Rare Bird — Book Review

The book no one wants to write… the book everyone needs to read.

I have read many books over the past 55 years, ranging from theological to history to biography to technical. Of all of them I would have put two books in the above category, until now.

Weak and Loved by Emily Cook (about her daughter’s seizures)

And She Was a Christian by Peter Preus (about his wife’s suicide)

Now, the third one, Rare Bird by Anna Whiston-Donaldson (about her son’s death). This is a book about her son’s death and the family’s journey in the trail afterward. 514slwUS0PL._SX335_BO1,204,203,200_

I had read her blog accounts over the past 4 years, getting bits and pieces of the story. Yet I did not have any further insights. This book covers the details of Jack’s death, and immediate reactions. But even more Anna reveals the depth of the loss and the path that she and her husband followed, and their daughter.

Anna writes in such a way that she draws the reader to want to be at the river’s edge shouting for someone to help Jack, or Anna, or Margaret, or Tim… She reveals the torment, the futility, the “what-ifs” that inevitably arise in such circumstances. The tale of tragedy and the brokenness of life was gripping, and I wanted to read it all in one sitting.

But I could not. The pain, the agony was too much. At one point I couldn’t read it for 5 days, it was too overwhelming for me. I can’t even imagine the days for Anna and the family. She couldn’t put Jack’s death and her life aside for even an hour, like I could with the book.

Anna offers insights throughout a 2-3 year process of living with this. As a pastor I have seen people respond with love for the family when a death occurs, but often the continual support begins to wane after a few weeks or months. She doesn’t give us a short snapshot of this process. Because there is no short snapshot. Instead she walks the reader through the long path of grief. Anna also describes the changing nature of her grief, letting us see the depth of grief, but also the extent of the grief. Not very often do people learn about what she went through without having gone through the experience itself. Anna provides a flashlight through her own experience so that we can walk that path, yes, in a sense with her, but more importantly with someone close to us who is walking that path.

We lost our son for many years, not through death, but through prison and then him going missing for 17 years. Many times in my own despair I thought, “If only it would end. The unknown is too difficult.” We grieved throughout that period. But after reading this book, I realize that even an end does not stop the hurting, the loss, the grieving.

In another way, though, Anna helped me to realize something of our grief based on what she experienced. There were things, events, etc. we could not participate in or go to. Holidays, birthdays, anniversaries were not celebrated because the pain was too much. Sometimes people were constant reminders of what we lost. Anna describes this sense of loss so well.

I also found that I could not share with many people what I was experiencing (it took many years for me to learn how to communicate), because I realized that many people didn’t understand, and sometimes what they said was hurtful (even though not intentionally). Anna also shares with the reader the sense of gratitude for those faithful people who stood by them in the darkest days, weeks, months, and yes, years. Loving, helpful people who sometimes just allowed her to cry. We experienced Christian friendship like that, too.

When I was stationed in the Navy in 1974, my only uncle died at age 49. My grandmother was 64 at the time (two years younger than I am now). I remember standing beside the casket and she said, “No parent should ever have to bury her child.” That memory is clear to me today as it was 41 years ago. And Anna’s book is a monument to those words.

And yet… my grandmother continued to live through that. And Anna has lived through this loss. This book is a book of loss, despair, anger, frustration, courage, and strength, all because of God. As Anna explored aspects of death and coming to grips with it, she shows to the reader, the winding path she is on, but ultimately the path which Jesus walked with her. This is a book of help and hope for everyone. It is memoir of loss and love, and the God who is present through it all.

Looking back now, because the sense of loss was so close to me, yet nowhere near the loss that Anna and her family experienced, I don’t think I could re-read it right now. It is too emotional for me. I marvel that Anna could even write what she did. And I am very grateful for what she did. It truly is…

The book no one wants to write… the book everyone needs to read.

Thanks, Anna, for opening your heart on such a personal, deep level.

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How long, O Lord?

The Psalmist wrote: “How long, O LORD? Will You hide Yourself forever?” (Psalm 89:46).

For many Christians that refrain becomes not just a lament of the moment, but a searing reminder, day after day, year after year. “How long, O LORD?” A sense of abandonment by God. Perhaps you are thinking such a thought is unacceptable for a Christian to utter. For one who has been through the agony, the thought is a frequent companion, and the words express the painful, long, unending wait.

The person calling out to God does so in a loud wail and in a soft whimper. The intensity is not shaped by the volume but by the breaking heart.

Sometimes the plea is met with a bargain, “God if You… then I…” Other times with a complaint, “What have I done to go through this?” And even with a condemnation, “Yes, Lord, I have sinned and this is my punishment.” But even that does not remove the plea.

It can be hard for others to minister to a person who has the ache of “How long, O LORD?” The drain can be overwhelming just listening to it, let alone living it. It is little wonder that many feel the loneliness even among Christians. I treasure each person who walked with us at various stages of our own 37 years of uttering the cry within our hearts.

Having lived that cry of “How long, O LORD?” for 37 years, I have a few observations to make about myself and others. See Too important and The ugliness of the missing. At times the intensity of my cry was such that a full day was too much to handle. If I could make it to mid morning… if I could make it to lunchtime… if I could make it to bed time… if I could only get to sleep, one night.

Tears, anger, frustration, pity, edginess, sadness, helplessness, yes, they were part of my diet for 37 years. Sometimes the periods of relief (no calls from the police, etc.) were so welcomed that I would feel guilty for the break.

Time was measured, waiting for an answer to “How long, O LORD?” For years it seemed as if time stood still. Looking at the clock seemed the obvious solution, as if the time would pass more quickly. But for what benefit? My own discomfort, angst, relief? Yet, measuring time only amplified the sense of “How long.” Yet 37 years gives me a perspective of Paul’s desire for the unbelieving Israelites in Romans 9:

I am telling the truth in Christ, I am not lying, my conscience testifies with me in the Holy Spirit, that I have great sorrow and unceasing grief in my heart. For I could wish that I myself were accursed, separated from Christ for the sake of my brethren, my kinsmen according to the flesh. (Romans 9:1-3)

That, too, was on my heart.

Not “How long?” But “How Amazing!”

A little over a week ago our son sent a letter to us, confessing his faith in Jesus Christ. He wrote about this being the first time he had peace in his heart. Bible reading has become a staple for his daily spiritual life. Not only has he received forgiveness from God, but he is learning to forgive himself—as Paul wrote: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus…” (Romans 8:1). Knowing what he had been through physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually, this is monumental!

In the letter he also thanked us for always loving him, even when he was the worst. He had often said over the years that he could not figure out how we could still love him after all he had done and said. I told each time that it was because of God’s love in Jesus that we could love him. (We love, because He first loved us. 1 John 4:19). Now he is believing and receiving it.

Paul also wrote,

for He says, “at the acceptable time I listened to you, and on the day of salvation I helped you.”
Behold, now is “the acceptable time,” behold, now is “the day of salvation” — (2 Cor. 6:2)

So what has changed? We obviously are rejoicing. But as I do so, I am quietly reflective on all this. Was the 37 years of pain, uncertainty, fear, heartache worth it? Absolutely! Was it a living hell? Many times it was, but I would not trade one minute of the 37 years for the joy now of our son confessing Jesus Christ as Lord. In other words, I no longer think in terms of “how long?” But rather, how each moment was part of God’s working in his heart, even unknown to us. Indeed, how amazing!

Our son is learning this truth every day:

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life. And not only this, but we also exult in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received the reconciliation. (Romans 5:6-11)

“How long, O LORD?” is now answered with: “Forever!” Because of our common confession in Jesus Christ, we have an eternity to share with our son. I won’t even have to count minutes, hours, days, weeks, years, or decades, as I had been. Now is the time, today is the day of salvation.

And we give thanks to God for His patience, love, mercy, and amazing grace—to all of us! The plea changes to praise in song!

Amazing Grace

Kay’s Shoes

[One of my friends posted a while ago. This is her second guest post]

Kay’s mother was a high school cheerleader, popular and pretty. In her mind she had a bright future until she discovered she was pregnant. This child was the end of that perceived future. She put on abundant pounds as she lamented her loss.  Once Kay was born, her mother propped a bottle to feed her and used a plunger to administer baby food so wasn’t burdened by having to hold the child. Kay was blamed for her mother’s miserable life and all her failures. Kay grew up starving to be held, starving for love.

Kay grew from a quiet loving child to a young woman struggling with drugs, men, and her own children. She tried so hard to get things right but continued to struggle. Imagine the first day she heard of the Lord’s true love for her. Imagine the tears in her eye and the breaking of her hard heart when she heard that He had lived the perfect life in her place. He loved her even while she lived with all her failures. He would remove her guilt, shame and failures (her filthy rags) and replace them with His coat of Righteousness. He gave her His true love that lasts forever.

We cannot understand her sorrow turned to joy until we slip into Kay’s shoe. Just seeing the change in Kay isn’t enough of the picture; we have to live with her the hurt, the mud she struggles with, and cry her hurts before we can experience the joy of her true love, hope and faith. We should be the whisperer of encouragement, the teller of The Way. This is the work that the Lord has put before us. Slipping on our neighbor’s shoes, seeing with their eyes, feeling with their broken hearts; then their stories can become our stories; we share their burdens with prayer and love. We are the arms, legs, hearts, and minds of Christ for them. dsc02738

Christ is more than our example; He is The Way. On the cross when He said, “It is finished,” it was not for dramatic effect because everything has been accomplished by Him for us.  Now He tells us to share His love with every person, the Kay’s and the Clark’s of the world. Can’t you see their tears, their anguish? Can’t you feel His love calling you, moving you to share His love with them? He holds out His robe of Righteous for each one of us; wiping away our tears, removing our stains. We put on His perfect life in exchange for our sad one. What joy! The Divine swap makes our feet beautiful and our words sweet.

He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, so that we might become the righteousness of God in Him. (2 Corinthians 5:21 NAS).

Kay’s shoes are there waiting for you to slip on. Walk beside her, love her, tell her the good news that she is not alone. She is never alone; Christ is forever with her. He loves her.

Who Am I? Reflections

I take this opportunity to thank my friend for writing the five part series: Who am I? The range of human sin and emotions, overwhelmed by the grace of God, the love that sustains. We rejoice in his story, and even more in God’s story. As I reflected on this series one thing stuck out:

Ten years—no visitors

That is hard for me to imagine, and yet not so hard. We went ten years without any contact from our son. He was in prison most of that time. We know he had no family visits, but maybe a couple friends. So, yes, I can imagine. No family, no friends, just prison and fellow inmates—in the image to the right, not even one of those impersonal contacts.

That is the epitome of loneliness. How does one deal with such isolation? What impact will that have on the person’s life?

Frequent visitors

This last week I came across another blog that presented a view of imprisonment from a family member’s perspective (a role I am very familiar with). Shannan reveals her frequent visits to her son who was in prison. Most of the contact was over the phone. But now the visit was face-to-face.

Shanna’s story: Reconciled

I threw it out often, “Ask us anything! We’ll answer!”

But he hung back at the ropes, listening to all our stories, sharing his own. Never asking.

Until, one night, he did. “What’s the worst thing you’ve ever done?” he asked across the crackling prison line.

Her answer, unexpected by her son, the prisoner, began a new (positive) phase in their relationship.

The Hard Question

This brings me to my own reflections about our older son and his many times in prison. [Read the story here] This last week I mentioned that we have seen our son only one time in almost 17 years. The pain is there, the hurt is never far away.

Someone then asked me whether we had hired an investigator to look for him after all this time. I appreciated the genuine interest and concern. But the question stopped me for a moment. How do I answer this? Am I responsible for the continued gulf between us?

In all honesty I responded, “I’m not sure I (or my wife) could handle trying to search for him. That sounds almost uncaring, but for our own protection we are not at that place.”

We are concerned about him and yes, we still love him. But we have a history going back to 1978 with him and the deepening pain in living with him, without him, not knowing about him. I admitted to myself: Can we endure opening that door and exposing our selves not only to the painful memories but also to new pains, concerns, and agonies?

Right now for me that is a protective measure on my part. Is that appropriate? I have read the Prodigal Son parable for many decades. As I studied in detail in the 1990’s, one thing I noticed. The father in the parable does not seek everywhere to find his son. Rather, after the son has reached bottom, and the son returns to the Father, the father runs to meet him at the edge of the village to protect him from the ridicule and scorn of the villagers for what he had done. If our son were to contact us, then we would respond like the father.

I do know that in my ministry I have (and still do) minister to families who are going through some of the anguish that we endured from 1978 to 1998. And some who may be facing the not-knowing that we have faced from 1998 to the present. Every time it is a reminder of pain with flashbacks to knowing what people are experiencing, but also a reminder of God’s faithfulness to us, even when we were not.

Final thoughts

If nothing else from my story and the story of this friend, and Shannan’s story, that we live with life as we experience it. I wish that life were easier, that the pain would stop, the questions would not arise. I wish that families would not experience the loneliness of imprisonment, the fear and uncertainty of the missing, the sleepless nights of worry. But it is God who is the greater One, the One who sustains us in the deepest valleys. The One who reassures us that He will never leave us or forsake us. And that makes living worth living.

Who Am I? Pt 5

Part 4 (with links to parts 12-3)

Forgiveness and justification were life-giving words to me. But the forgotten twins of guilt and shame frequently haunted me on my journey. Through the wounds that I have experienced and suffered some stand out boldly to me in almost every conversation regarding faith. Forgiveness and being justified, contrary to the world view, are true words of freedom. But these deep running wounds often resulted in feelings of guilt and shame, which clung to the memory of my sins.

From my own personal experience the weight of guilt and shame hung around my neck like a millstone. Guilt overwhelmed me in two ways: false guilt (guilt for something someone else had done), and true guilt (guilt for my own sins).

False guilt came through the physical abuse that I suffered from my father’s hand and the berating of my step-father’s words. I continually felt guilt that I had done something wrong, even when I had not. These feelings of guilt affected how I viewed myself.

Genuine guilt (from my own sinful words and actions) often arose by asking the “if only” questions of life. (“If only I would have not said that…, if only I would have behaved…, if only I would have made better choices…, if only I would have stayed in the military…”). Both types of guilt only served to sink deeper into the pit of despair.

Even more I learned the hard way that a life full of regret and disappointment fosters a sense of shame, shame before others and especially before God, for what I had done.

The burden of guilt and shame weighed heavily on me. With every job application, interview, and personal meeting I had with people, the shame of my choices became my constant burden. Even now I struggle with guilt and shame as my poor decisions resurface to drive me back into a pit of despair. The message of the scripture for us to, “…let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water,” (Hebrews 10:22 NAS) was often lost on me in dealing with these emotions.

In my limited ministry experience I have encountered these feelings of guilt and shame on numerous occasions. Going back into prisons and jails to minister to others, I fight the “if only” statements ring resoundingly like being stuck in a bell tower at the noon hour. “If only I wouldn’t have gotten caught…, if only my parents would have loved me more…, if only the cops wouldn’t have been so quick to get there…, if only I would have made better choices…”

While every circumstance and situation in this environment is different, I discovered a common refrain: the heart felt plea/question of the individual is like my own. This is not limited to a prison life. Recently I sat with my best friend who was taken to the ER for a serious blood clot. Sitting by his side and with his family their words echoed in my head, “If only we would have eaten healthier…, if only I would have gone to the doctor…, if only I wouldn’t have yelled at my dad….”

The separation that sin causes that robs us of the peace, comfort and hope that only Christ can offer; and guilt and shame rise up to push harder against the gospel.  I have also learned that two passages help me deal with the guilt and shame:

Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you (not the removal of the filth of the flesh, but the pledge of a good conscience toward God) through the resurrection of Jesus Christ. (1 Peter 3:21 HCSB)

Note that Baptism saves, and cleanses the conscience. Further, my battles with shame were not unique as expressed in the Psalms and Isaiah prophesied (fulfilled in Christ, therefore mine by faith in him):

Guard my soul and deliver me; do not let me be ashamed, for I take refuge in You.  (Psalm 25:20 NAS)

“Fear not, for you will not be put to shame; and do not feel humiliated, for you will not be disgraced; but you will forget the shame of your youth, (Isaiah 54:4 NAS)

In Christ, everything is given freely in Christ: forgiveness of sins, cleansing of conscience, and freedom from shame.

In the wounded healer ministry the gospel alone serves as the sole source of comfort to me or anyone who if feeling the weight of sin.

“A minister is not a doctor whose primary task is to take away the pain….When someone comes with his loneliness to the minister, he can only expect that his loneliness will be understood and felt, so that he no longer has to run away from it but can accept it as an expression of his basic human condition…No minister can save anyone. He can only offer himself as a guide to fearful people.” (Wounded Healer)

The wounded healing of the wounded healer is comprised of making his own wounds a hospitable place for those who are wounded and looking for understanding and consolation. Understanding my own wounds and healing serves as the starting point of ministry with others. It is only when I begin to look at the miraculous restoration and healing that Christ has worked in my life that I can begin to understand that in my woundedness that I can become the source of ministry for others.

Who Am I? Pt 4

Part 1, Part 2, Part 3

While I was no better off than them I knew that going back to a prison cell was not something that I wanted. So one night I remember laying in my bed in my room and began to recall all the things that I had experienced, and for the first time began to think about what my future held. Thoughts of my friends’ actions and mentality began to creep in, as well as a realization that their choices and decisions were not the ones that I was envisioning for my future. As I lay there that night I began to stew in my past and what a miserable hand that I had been dealt. I thought deeply about all of my life’s regrets and what had become to the 35 year old man.

I thought of my dad, step-father and mother. For the first time in my life I began to see the consuming anger and hatred that my life had become to the point of despair. For some reason that night I also thought of those messages that I heard in my grandparents’ church, those messages that my step-father preached, yet had not practiced, those messages that chaplains and preachers brought to me in some of the deepest and darkest times in my life. That night, through the anger, fear and hatred I began to recall those Biblical stories that told of a caring, kind, and compassionate God that desired happiness and peace for His sheep.

That night I began to see that what I desired is what I had been fleeing. No parting of the clouds or a burning bush but simply a softening of a very hardened heart, by which I could view these things in a differing light. Beyond my calloused flesh, I began to see the distant, flickering promise of God and a scripture, that I can never recall hearing before, began to settle on my heart, “I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world” (I didn’t know it was John 16:33, would soon).

I remember lying there that night, and for the first time since my mom was given the cancer diagnosis, prayed through a torrent of tears a very simple prayer, “God help me!” and I fell asleep. I awoke the next morning, still the same angry and tormented person, and tried to forget the previous night’s thoughts chalking it up to stress and desperation but with a new found realization of wanting to escape my present reality.

That next morning I had an job interview with someone that I had never met but who had heard through a Christian friend that I was looking for work. Despite my anger and stubbornness I found that something extraordinary might be going on. I met with the gentlemen and began working as a landscaper the very same day. After a month of working for him I had been promoted to a manager and had amassed enough money to move out on my own.

For the first time my past took a backseat to my future. Around this time the office manager of the landscape company asked me out on a date and I readily agreed. It did not take very long for her to express her Christian faith to me. It did not take long for me to see that she valued her relationship with God. I tried refute her position using shared pieces of my life and all of my reasoning behind my anger toward God. She sat patiently listening to my tirade, and then took out a Bible and began reading to me the scripture that had been placed on my heart a month ago. That verse from John 16:33 began to wrap my heart as she gently and lovingly began to show me a little of the trials and tribulations that she had faced in her life.

For the first time ever, I felt like I was not alone. As she began to share her own anger and resentment toward God I could not help but feel that there was something to it all. Many nights she continued to listen to this conflicted, angry man as he came to terms with the misplaced hostility toward God. She invited me to church; the whole time we sat in amazement as the pastor spoke directly into our lives.

We began attending Bible studies and exploring together the scriptural truths of God’s Word. Through the study of the scripture, the exploration of my past and the love and kindness of this amazing woman I began to view God not as a make-believe figure whom I could blame for everything but as a kind, loving and compassionate Lord who gave so dearly in order to free us all from the bondage and slavery to sin. We were married at that church, and Christ was no longer a foreign object to me but the foundation upon which our marriage was to be built. Yet again, a new reality had set in.

The Wounded Healer

From my many scars of deep and serious wounds (imposed or self-inflicted), I am beginning to understand what Nouwen meant. Nouwen states that the minister, “is called to be the wounded healer, the one who must look after his own wounds but at the same time be prepared to heal the wounds of others. He is both the wounded minister and the healing minister….” (Wounded Healer, 82) For the minister there is a connection between the suffering that this world has to offer and the suffering in the minister’s heart that leads to the precept of a wounded healer. The wounded healer is one who takes his own loneliness and suffering and through that lens of understanding creates a “hospitable space” for all of those who are wounded and looking for understanding and consolation. The wounds of the minister enable him to enter into the pain and affliction that the person is enduring, begin to understand them on a different level and connect with the person through a mutual suffering.

“For the minister is called to recognize the sufferings of his time in his own heart and to make that recognition the starting point of his service. Whether he tries to enter into a dislocated world, relate to a convulsive generation, or speak to a dying man, his service will not be perceived as authentic unless it comes from a heart wounded by the suffering about which he speaks.” (Wounded Healer, xiv)

I wish this could be the end of the story. But there is more…

Who Am I? Pt 3

See Part 2 here.

This new reality and routine continued on in my life until the fall of that year when I was again summoned to another office, but this time it was the Chaplain’s office. I vividly recall sitting in that chair and listening to the chaplain explain that my mother had finally lost her battle with cancer. He offered to pray with me as he explained that our God who is rich in compassion and cared for me dearly, who would not forsake or leave me during this time.

With this news and through my floodgate of tears I lashed out verbally at him telling him of what I thought of his God. No longer could I contain my anger, fears, and outrage at life and what it had given me. I was sure going to let him, and everybody I ran across, know what I thought of this fictitious deity.  Soon after I stopped going to classes, began masking my pain with alcohol and marijuana use, and was given a hardship discharge from the military. Being an only child and having the rest of my family succumb to death I decided to stay in the area. Instead of looking at the new reality that I found myself in, I focused on the past and the entirety of what my life had become. I was angry, hateful, full of resentment—overall mad at the world. Words alone cannot express the depth of the emotions that seeped from every pore of my body.

I continued to deal with all of these emotions and pains by abusing substances that would allow me not to feel anything beside the sadness that dwelt within me. It was not long before I had yet again fallen into the “wrong crowd” and surrounded myself with people who were of the same ilk. I became good friends with the pot dealer who lived across the hall from me and we would spend every night, for the better part of a year, partying and selling marijuana to others. One night that all changed though— through a tip to the police we were raided and arrested in my apartment for possession, burglary and theft.

I spent the next nine months of my life in the county jail where my anger and frustration with life only seemed to grow more deeply and manifest in more ways. Eventually I was sentenced to fourteen years in the state prison. Now these feelings of anger, hatred, and embroiled passion manifested themselves toward any of those hypocritical, Bible-thumping Christians. I spent the next ten years of my life confined in numerous prisons throughout the state. I made sure that everyone I encountered knew how angry I was with their make-believe God.

Through my penal tour I became known and feared as a “bible basher” who would do some pretty deplorable things to anyone who professed a faith in Christ. Child molesters, woman abusers and rapists were often the target of my anger as they so desperately sought to go to these church services where God gave them such a false comfort and security.  Not one time in this ten year span did I ever enter a chapel, attend a service, or accept any amount of help from a religious community or group.

While I was released from the confines that I had so desperately wanted flee, I was still filled with anger and hatred. The new reality that I now faced was one of fear as I stood before the world a free man, but a free man who had no place within society. Ironically, the only places, people, and organizations that would help someone in my situation were those Christian groups that I despised so much. Not wanting to join the ranks of the hypocrites, I began my journey of new found freedom not by accepting any help from them, but by continuing on in my obstinate anger, and hence my own self-made prison.

Living in a shelter and endlessly searching for work proved to be quite challenging for an ex-convict with little work history and obvious anger issues. This routine continued for a month or so until I ran into some friends of mine from prison who offered me a place to stay as they too could relate to the difficulties in transitioning back into society.

Eager to escape the shelter I jumped at the opportunity for this new found freedom, but it did not take long before, yet again, reality kicked in. My friends, plain and simple, were up to no good as they were already back into the lifestyle that had led them to prison in the first place. While in one breath they would praise the freedom they had on the “outside,” in the next breath they would talk about how they could get their next fix or how they could rob and rip off people to support themselves.

Now my prison had no visible walls, but my prison was just as real.