would be home soon anyway…at least, it was still my hope.