WELCOME TO THE LAND OF FAILURE, IT’S BEAUTIFUL HERE. ADVICE ON APPROACHING INCARCERATION FEARLESSLY.
If you or your loved one is facing incarceration, or are already in prison, there are a few pointers I would like to share to make life a bit easier. You may have heard or read a wide variety of experiences inmates have had and don’t know what to think of the unknown abyss of confusion that surrounds a prison sentence. At the end of the day, the journey is how you create and perceive it. Your perception is your reality. You have the power to navigate and control the way you look at, and serve, a prison sentence.
Fear is the biggest hurdle anyone has to overcome. For me, my mind ran wild as I approached the end of my freedom. It didn’t matter what time day or night, one tiny thought would enter my brain, instantly grow roots, and take over, sending me spiraling into the depths of depression. Unfortunately hiding under the covers won’t save you from the feds. It’s time to face those fears that are haunting you. Embracing failure, letting go and understanding you no longer have control, and not worrying about fitting in are three topics that most commonly propel fear. Let’s talk about them.
1. EMBRACING FAILURE
Nothing says failure quite like a prison sentence. The negative emotions that swirl around in your brain in the beginning of your incarceration can become a vortex of hell. That negativity and the unknown can spin your brain
into a complete mess, and it doesn’t end there. Even the smallest event or important date that is missed, even years into your sentence, can turn the sturdy footing under your feet into a landslide propelling you into dangerous territory.
But here at the bottom, you have this unique opportunity to recreate yourself and embrace the fact that you have failed. Most indictments are not quiet at all. I know I was in the papers, and on the news and internet. But don’t worry, everyone you are incarcerated with is right there with you.
Here is where you rest, and where you sit with that failure, without distraction, until you find a way to feel comfortable with it, until you can embrace that failure and forgive yourself for the mess you have made. You must accept your situation and you must be honest with yourself and stay right here and now. Some people swear up and down they never did anything wrong and they fight like hell for their freedom filing motion after motion, and that is ok. Even if that is the path you choose, it’s imperative to do your time graciously and making this the time to accept whatever your failures might be, is an important step to peace. .
One lesson an inmate learns from prison is the value of freedom. While you learn to appreciate what you lost, here is where it is acceptable to purge all your dark secrets and come completely clean. There is no need to hide anything anymore. Letting go of all my failures that I had spent years struggling so hard to hide and just embracing them has been such a relief. Lies are such poison and humans are such deceptive creatures by nature. We gravitate to hiding behind masks but prison is a great time to take that mask off, and just be.
What is there to be afraid of? Why is failure so scary to admit and embrace? We all make mistakes and messes and owning those failures can be so empowering. So what if something we tried didn’t work? So what, we made some really bad decisions and here we are incarcerated, so what? You pick yourself up and life goes on. Getting past the fear is the most important step.
2. LETTING GO AND UNDERSTANDING YOU NO LONGER HAVE CONTROL
Prevailing over a prison sentence can really be quite blissful and this is an imperative step to accomplish that goal. Prison can be a scary place. It’s not like you can just get up and leave or quit when you feel like it. You can’t bond out and there is no vacation or temporary break from your life of incarceration. Here you are sitting with all your failures simmering with guilt and shame. All your hopes, dreams, and aspirations feel like you have hit a wall and have ended in a crash landing.
But really, how much control did you ever have? Or how well do you think you were at stewarding your life? If your intention was to land yourself in prison, then good job, you really were in control and did exactly what you were going for because here you are. But that isn’t real for anyone. Prison is no one’s intended destination and is the polar opposite of any rational person’s idea of success.
You turn yourself in, and in an instant, you go from a free, individual person to an inmate. As an inmate, you surrender all the control of your life and find yourself at the mercy of your captors. While your movement, choices, and abilities may be greatly limited, we still have control of our own thoughts. Capture those, and you too can own your emotions and actions.
Prison can be the place where a lot of people feel their purpose is lost forever, and with that goes motivation. This is dangerous and not necessary. If you can find something to motivate and really drive you, just find some kind of purpose to hold onto, it can become such a powerful tool to combat depression or anger. Motivation to transform yourself will transcend the loneliness and stress and help rise above the prison walls by accepting the obvious limitations that incarceration creates. You get creative and simply work with what you do have and make the most of every situation.
It might sound crazy, but you have to let go of your future. You have to pitch away the reins and just sit back and ride along trusting in the journey and learn to embrace the bumps along the way. Focus on the here and now. Focus on what improvements you can make right this minute staying in the present. Learn to love and enjoy right now. Eat right, or as close to right as you can get. Workout and learn new things. Get your head and body in agreement to get right, and do it for you. Now is the time to be curious in a healthy manner. If there is something you want to try, now might just be the time to do so.
I was never a spiritual person before my incarceration. I learned about faith in federal holding, panicking every time the doors locked me in my cell. In my lowest of lows I learned to give it all to God and to trust that he was in control. That of course is easier said than done. It’s hard to just throw your life into the palm of God’s hands when you can’t see it and may have no experience with faith. I remember that battle in my mind thinking I had control over something. To this day, all these years later, I still catch myself slipping. Worrying about every little thing as if it would somehow improve my situation or future. Then I realized that every single day the sun comes up, and every single night the stars and moon appear. God spins the earth around every day and I don’t give it a second thought. That’s a pretty big deal. If God can do that, then there is no reason to believe that He can’t spin this prison sentence around, or handle the little details of my life. Right around the time I started to wrap my brain around that concept is when I started to convince myself that it was all going to be ok.
3. DON’T CONCERN YOURSELF WITH FITTING IN AND MAKING FRIENDS.
Whether we like it or not, or whether we want to admit it or not, it’s human nature to want to fit in. We all want to belong. Even the people that act like they don’t care, but especially the ones you think are above it all, we need a tribe. The good news is coming to prison, you found one.
Every person walks into prison alone. No matter how much support your loved ones shower you with, when it is time to turn yourself in, you are alone. Surrendering your freedom is a terrifying experience that you just don’t want to be real. As a first time offender, I remember my brain trying to rationalize that this wasn’t really happening. The unknown and what was going to happen next in each step of the crazy way, kept taking my breath. I’m not a timid person, but I was that day.
I guess I thought I was going to encounter a new species of humans in prison, but all inmates are just people. You will encounter all kinds of people throughout your incarceration journey. Some may annoy you and some you may never understand or see eye to eye with. Then there are the ones you know you will never forget. The ones whose influence impacted your life in such a way that you never want to let go and you will cherish forever. No matter which end of the spectrum a person falls on, if you pay attention, you will learn something from everyone you encounter.
Prison is where you naturally go through a sense of rejection. It’s where guilt and shame run wild, but it doesn’t have to be that way. It’s a great place to let all your ugly scars hang out and learn to love them. I realized the people that surround me here in this prison camp are my people. They know what I am going through at any given time, because they are right here with me. This camp is full of loving caring moms and grandmothers that are dying to hold a hand and dry a tear. So when a new person comes in they never feel alone because they aren’t.
This is the place you walk through the door and you start at zero. You are no better or worse than the person assigned to sleep next to you. I have found that you come to know people you do time with on a completely different level. This is where you meet the real, raw, human. There is no fancy house or car to inflate someone’s opinion or maybe create an illusion. So many people absorb the personality of their family members. Here a person might just feel a sense of freedom to dig deep and really figure out who they are. When all the extra in your life is stripped away, you can finally meet you, and here is where you realize you are part of this crazy tribe.
In conclusion, No matter how strong willed you are or aren’t, a prison sentence will make you stronger when you declare that to be your intention. Finding your mental strength and purpose can help transcend fear. There are a lot of things about prison that seem cold and scary. Embracing your failure, learning to stop trying to be in control, and not worrying about fitting in are just three ways to start looking and accepting prison in a different and more positive way. Keep it simple. Love God and love your neighbor. Don’t judge and keep your mind open to change. Be fearless.