This Is My Story Part 3 the conclusion
During my brief time passing through his life in jail, I could see that our roads had drastically diverged. Jason’s path in life had changed so dramatically and with such stark contrast that it embodied the word ‘AMAZING’. I saw the positivity he exuded and the result of his good choices. I peppered my friend with questions as to how he’d made such changes. I was impressed with his answers and they inspired much reflection. After I left, I wrote to him from some failed rehab center and told him so.
When I returned to jail, he hadn’t forgotten what I had written or the hope he’d heard in my voice. He honestly voiced his disappointment that I was back in jail, but assured me that the right choices were still mine to make. When I found myself faltering on that gravely road it was to Jason that I turned.
Most of our important, thoughtful conversations ate away the hours of a day or night. This particular conversation, turning out to have immeasurable influence in my life, was short and not so sweet. I was whining, but I didn’t know it at the time. I was being a coward but I tried hard to cover that with excuse. After telling Jason that I didn’t know what I would say to my daughter, I was ashamed and had my back to my friend. He asked me, “Well bro, what are you gonna do?” With a weakness of will I replied, “I don’t know bro……….I don’t know if I can call her yet.” Jason, as the true friend that he is, very simply, very gently, pulled my card and held it to the light. He said, “______, this phone call is not about you brother……This phone call is about your daughter.”
I turned to face the goodness of my friend and a flick inside me switched. At that very moment I switched my conscious disposition and gave up being selfish. I took a breath of fresh air, told Jason that he was right and stepped to the phone to call my daughter.
Years of manipulating the treatment center systems have made me well versed in rehabilitative lingo. “Rock bottom” is a term used to signify an addicts final acknowledgment that drug use is out of control and must be stopped. To me it represents a fall from a scary height. A fall that ends in being broken and the only way to continue life is to stand and pick up the pieces. Listening to people describe the incidents surrounding their “rock bottom” I’ve noticed that many of them result in incarceration. My “rock bottom” took place in jail.
I can be, at times, a very eloquent individual. Often my mind conceptualizes a conversation much faster than I speak, the gift of gab it’s called. In spite of this, it has always been difficult to converse with my daughter about anything serious. I get nervous and un-characteristically un-confident. As you might imagine, when I called Bella to tell her I was in jail I was a nervous wreck.
I was used to Bella being quiet on the phone. She didn’t say a whole lot when I had infrequently called. I thought it was because she wasn’t interested in what I had to say. (I didn’t realize until recently how very much she listens to me.) So when I called Bella there was not much conversation from her, but I was used to that.
The sadness in my heart that day was palpable. I struggled hard to hold it in and hide it from the inflection of my voice. I didn’t delay, lest I lose my courage. I told Bella that I was very sorry. I told her that I meant to bring her a present but I had gotten myself in trouble. I told her I was back in jail. I told her I was going to be in jail for quite awhile. She asked me, “how long?” I bit my lip. I was ashamed.
As I sat there wondering how best to explain the length of time to her, I was struck by the cold tingle of a panicked fear. The hurt in my heart………..what if she felt it too? Was I the cause of a similar hurt in the perfect little hearts of my children? The biting of my lip transformed into the slack-jawed expression of a life changing revelation. My life was not just filled with selfishness, it was driven by it, and my kids were suffering. I could barely breathe as my eyes filled with pools of guilt.
I explained to Bella, ever so gently, that I would be missing some more birthdays. Feeling raw and emotionally exhausted, I asked her if she was mad at me. I’ll never forget her response as it so clearly spoke the volumes of my failure. “No, I’m not mad”, she said. I was absolutely speechless. Sitting there, my disparity was tinged with sorrow and shame. In that moment I was finally broken. My beautiful, funny, smart little girl told me that she wasn’t mad that I would be in jail for years.
For someone who hasn’t experienced that breaking point it cannot be fully understood. I could use a thousand descriptive terms and never quite capture what took place. It’s as if, from that point forward, every fiber of my being has pulled me in a new direction. In the month of August 2012 I adopted a new value, SELFLESSNESS, and allowed it to drive the course of my direction. It has extrapolated into every aspect of my life and the effects of this have been no less than AMAZING! But that is the ‘how’ of my change and that I’ll tell you about in the next chapter of my life. The chapter that you just read is the ‘why’.
I told you, at the beginning of this story that I’d like to go back to my last over-dose and shake myself awake. I’d like to ask myself a question. I’d like to look into those clouded eyes and demand to know, “Are you so SELFISH that you’re going to leave your kids forever!?”
The answer to that is a resounding,”NO!” I am taking advantage of my time in jail and learning how to be a good father. I am learning how to be a good person. I will spend every day picking up the pieces for a better life.
That is my story. It’s a sad story but that’s ok because it represents the end of a tragic path. I wrote this story wishing that it would help and I’ve found that it has. As you read this, I am somewhere widely smiling, writing a happy ending, and overflowing with hope.