It was early April, 1991 and I had to submit my parole packet before my board in June.
My parents would not be back to the U.S. for me to live with them, so the plan was to stay with my grandmother in Connecticut. That plan changed when we felt like it was smarter to stay with my grandfather. He had been a Connecticut State Trooper for fifty years and it seemed as if this would be a more ideal situation on paper. Even though they divorced when my dad was a kid, my grandparents only lived about a block away from each other. They would both be around to help me out.
We looked into a cosmetology school near my grandparents and found one that I thought would work out. Since it didn’t ever seem like I would get into the inmate barber shop, this would have to be the avenue I pursued. Also included in my packet was, a statement from me that went something like this:
“Through my involvement in Narcotics Anonymous and Drug and Alcohol Related Incidents classes, I have been able to comprehend my dependency. I have learned ways to help prevent relapse. I feel that I need a second chance to prove that I have learned my lesson. I will be attending a Cosmetology School in CT and my father will be paying the tuition. I will be living with my grandfather.”
This was combined with a letter from my grandmother and a letter from my grandfather. I was still waiting to hear from the Connecticut State employment agency for some job placement assistance. This was necessary to show that I would be gainfully employed instead of returning back to negative sources of income. The last thing I needed was a letter from my dad, which he told me was in the mail.
From what I had been hearing, no one made their first parole board. Even though you might be eligible, if you had not served at least fifty percent of your sentence, it would be a no go. Feeling like my packet was pretty good and the fact I had a lot of family support, I thought it could go either way. However, I told my parents that if I didn’t make it the first time I would be okay with it. It made me feel more comfortable with the idea of being able to live with my parents than living with my grandparents.
At this point there was nothing else I could do other than submit what I had, wait for the rest and continue to serve my time until further notice.
It was after dinner in the mess hall, I had just finished wiping down all the stainless steel tables and chairs, as well as sweeping and mopping the floors on the 3 Wing side. The next task was to do the same thing on the 4 Wing side. The guard that was in charge of keeping tabs on us was sitting at a desk on the 3 Wing side. They rarely came over since cleaning the room and rolling in the silverware and plate carts were the only times we went in there.
As I began to wipe down the tables and chairs, I noticed Jim Woods walked into the room acting very nervous and suspicious. He kept looking back over his shoulder and moved quickly over to the table that I was cleaning. When he stopped, he opened up his hand and said “Dude look.” Sitting in the palm of his hand were two white square pieces of paper about a quarter the size of a postage stamp.
With the intense paranoia of the moment and the fear of getting caught, I instinctively grabbed one of them and threw it into my mouth. Taking it was a knee jerk reaction, when I recognized that what Jim was showing me was two hits of LSD, I just took one. I am still uncertain if he actually meant for me to have one of them, but it was too late. As soon as the one I took was gone, he ate the other one.
The rest of the day was crazy. Since I had been clean for almost two years, this drug hit me like it was the first time I experimented with it. The familiar shades of pink and green shadows appeared around everyone and everything that moved. The hair on my arms began to sway back and forth like fields of grain in the wind and I was fixated on watching it for what seemed like hours. In actuality it was probably only a few seconds.
Either the fear of being found out or the need to see what I looked like, lead me to the bathroom mirror. This was a common occurrence when taking acid. Everyone that did it knew that if you went to a mirror, you could get lost there for hours. When I flipped the light switch on I noticed that not only did my pupils not shrink down, but they were huge, maybe twice or three times the size as normal. My skin seemed to be very dirty and broken out, with the same pink and green cast to it that I experienced earlier. As I touched my face, it was numb and the skin moved around as if it were not attached. Someone had to go to the bathroom and so I quickly made my way to the dining area again.
Sitting at a table with Jim, we stayed away from everyone else as we watched their figures shrink, expand, stretch and contract. We couldn’t understand what people were saying to each other because their voices were slow and slurred as if time was beginning to move in reverse. And then the giggles kicked in. Everything seems to be funny for no reason. We chuckled in a weird sort of nervous laughter that we tried to keep muffled because we didn’t want anyone to know we were tripping out.
At some point one of the kitchen Cadre, came over and told us to grab the rolling garbage cans to be taken outside. As Jim and I somehow functioned through this, the Sergeant never caught on to us. It was dark outside and so that helped conceal our condition. We took the garbage to a bin and threw it all away, laughing the whole time. The Sergeant kept looking at us like we were stupid and he was not amused.
After the shift ended, I headed out of the Castle back to B-6. As I walked through the courtyard, I could feel some of the effects lifting away. Not completely, but I had a grasp on what was going on and I could feel myself coming back into more control. Proceeding up the steps and through the doors, I walked up to the guard desk and signed in while doing my best to avoid eye contact with the guard. Heading upstairs, I was looking for Wally to borrow some music.
He was right at the top of the stairs playing pool and as I got closer to him, he saw my eyes and asked me quietly, “Where did you get it from?” He knew right away what had happened without me saying a word. I told him that it was all gone and after getting some CD’s from him, I went back to my bunk. There sitting on my desk was my mail.
Sifting through the letters, I pulled out one from my dad. It seemed thicker than normal. After I opened the envelope I realized that it contained the letter he wrote on my behalf to the parole board. As I read through it I began to feel guilty, because he was saying some pretty nice things about me. It was the last statement that hit me like a ton of bricks.
My father wrote:
“I would stake my reputation, my career and my life, that my son would never do drugs again.”
What was I thinking?
Why did I do something like this now?
What would have happened to my dad if he actually put all of this up for collateral?
How was it that this letter showed up on the very same day that I had taken drugs again?
Becoming overwhelmed with emotion my eyes began to well up. It could have been the impending depression from the drugs wearing off or it could have been guilt that was affecting me. Tears started to fall from my eyes and run down my cheeks as I began to realize the impact that my choices and decisions were having on people who did not live in my skin.
I was a hypocrite for what I wrote in my parole statement.
I had betrayed the trust that my loved ones had been investing in me.
The pain from the shame was unbearable.
It was at this moment, I knew that something needed to change and that something was me. Vowing to God that there was no turning back, I made a decision that I was never going to do that again.
I am reminded of the Apostle Paul’s struggle:
Romans 7:15-20 The Message (MSG)
14-16 I can anticipate the response that is coming: “I know that all God’s commands are spiritual, but I’m not. Isn’t this also your experience?” Yes. I’m full of myself—after all, I’ve spent a long time in sin’s prison. What I don’t understand about myself is that I decide one way, but then I act another, doing things I absolutely despise. So if I can’t be trusted to figure out what is best for myself and then do it, it becomes obvious that God’s command is necessary.
17-20 But I need something more! For if I know the law but still can’t keep it, and if the power of sin within me keeps sabotaging my best intentions, I obviously need help! I realize that I don’t have what it takes. I can will it, but I can’t do it. I decide to do good, but I don’t really do it; I decide not to do bad, but then I do it anyway. My decisions, such as they are, don’t result in actions. Something has gone wrong deep within me and gets the better of me every time.
Doesn’t this describe us all?
Thank you Jesus for paying the price for my stupidity. I am a broken mess.
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