I truly believe that Judgement, Gossip, and Comparison are some of the most destructive poisons pumping through our society’s bloodstream today.
While going about my morning today, I had the news on in the back ground, as I often do. It’s mostly just for back ground noise, but sometimes there are a few segments that catch my attention. Today as I was working with a few different families a segment popped up on the screen of three different talking heads on the screen casually and very respectfully discussing the recent topic of Micheal Vick. For those of you who do not know, Mr. Vick was once a very amazing athlete and Quarterback in the NFL. Very similar to the skill sets and approach to the game that now Ravens QB Lamar Jackson possesses. He was very promising and dazzling to watch. But Vick’s career was cut short as he was convicted on some pretty heinous charges of dog fighting and torturing animals. I am in no way shape or form condoning what Mr. Vick did. I am the truest of animal lovers and I think what he did was absolutely disgusting and criminal. This blog post is NOT about Mike Vick. It just so happens that the segment that got my mind’s gears going this morning was about him. Nearly 500,000 people have signed some online petition disputing his “Honorary Pro Bowl Captain” Selection. Which is the people’s right to do so. I personally try to avoid taking stances on certain topics, I always try my best to stay Switzerland as best I can and stay in my lane. But what I did find interesting, and what led me to wanting to write this entry is; He was tried, convicted, sentenced, and served his time. Why do people continuously debate these kinds of things long after Due Process has been carried out? I understand that this is some philosophical bullshit, and isn’t going to change a thing, but then I got to thinking a little more, and this is the exact type of scenario that is plaguing our justice systems, our re entry programs, our recovery communities, and society at large.
I have social media, that’s no big deal. Everyone does. So we see everything. Information is so readily available today that often times we receive the info faster than we can even process it. I am guilty of this. Don’t ever think that just because I write about “this” or “that” that I am EVER implying or insinuating that I myself am perfect. Because I am not. I am just as flawed and fucked up as the next person. We are all neither perfectly good nor perfectly bad, but just stitched together by good intentions. And we see each other through little pin holes of information, whether the info is good or bad, we see it. People share it, they tag it, they IMessage it to one another. You know how it works. And what’s funny to me, is the level of comparison that we all assume in this day and age. “Look at him, look at her, what a scumbag, blah blah blah.” Or “look at him, look at her, I wish I was like them, I am not good enough.” We compare so much of our own joy and blessings away all the time. We also compare our own wrongs, or sin, or shortcomings away too- because “they’re not as bad as, in this case, Mike Vick’s.” For some sick and twisted reason people love to comment on other’s arrest’s on the NWI times, or some dumb ass gossip page because, I believe it makes them feel better about themselves. Why look at my own faults, when I can just judge someone else for a quick little ego boost? “Look at this junkie piece of shit right here, lock him up!!! (takes a swig of scotch and neglects his son) “what a Loser getting another DUI!!! what a piece of crap!!!( gambles the family’s Christmas money away at the casino) “Look at this disgusting sex offender on here, what a waste of air, LOCK HIM UP!!!(Cheats on his wife) You get the idea, but this isn’t a post on moral fiber or some kind of sermon from the mount as it were. In fact, I don’t even know why I included that last little section, but I did, and it’s staying. I like to go down Rabbit Holes when I talk and Write, it’s just me sharing my true heart and thoughts on things. But anyways the point I was making is that we JUDGE and COMPARE way too fucking much man. Thank you for reading this, but even you, reader, are not perfect. I’m sorry to burst your bubble, but you’re not, and I think you know that. We have a serious Sympathy and Empathy deficit in our society today. I see it more and more thanks to social media. I believe as I write this, that the best was to destroy something precious is to compare it to something else. I believe that comparison is the ultimate thief of joy and the feeder of egos. And gossip is missile in which it is propelled. I really hope that we all remember each other in our prayers as much as we do in our gossip.
But really, the point that I am thinking about, and what I had aimed to make this entry about to begin with- as it is titled Double Jeopardy is; How can we as a society and government continuously punish and re punish those who have been through their Due Process? This one still makes my head hurt to this day.
Department of Corrections. D.O.C. For those of you who don’t know, this is where people go when your demands and wishes of “Lock them up!” are fulfilled. Now, before I get going down this rabbit hole, PLEASE do not get me wrong: THERE ARE PEOPLE WHO BELONG IN PRISON AND NEED LIFE TIME RESTRICTIONS ON MANY THINGS, AND PRIVILEGES. I am an addiction survivor, I am a person affected by life long trauma and addiction in my family. I now do my part day in and day out to help those who struggle with addiction, my stance as I write is one of this. I write as it pertains to my experiences personally, and the experiences I witness in my life. So there is my disclaimer, and on we go. I think that the systems we have in place are full of gaps. I think that our systems, although finally becoming more and more progressive, Like ours here in Porter County- which I applaud constantly, still have some ways to go. I would imagine that back in the day, people used to have faith in our justice system, our dept. of corrections. I would imagine, that once upon a time, people used to believe that someone does something bad, and they got sent to D.O.C, or Prison to serve their time, pay their debt to society, and be rehabilitated. I would imagine that once upon a time, that their debt, and their time was in fact what they owed as a way to right their wrongs. Now, I know that there would still be work to be done by the individual them self to right any interpersonal wrong doings and make ammends and atonement with the people they had directly negatively affected by their wrong doings. That I understand. That’s part of the recovery process, not just from drugs, but from all short comings and failings. We have to set matters straight. I get that. But what really frustrates me, going back to the opening of this entry, is that once the debt is paid, once the time has been served, once the Correction- as in Dept. of Correction has been handed out, why do we as a society, we employers, we the people take it upon ourselves to continuously persecute and ostracize those whose debt has been paid, time served and correction given? (*Oh, and by the way, I know that that was a really long English mess, with punctuation and grammatical errors galore, so if you’re one of those who like to criticize my writings by the editing, please politely go read something else. I see your comments on sites about how I can’t edit or write Professionally. I am not James Patterson dude, I have a GED and used to eat out of trash cans, get off my back) But what I am getting at, is that I always see all this stuff online about how people should just “lock that Thieving Junkie up”- but he/she was only a thief because they were strung out on drugs. And what that tells me, is that you believe that that person belongs in prison. I understand that, so you believe that the DOC is the correct spot for someone to go when they break the law. I get it. So that tells me that you believe that prison is the solution, that it is appropriate for a drug addict, thief, criminal to go there as a result of their wrong doings. Ok. And I believe that we as a society would agree with that. I have been to jail, many times actually. I got clean in jail and I believe it saved my life. I am actually grateful that I served the time I did for without it, I would probably be dead. So, If we have faith in our system, our law enforcement, our judges, our juries, our justice, Then why are we so scared to have faith in the outcomes that it provides? Why are we so apprehensive to show grace, understanding, and to show compassion to someone who is a “convicted felon” or a “former drug addict”? I see it all the damn time. I try my best to instill hope to some of these kids that I talk to that have records and just cannot find a job, or get food stamps, or rent an apartment because they have a record. Its bullshit. I have talked to some of the most humble, driven people; They served their time, and even above and beyond that- they did therapeutic community- an 18 month intensive drug program inside a jail or prison, they got baptized, they did I.O.P while inside, which is Intensive Outpatient Program(frequently known as CD&A- Chemical dependency and addiction), they took anger management classes, parenting classes, they learned to cut hair, they were not just idle lifting weights and watching TV while incarcerated. They were trying their absolute best while away to get their life back in order, and we had faith in our system that that person belonged there. We wanted them locked up in the department of CORRECTION. We knew that that was the answer. But yet, when that same “former addict”, “Convicted Felon” came into our office with a borrowed buttoned down shirt, and jeans with his application in hand, a resume that the half way house helped him write up and all of his certificates from inside that he had from the CORRECTIVE programs that he completed- knowing you were going to run his back ground check. You denied him. Because of his background. But what you don’t know is his story. You don’t know that he was given heroin at 4 years old to keep him from crying so his parents could tweak out on crack in the bathroom. You don’t know that He really really wants to turn his life around and if only given the chance, would become your most beloved worker. He will never be late, he will always work his ass off. He will come early and stay late because he is just so grateful that someone finally after all these years gave him a shot to be somebody. You don’t know the impact you could be making on someone’s life right now, just by looking past some drug charges. So what? he stole someone’s lawnmower to get high. big fucking deal. If he steals yours, guess what? he’s going back to jail. so what have you really got to lose? Jeez. This part of the re entry and recovery journey makes me so sad. And then you combine all of that with probation fees, and court costs, and house arrest costs etc.. and now were staring at an insurmountable task. The only job I can lock down is about $8.00 an hour before taxes, my rent at the halfway house is 500$ a month, probation is 50$ my fines and fees are in the thousands, I need a car and a phone and some clothes. Fuck man, what’s the use? I might as well get high, at least I’ll enjoy my freedom until I fail a drug test and be sent back inside. And round and round we go…. Now I know. I know. Save your breath, I can hear some of y’all’s input now: “do the crime do the time” “Don’t do drugs and this wont happen.” or my personal favorite, that I say all the time, “we can choose the sin, but we cannot choose the consequences.” I understand all of this, and I agree with you. That’s not my point. My point is that if we believe in justice, if we believe that people should sit in jail, or prison, and serve their time and pay their debt. If we believe in our justice system at all, then we need to believe that when people are released and given another chance, that justice has been served. It is not our responsibility to constantly punish someone who has had a rough go of things. It is not our responsibility to constantly keep pushing someone down who is trying to rise back up. it is, however, your right to deny someone a job or opportunity because they don’t pass some back ground check. I totally get that and respect it.
But what about this? what if, back ground checks were filtered? What if, the person doing the back ground check had to answer some basic questions and basically summarize the position that they were screening for? For instance, I am a recovering heroin and cocaine addict. I have drug charges. I have needle possession charges. Not that I would, because I love my life and recovery today, but let’s just say that I do- Walk in and apply to a walgreens, or CVS or whatever. I should probably be denied, because of the access to chemicals that I could potentially gain if the desire arose and I wanted to steal some pills. But should I be denied a job selling insurance? or Selling cars? Or a multitude of other professional lucrative businesses because 5 years ago I committed a felony to try and feed my addiction? I don’t think so. Should a sex offender be allowed to work at a job where children are present? absolutely not. Just like I shouldn’t be allowed to work around chemicals, they shouldn’t be allowed to work around kids. But should they be given a chance to earn an honest living some where that actually provides them with some renewed purpose? absolutely yes. I think that that is one of the biggest cornerstones of someone finding a better life, of finding recovery, and of getting back on their feet to become a better person. PURPOSE. Every one that I know, that has anything like successful recovery, they all have one thing in common: They have all found something that they’re passionate about. They have all found something that drives them. And usually it’s because they found themselves in a position where a gracious and sympathetic person gave them a chance. a second chance. In my case, a 3,758th chance. It’s so much bigger than “do drugs do time”. it’s so much bigger than “lock them up”. God forbid, if your loved one fell into a bad way and got addicted to drugs, you would do anything and everything you could to help them. And more so, you would hope that someone would show them the same patience, pity, and tolerance that you yourself would. They would need a chance to prove themselves too. They would need someone to show them grace and mercy. And if it were my appointment, I would do so, but I have been there. I know how hard it is to get back on my feet after my life has been burned to the ground. I know how hard it is to find a job with a felony on my back ground. But my life today is NOT that of a felon. It is NOT that of a drug addict. It is that of a married man, a father, a home owner, an author. And it is literally all because a few people believed in me and gave me a chance to do some good, and I stumbled into my purpose. It’s time to stop Judging. Its time to stop comparing. Its time to stop the bullshit gossip. No one is better than anyone. No one deserves to have their name or character dragged through the mud who is making the best effort that they can. The Double Jeopardy system and mindset that we have in our society today is bullshit. It has gone on far too long and it is one of the many reasons why it is so hard to recover in america today. So i challenge you, if your in charge of a hiring dept or a small business owner somewhere, to look at things differently. Instead of thinking about what this “former drug addict” “convicted felon” person can do TO you- think about what you can do FOR them. If we really go out of our way to do something kind for someone, if we truly do whatever we can to make this world, this week, this day just a little brighter for someone else- I am telling you from experience, that is what life is all about and we will reap many benefits.
We cannot judge someone just because they sin DIFFERENTLY THAN WE DO. We all make mistakes. we have all done things that we’re not proud of. And we have all felt what it feels like to need to be forgiven. We have all experienced Grace in one form another. My question for you is: What is your response to Grace? We live differently when we know we have been forgiven. Be the reason that someone lives differently today. Live graciously.
I’ll take: “Why can’t we all just understand that no one is perfect and we all make mistakes and it’s our responsibility to show the goodness in this world by how we live and treat each other” For $2,000, Please, Alex.