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Changing the Stigma Around Incarceration for Drugs

Brian McCollom change changing drug drugs end stigma end the stigma felony incarceration jail meth prison stigma

Hello Friend,

It is my full intension that my message of experience, strength, and hope reach an addict. So if you know of someone who is using or in recovery please share this message. If you are curious about addiction, please read.

Experience.

courtesy of Inspiration Boost

Today I can be totally honest and reflect back to the time I first got high. I was very young but I know now that it was my first high by choice. My Dad had a Honda 350 in the garage and I huffed gas. I was in third grade and from that point on I considered myself an addict. The sensation of the high at that point in my life was better than the emotions I was experiencing at the time. The back story, or some call it, the underlying cause that I got high was the emotional stress of my perfect childhood coming to an end. When I look back to the good years which began to end at age 5. I remember such happiness and love. The train set on Christmas day, the trips to the Pike – My awesome career in little league, driving the truck on dad’s lap. Being Mommas baby boy. Visiting with all my relatives on a regular basis. Good Times. I know and understand today that my addiction is not genetic but learned. I do not blame my parents as I know they did the best they could. Life is hard when you have no purpose. When you begin to lose the ones you love. Things get crazy in life and it is easy to find refuge in alcohol and drugs. Both my parents did just that. As a child I seen that and learned to follow suit.

As I grew from a child to a teen, so did my addiction. It grew from huffing gas/paint/glue to alcohol/weed and amphetamines by the 7th grade. I remember my usage of dexies (dextroamphetamine). Amphetamine/speed was/is my drug of choice and my nemesis. In the 70’s these types of drugs were everywhere. Black beauty’s, cross tops, Christmas trees. Easy to get and in almost every medicine cabinet. In 8th grade I began to sell whatever drugs I could find. I saw it as a way to make friends and to have money. I grew up on welfare and was always trying to fit in. Soon the drugs included hallucinogenic LSD, mushrooms. I was your local neighborhood dealer. By the end of high school I was dealing in the larger quantities and regularly used the harder stuff. Hey, I was cool right? Sex, drugs and Rock & Roll. Little did I know that inside I was nothing more than child who wanted his Momma and Daddy back together. Yearning for the good times that were lost long ago. Searching for happiness and acceptance in a world of numbness.

When I turned 18 I had a moment of clarity. I found God or should I say God found me. For the first time in my life I felt like I had purpose. I had meaning and I was happy inside. I was born again and I was shown the miracles of God. During this moment of clarity, I study my lords word and prayed for knowledge, wisdom and understanding. I wanted to share this felling I had. I gave up everything but smoking cigs. Church 3 times a week and bible study groups etc... I participated every way I could. The devil tormented me constantly. There was always issues at home. I still lived with my Mom and my younger siblings. You see by this time my older siblings were trying to live their life. I felt It was my duty to stay with Mom. I saw with clarity all the destructive powers of alcohol and drugs. The toll they were taking on those I loved. I prayed for everyone. I lost, or should I say, most of my friends quit hanging out with me as I would share the word of God with them. Little did I know God was preparing me for the pain of loss that I was going to experience. I was going on a journey and he was going to be there with me. I needed to be prepared. I protected my Momma – I chased away the men that would come around. I would make sure my siblings would not cry too much when mom was incapacitated. Everyone close knew what was happening and no one could save her. I know to this day it was God’s plan to save me. It was also his plan to save her from the depression and sadness she felt inside. She did her best. She came with me to a church play that was being held at a local high school and watched me perform my little part. After the play she came up for the altar call and accepted Jesus. The power of Jesus and my dream was coming true! By this point I was devoted to my savior, my Moms savior. Life was going to be ok. Shortly afterwards my life was turned upside down. The devil got his way. I was going to be tested. A test that would return me to darkness of despair. A path of no purpose a life on drugs. On April 2nd 1983 I lost my Mom to alcohol and addiction. I miss you so much Mom and I hope the angels in heaven are singing you praises for helping others throughout your life. You never turned your back on anyone and would help anyone no matter what. You always told me I had a special purpose in life for as long as I can remember. I am happy I have found it is in helping other. I now know the joy you must have experienced.

It was not too much afterwards that I started smoking weed again. I began to fall away from God. I was so angry at him. Why? Why I used to say to him in secret? I remember chancing my own life. I knew I could not take my own life but I could drive my car like a mad man in the hills and if I crashed it was not suicide, and I could still enter Heaven right? Soon I withdrew from church and it wasn’t too much longer before I was back at it. I was not dealing but yep I was using. I left the area and moved to be with my siblings. I received a call that they needed me so I gave up my job and performed my duty as I used to see it. Momma always told me to look after my little Bro and Sis for her. I became responsible for the caring for my siblings – codependent to the core. Although I was using and functioning, like a good addict does, I was in pain inside. With all that going on inside, we addicts are truly the strongest people I know. It takes strength to move forward in life as an addict. During this time, I was valedictorian in college. I was the recipient of a scholarship. I was told I was the future of America. I was trying to show my younger sibling that no matter where we are from if you try hard enough you can be somebody. I was good at hiding. The whole time smoking weed, drinking and becoming a hard-core addict. I learned how to be a functioning addict as many out there are. Inside and outside, slowly I was reverting back into the person I was before. Back to my learned addiction. Back to the child in the garage. Full of pain. Unable to show weakness on the exterior but tormented inside. Soon I left LA, but not after I had a heavy addiction to coke and the art of smoking it. Yep I was doing crack now. I remained a functioning addict until 1992. I learned how to mask my addiction until it took over my life.

Soon I graduated to fulltime drug use. Lost my job or as I used to say I got bored with it. I received my retirement check and into heavy drug use I went. I fooled myself and thought to get off coke, I will do crank. I knew just about everybody in town that was making the stuff. I knew all the prime dealers and got great deals. What a great deal I got too. I got to experience what I can only describe as a journey through hell. While at times I thought it was good. Running with the haves of the dope world. I was the Man. There is only one shining moment in this period in my life. I had a son! This is what I always wanted! Watching him be born over the doc’s shoulder. I tried to get clean, but I did too late. I blamed everyone else. No one would help me fight for my son! Why doesn’t anyone want to help me! Looking back now I can see why. Who is going to help a spun out crankster with no purpose? It was not much longer after that I lost my parental right to my son.

My darkest days were to follow. I remember leaving the courthouse the day I lost my son. No one cared; I had no one. I was in rehab at the time so I began walking back over the bridge. Just so happen it was a tall bridge too. One with a river that would wash me down stream. God Why?! Why?! Then I thought everything through. I had no one to blame but myself. I can make it I thought, I can be someone. I did it before. I am smart and I will do this for my son. Believe me I tried but my addiction was too powerful. The pain I needed to suppress was too much. I had to hide it. I had to bury it. I had to feel nothing! I started working in construction at this point. I learned a lot but was barely functioning. I went back to active addiction. It wasn’t long before my addiction took complete control again. I lost my job, and this time my entire family. Alone, I wanted out. I recall a night when no one would take me in. I was alone and on that bridge again. It was about 230am. I was in so much pain. This time I meant it. I’ll show them all. This time I jumped up on the railing and began to walk on the top of the railing. Remember, I can’t kill myself it’s an unforgivable sin and I will burn in hell. So what if a car or maybe a diesel comes by and blows me off? Would that be suicide? Nah it is not my reasoning. While I walked a car came by and encouraged me to end it. Jump, Jump, I heard them say. Well that did it! That was the moment I decided to become this terrible monster that everybody was seeing. I remember making the decision to show everyone what a real drug addict was. I will show CPS and everyone in the community what an addict can do. Time to hit the big time. It was a choice I made. Share my misery and pain. I was going to be a kingpin.

Now that I decided to move forward and spread the pain I felt to others I had to get deep in the drug trade. I had to learn how to be a king pin. I had to learn how to make meth! It didn’t take long, and there I was a cook. Everyone wanted to be my friend now. Shoot even my ex is back and seeing her meant that I got to see my son. No one really knew the pain I had inside. No one cared about it all they cared about was dope, period! I had no true friends. I knew that. I was running with the big dogs and I was connected to the big dogs. My addiction was not mine it was everybody’s. I see those that I was hurting by supplying them with dope. My deep anger at society and at the world fueled me to continue. I started giving it away. I watched many people as they too suffered from the effects of addiction. Soon law enforcement started to catch up with me. During this period, I learned how to be invisible to society. I used people and they used me. I started getting busted and soon I was tallying up an impressive record of charges. I had a bit of money so I learned the difference between those who have money and those who don’t when it comes to our government and our judicial system. Long story short everything plead down to a 1 felony, which by the way I could had expunged. Our judicial system does favor those with money period. It does not matter what race or what charges. Our judicial system need to be reformed. I will save this for another story.

My second moment of clarity came while in my 2nd rehab. This is the rehab I was sentenced to by the courts. Although I had ulterior motives and did not plan on quitting, I did stay clean a little over a year this time. I got back into construction and had a good job. I would like to blame others at this point for bringing dope around me, but today I know I made the choice to use. Harboring my addiction inside I left the safe place I was staying and began to get busy again. Losing everything again. I was a probationer at large and decided I better work the system before I get caught. It was too much longer that I was in front of the judicial system again. By now I had faced the courts system so many times and I knew how to work it. I turned myself in and did a few day and was back out again. This time the courts had my number. I was raised to higher security level and soon gave a dirty test. This is how it works, pay a good attorney, pay your fines, say what they want to hear and to rehab you go. Well I had everything in order, a favorable probation report, DA recommending rehab, rehab in the court room. All I had to do was to plead guilty to my violation and do 1 yr. again and Bam – Here we go again.

The wakeup call happened after everyone gave their recommendation in court. I plead guilty and it was now time to roll it up and head to rehab... Well the Judge had other plans. I remember very clearly what he said and how he looked at me. “Mr. Martin I am denying everyone recommendations. I have seen you in front of our courts too many times and you have wasted every opportunity we have given you. You have wasted the courts time and I am going to sentence you not to your original term of 2 yrs. but too maximum the law will allow me to sentence you to! If I could sentence you to more I would but the law does not allow me to. What do you have to say now Mr. Martin?” I was in shock and could only muster up “Thank you.” Bam Bam 4-yrs. I got clean on May 1st 2002. The day probation arrested me for my dirty test. I could have used while in jail/prison but I did not. I was released from incarceration on January 13 2004. I have not used since and was saved by the very court system. I do not know if the judge did this to save me or not. I wish I could have spoken with him in 2014 when I returned to help the community where all this occurred. I pray that I can make amends and by the grace of God be able to help at least one person. Active addiction 1971-2002

Strength.

courtesy of pinterest

My strength is Jesus and by giving what I have away. By being transparent I do not have to hide. A crucial aspect of being truly free. I have freed myself of the pain through honest. Although I do not go to meetings I do live by most of the principles of NA. I do not go to church regularly but I talk to God every morning. I know my God and He knows me. During my active addiction I know that I was being protected by more than just luck. The number of drugs I did and my exposure to all the chemicals should have killed me many times over. The mental depression and pain I experienced was very difficult to come to terms with. If it was not for the Judge giving me time to reflect on my entire life I would not have found my freedom. I opened my eyes for the first time and seen what life is about. It is about being able to be yourself and have purpose. I made the choice to share this message now comes the effort. The odds of my successful integration upon release from incarceration back into society was against me. My first eye opener was the day I had an old acquaintance pick me up from prison. I remember seeing the car drive towards the office. My heart dropped! What an eye opener. There was no doubt this person still used. I thought @#^$ how I am going to make it back. I won’t even make it back to town. If I was a cop I would pull this car over instantly. I had the scariest ride back to town. I know that played a big part of in my decision to stay away from old acquaintances. The good thing was that I saved enough of my prison stay; $1,100 bucks of gate money. I spent the night with them and they gave me a ride to an old partner the next morning to collect a debt. I was starting to make bad choices. While I was incarcerated I followed basic NA principles. Saying such as don’t hang out at a barber shop because eventually you will get your hair cut. Others sayings like “Birds of the same feathers flock together,” also came to mind. I can be honest and say I was not perfect. I tried my best. I did not get high by the grace of God. I learned during this period if I talked or tried to help my former acquaintances who were still in active addiction it would allow my addiction to return. I had to shut out all avenues of the path that would ignite the monster inside. As most felons know you get sent back to where you committed your crime. Right in your old stomping grounds. All I have to say is you can make it. It may feel awkward to tell your dawg that you love him but you do NOT want to hang out anymore. What I said was – We had a good run but I am moving on with my life. I am done. Sorry but I do not want to give you my number or tell you where I live. Love your guts and I wish well. Don’t get me wrong, I still said Hi, I did not ignore them. Just asked that they respect my choice.

I did not know it at the time but I was on a path to new reality. A vision of a better way to live. One which is by far the most rewarding. A life of service and of helping others. I was shown that even though I was a risk people appreciated when I was honest. My first eye opener was when I was able to find a job after incarceration. Upon leaving my old homeboy house in a borrowed car I went to town. I needed help but where do I go. I stopped by another friend’s house and struck pay dirt. He was clean and knew someone else that was clean working in construction. I am grateful for his help on leading me to a possible job. Off I went to check it out. I met another old acquaintance on the job site and he introduced me to the owner of the company. After a brief interview I was hired. “Can you Start Tomorrow”. My first chance at making it and I had to report to the parole office and attend mandatory orientation.” I can’t tomorrow. I need to go to the parole office. You see I just got out of prison yesterday. I need a job and a chance.” Can I ask why you were in prison? I was there for drugs. Are you done? I would not be here unless I was done. I got $1,100 bucks in my pocket. If I wanted to get high I would. I want to buy tools and get to work. I am done I just need a break. “Ok Thanks for being honest”. Be here on Monday. Wow 22 hours after walking out the gates and I got a job! I was stunned but it gave me what I needed, purpose a reason to move forward. Without someone giving me that break I would most likely returned to my addiction. Right afterwards I went to meet my parole officer for the first time.

I know this is not a surprise to anyone who has ever been on parole. My very first encounter was not pleasant. Being told I can’t wait to put you back, there is no way you’re going to make it. I am on you. Are just a few of the encouraging statements I heard from my parole officer. Yes, sarcasm, I do not know why and neither do I know the techniques of or duties of a parole officer. Maybe his motives were to get a reaction. Maybe he did not like his job. I don’t know. All I know was that I was going to make it. I left more determined than before. I dropped of the car and I got a ride to town. There I was dropped off at a motel alone with a pocket full of cash. The next day I walked across town and met my friend who gave me the job lead and thank him. Afterwards I met up with my other bud who I would be working with on the construction site. I had no way to get to work yet and I was living in a motel. Somehow some way he had an extra room and he was willing to rent it to me. Since he was clean I took it. I completed my parole orientation and started work the following Monday. God was looking after me. I remember secretly saying Thank you Jesus. I would not have made it without the help of others but I know that since the beginning God is with me and with us all.

The next year things got better. I received bumps at work and parole change my officer to one that was more understanding. After about 7mos. on parole I was told I had to move back to the county where I committed my felon. For those of you who don’t know. You must be paroled to the county where you were convicted. This can be changed for good reason or if you move in with family someplace else. I was given 30 days to be back in the county or I would receive a violation and returned to prison. How in the hell am I going to find a person to rent to me when I have no credit history and being on parole? How could I afford to move? It must have been meant to happen along. I believe things where I was staying where ready to go south. I suspected possible drug use but kept to myself. I never shared this with anybody until today. On to the path I found and how I was beginning to find freedom. In the local paper there was rental. I called and met the person at the little affordable apt. I looked at it and was in a difficult situation. We talked and the conversation came up about who I was. I remember throwing it all out. The same way I did when I got hired. I was honest and transparent. I let her know my circumstances. I saw her doubt but for some reason she took a chance. On my own now with nobody watching. Parole does have programs to help felon do not get me wrong. They gave me a check to give to my landlord to pay my deposit. I did not like receiving it as I wanted to make it on my own. I felt good about working. I felt I had purpose. I wanted to be part of society. Without those who believed in me I would not have survived. I decided to be honest and transparent. In return I gained people’s trust. Their trust gave me opportunities and opened doors. I began to see society and how there are so many who want to believe and trust in one another. On February 13th 2005 I received my discharge from Parole.

Over the next decade I made plans and continued to work hard. During this period, I saw many others fall. I heard of others who decided to keep on the same path. I saw others pass on the death. I had a few opportunities to talk to others. People started to ask “How did you make it” Those that knew my past know how deep into drugs I was. I started to share my message of how I just put it out there I was honest. Wow – Transparency leads to accountability. It also leads to true freedom. I am truly free from everything I was hiding inside. I am alive and I am myself today. Without shame, without guilt, I can look back today and I see that I was very blessed. Why did all these doors open? I believe it is all part of Gods Plan. His plan for me from the day I was born. My purpose in life is to create a way to help those who are suffering from addiction. To give addicts purpose. I realized this back in 2007. I have been learning and reading about the world I live in. I see those who are suffering. I realized that to create a program that is meant to help society I must include all society. I came to this conclusion after researching other organization and people who were helping others. I wanted to volunteer at first. I could not do this as society has rules and regulations. There are laws that protect society from people like me. I need to complete my goals after being released from prison. To do this I needed to get my Certificate of Rehabilitation. I needed to obtain my Governor’s Pardon. On July 21st 2015 I received My Certificate of Rehabilitation. Then later in the year I received my Governors Pardon Questionnaire from the Board of Parole Hearings. I returned the questionnaire back in April 2016. Now I just wait. If I am Pardoned It would mean so much to me in principle and in obtaining goals. My strength is to share with others my path to true freedom in life. It is my path so only use what you can. Your life experiences will determine your path. All I ask is that you share your path. Someone may be able to hear something in it that may change their path.

Hope.

courtesy of Inspirational Quotes and Pictures

My Hope is to change society’s views on those that have been incarcerated and those that are recovering addicts. Through transparency and honesty an addict becomes free of the shame and the need to hide from the same society that is wanting to help.

My Hope is to give purpose not only to those I am helping but to society as a whole. I believe that transparency and honest far outweigh the mistakes someone has made.

My Hope is to help build stronger communities uniting those who do not understand addiction by opening a transparent dialogue between us.

My Hope is to share information on to assist ALL the disadvantaged.

My Hope is for a better world where we all can be free.

My Dream is that someone else can feel the True Freedom I have found.

Signed,
Tony M.

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  • Angela on

    Great story, Tony! I too am a functioning addict. I am just getting clean (meth), for (at least) the 3rd time (court). I hope this will be the last time I will have to get sober I just don’t want to live that way, I don’t want to be THAT person (a druggie)! I have wasted so much of my life being high, I’m almost 42! I NEED TO LIVE!!


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