Monday, June 9, 2008

Turning Lemons into Lemonade

When I first started this prison bid off, I was very bitter.  I had been set up by a close friend, someone that I gave my trust to.  At the same time I was also angry with the cruel government, their laws and so-called Justice.  How could they target a man who at the time wasn't involved in any criminal activity?  I felt like a victim and was upset with myself for being so naive.  I felt sorry for lying to my children when I promised them that I would never leave them again.  For years those words have constantly haunted me and every time I think about it, it makes my heart sink deep inside the darkness of my hurting soul.  The first time I came to prison was for a 5 year sentence. To me the time didn't seem like a lot, but to my children it was a totally different story.  For them, the time away from their father had felt like an eternity.  Without a father, they were confused, lost, and hurt beyond all words - and my children had let their feelings be known.  

Being in prison, you quickly learn who your "real friends" are.  People break bad at an alarming rate.  People that you laughed, joked, partied, and even cried with.  People you loved.  In my situation it was compounding, I was facing a life sentence and things didn't look good at all.  After eventually being convicted and sentenced to life in federal prison, reality had finally set in.  So many things started running through my mind, but the main thing that affected me was once again being separated from my family.  One of my biggest fears wasn't the negative prison environment that held me captive, but the fear of not being around if someone in my family was sick or died.  The worst time of being in prison was when the thick steel doors closed and locked.  That's when the pain and loneliness set in.  

Life at U.S.P. Lompoc was something that I had never experienced before, nor could I have ever imagined.  There were people from all walks of life and from every country in the world.  The one thing we all had in common was a lack of freedom and a lot of time on our hands.  Lompoc wasn't the most dangerous prison in America, but every negative situation you could imagine went on inside: crooked C.O.'s, bad food, uncomfortable living areas, rapes, murders, stabbings; you name it, U.S.P. Lompoc had it.  From my opinion, even though most of the men were physically tough, they had been taking a mental pounding.  Slowly breaking with each passing day.  It didn't take me long to figure out that I wouldn't be a victim to the system or to myself.  

I decided to change my way of thinking and do something positive with myself, even though a life-sentence was hanging over my head.  I began searching for answers to all my why's and how's and I came up with this: if Mandella was doing time, what would he be doing?  He would use his mind and intelligence to figure out a way - and that's exactly what he did.  That's why he is one of my idols, one that I highly respect.  

So what I did was followed Mandella's blueprint and started using the greatest gift that a man has... the most powerful thing on Earth... my brain.  After that, doing time became easier for me, in actuality it turned into my own game.  My game against the system.  One that I was determined to win.  Six years into my life-sentence, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned my life-sentence and instead I was given 20 years.  My positive attitude was starting to pay off. It made me even more assured that I was on the right path, the path to success and happiness. 

Now that I am less than two years from having my freedom again, time continues to fly.  Many times I wish I had more seconds in the minutes, minutes in the hours, hours in the days.  I am excited to wake up every morning and upset when I have to go to sleep at night, afraid that I am going to miss out on something.  One of my mottos is 90% grind, 10% sleep.  Through this time I met some that I would've never met before, people who I consider real friends, and I am very thankful they let me be a part of their life.  Now my goal is to share all that I have learned with the rest of the world.  And it all started with one thing - using my brain.


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