Discover more from Truth Be Told
4 Years -4 Fears
It's not the lessons you learn. It's the ones you remember.
It was my anniversary. One year.
Most of the fears I had coming into prison were gone now.
Getting raped, stabbed, pressured into a gang…
All those things were still threats, but through a series of very fortunate accidents and pure dumb luck, I’d found my way.
I had ‘learned how to move,’ as they say.
But as I stood there alone on that bitterly cold February afternoon, hunkered into my thin prison-issue jacket…
I found myself staring blankly through coils of barbed wire at a stand of trees that may as well have been a thousand miles away.
A very different kind of fear.
“What if it never goes away?” I worried.
The constant hunger in my belly. The dull ache of emptiness in my chest.
There’s a heaviness to it. It weighs on you, constricts your spirit, and deadens your soul.
What if this feeling never goes away?
“What if I feel like this forever?”
2nd Year Fear: Future Blindness
In my second year, they stepped me down, moved me to minimum security.
You’d think things would get easier in minimum security.
Most of the guys in minimum security have never done hard time. They don’t know how to move.
Then there’s the renegades. Guys committed to ‘The Life,’ trying to make a name for themselves.
These lunatics make big moves trying to move up the ladder, even if that means taking out someone who’s stepping down and trying to go home.
In many ways, minimum security is actually more dangerous than high security, more unpredictable. But that wasn’t what scared me.
Up till then, I’d always been able to imagine my future. Pick a point on the horizon, some milestone or achievement… and just start marching toward it, doing all the little things necessary to accomplish my mission — whatever it was.
I’d always been able to imagine my own future and then engineer my way to it.
I even had a name for it: Imagineering.
I’d been doing it all my life.
But not anymore. The daily grind and dull repetition had worn a groove into my brain so deep I couldn’t see my way out.
I’d lost the ability to imagine anything beyond what was in front of me at the moment.
I couldn’t imagine a future for myself — anywhere — doing anything.
I just couldn’t see it.
3rd Year Fear: Losing my religion.
By my third year, I’d gotten real comfortable with Zero.
I was a prison monk, practiced deep meditation several times a day, and read for hours on end.
All my possessions fit into a regulation duffel bag. I’d lost over 100 pounds. I drank cold black coffee. Lived on refried beans and rice.
I was used to the lockdowns, stabbings, stepping over blood on the walk, and navigating the yard when tension and trouble swirled.
The guards and gangs didn’t bother me, and I didn’t bother them.
Life behind bars didn’t scare me at all anymore, but one thing did.
I wasn’t sure I’d ever be released, but if I was, I was scared to death I’d go right back to the chase — the pursuit of More.
More money, more authority, more things, better food, nicer clothes…
That’s what landed me here to begin with — always wanting better, never satisfied with what I had.
I’d done some pretty shitty things to get what I wanted.
And I didn’t want to go back to that.
But I didn’t know how to avoid it either.
4th Year Fear: Remember. Don’t forget.
In my fourth year, I still didn’t believe I’d ever go home, but that’s when I met John.
John was one of the more thoughtful and intelligent guys I’d met inside.
This was his second time in prison, and his parole hearing was coming up. John was pretty certain he’d get his parole and assured me I had an even better chance than him.
“You’re a first-timer. Low risk. They won’t hold you up. You’ll get out no problem.”
I took him at his word but still couldn’t figure out how John got here in the first place — let alone a second time.
"What happened?” I asked him.
“Forget? Ain’t no way, John. Ain’t no way I’ll ever forget this feeling. No way,” I told him.
“Yeah, you will,” John said.
“You’ll get out there, fall back into your old habits, and you’ll forget,” he said.
“You’ll just forget. And when you forget… you’ll be back.”
Three months later, John got his parole and went home.
That was encouraging, gave me hope, and lit my imagination.
It had been so long since I had something hopeful to look forward to.
The clouds of dread and depression began to lift.
I started to imagine a future again.
So why keep talking about it?
People ask me why I bring it up all the time, my stories about prison.
“Let it die already. Let it go. It’s like you’re obsessed with it.”
“Are you looking for sympathy? Aren’t you ashamed?”
I am ashamed, yes. But I’m also scared.
My biggest fear.
My biggest fear is that the feeling I had my first year inside — that fear I was so scared would never go away…?
My biggest fear is that feeling has already slipped away.
The best I can do is try to reimagine it, keep it alive so I never lose it.
That’s why I keep telling these stories.
So I never forget. So that fear never goes away.
I love you guys 😊