New Life Anxiety
By Daniel Labbe
In September, 2016, I will be released from prison. After thirteen years of incarceration I will enter a whole new life, a life far different than what I have grown accustomed to behind the wall. The world has changed a lot in the last thirteen years. I have never seen Facebook or Twitter, nor have I ever held a smart phone, but as world altering as these technological changes are they are not what concern me. My anxiety is much closer to home: have I made the necessary changes to live a healthy, responsible life? I wasn't able to live a life I could be proud of before prison. Drug and alcohol addiction combined with mental health issues and my refusal to take responsibility for my life led to a lot of dysfunction and ultimately, to the selfish choices that hurt so many people and landed me with a fourteen and a half year prison sentence. What makes me think I can live a healthy life now?
Before coming to prison I realized the rough shape of my life and I tried my hardest to change so I could live a good life. I went to rehabs, to AA, to counseling, to day programs, and even to religion, but none of that helped for long. I would do well for a bit then cycle back into dysfunction. In my heart I deeply wanted t olive a good healthy life, but my issues were stronger.
Shame, anger, and grief over the life I led and the choices I made filled the first five years of my incarceration. I spiraled in and out of black depression until I eventually realized it was a useless and self-centered cycle. Something had to change. It was then that I threw myself into doing whatever I could to heal, learn, and grow so I had a chance at liking a good, healthy life, a life that reflected the best of who I am. I couldn't do anything about the pain I caused, but I could change myself so I would never cause such pain again and maybe even have something positive to share with others.
Since then I have been doing everything I can to heal, learn and grow. I read every self-help book I could find and experimented putting what I read to use. I participated in all prison programs I could and I've grown a lot and made changes I never before dreamed possible. Family members, officers, therapists, and other inmates have all noticed the changes I made and this felt great. I feel more like my true self today than I ever have before.
All this is great, but it also makes for one scary thought that just won't leave me alone: what if it isn't enough? What if despite all these changes, I still fail? I've learned to be healthier and more successful in prison with all the structure and routing that prison provides, but will I be able to transfer this relative health and success to the street? Because I have made a lot of improvements my family expects a lot from me,. Will I let them down? On top of all this there's the anxiety of worrying about what opportunities will be available to a middle aged ex-convict with a criminal record like mine (it's pretty bad).
I do my best to challenge these thoughts when they arise. I know they aren't helpful, and I also know that they are perfectly natural. Who wouldn't be nervous about life on the outside after thirteen year of prison? Luckily I have a lot of family support and a good reentry plan. I also have a lot more skills now than I did before and I've done a lot of healing. My chances at living a healthy, functional life that is both meaningful and rewarding are better now than ever before. yet, despite all this anxiety still winds through my gut like a snake on Ritalin.
I guess this anxiety is perfectly natural and reflects how much I hope to succeed. Rather than let it be something that weakens me, I can use it as motivation for giving this new life everything I've got.
I'm glad I wrote about this. I feel stronger and clearer about who I am and what I am capable of.
Thanks for listening.
2016 aug 4
2016 jun 25
2016 jun 9
2016 mar 11
2016 feb 7
2015 may 24
Using anxiety as a motivator is a great idea! If life gives you lemons, make the best lemonade you can! Now I'm craving lemonade though...
I hope you go out into the world and find happiness and peace! :)
(I also hope you've a tech-savvy friend or family member to help you out with the insane world of technology that even I don't understand fully!)
PS: I saw that you're a fan of the Lord of the Rings! When you get a hold of YouTube (videos galore!), see if you can find Lord of the Rings In 99 Seconds by PAINT. It's pretty great, in my opinion!
I hope that you see this. Its Chuck from 7-1. I am out and working it IT again but making half of what I made before I went in. I am still reading self help books also. Mindfulness!
I hope that you do well my friend! You are very smart and have a lot to offer. I am really happy that you are out and get a second chance at life. I remember when we were in you showed me a letter from this site and I just stumbled by it!
I admire that you are able to rise above your struggles and adversities, and build a positive foundation. I believe that everyone deserves second chances, and I admire you for being persistent and building a positive life. Your story is inspiring. I'm proud of you for staying strong.
Much love Dan,