My neighborhood in San Bernardino is known as “The City of Executioners.” I joined my gang in 1984 and came to prison for the first time 11 years later. I was taught in prison never to go down during a riot until blood is shed. I feel like I’ve been astray my entire life, lost in my rage, pride and pain.
I expected to be dead by the age of 40. I have been in and out of jail for 28 of the last 36 years. I’m 50 years old now.
My mind has been chaos, like a cheetah who never stops running. Sometimes I feel like a fish trying to breathe out of water. I never acquired coping skills. I believed that I was unchangeable and unlovable. I figured that three decades of repetitive violent behavior couldn’t be quickly erased. It would not be easy to find peace or positive self-awareness.
And yet I took a step in that direction. I learned to calm down and let go of my trained reactions. To not merely talk about positive things, but to do them. I have learned to block the negative influences and obstacles built by my afflictions.
Triggers that used to upset me are now like a gust of wind that comes and goes. With my newfound knowledge and restraint, I can focus on healing and forgiving myself. I have accepted that I have no control over anything beyond my cell door. I have to let go of all expectations and adapt to my environment with hope.
I am on my way to achieving happiness. I have repaired my relationship with my goddaughter as well as with one of my sons.
After a life of violence, drugs and gang activity, I am now in college and an inmate advocate.
I am serving life without parole. If I can change and do better with no hope of release, to become a better human being, then anyone can.
Disclaimer: The views in this article are those of the author. Prison Journalism Project has verified the writer’s identity and basic facts such as the names of institutions mentioned.