Change

changes

Chase is a guy I met several weekends back when I completed some assessments in the jail. He had several more weeks to serve as part of his sentence and we like to catch these guys before they get out. It’s funny how when they’re in jail, they never miss an appointment…

I’d never met Chase before but as I looked over the paperwork, what stood out were the 7 prior felony convictions he’d received and the 9 years in DOC. “How’s a guy like this get a probation sentence?” was the obvious question I asked myself.

My first impression of this guy was that he could easily take care of himself. He was friendly, but he had a very direct look, and seemed completely comfortable in the jail setting. We started the interview by me asking the story behind all his tattoos, cuz there’s always a story…even if that story was, “I got drunk and did something stupid.” That line alone can lead into some great conversation. As we talked, I found this guy to be real likeable and my assessment turned into a 90 minute conversation.

At one point I had to ask Chase what went wrong with him. The paperwork stated he lived a “white picket-fence childhood”. One word summed up his response…”drugs”. He elaborated much throughout our conversation, but this was the doorway. I asked why he felt he was going to be successful now as opposed to the past. He talked about watching a prison “friend” kill a convicted sex-offender right in front of his eyes while they were doing time. I looked up the info and sure enough, the guy he spoke of was convicted of a 2010 Murder 2 charge and is serving 48 years on top of his other sentence. Chase stated he knew right then and there that things had to be different for him unless he planned to end up in a similar situation. He talked about how rehab as part of his parole had been a great step forward, and drugs or alcohol have never been an issue since. I had to ask him why he was right back in jail again in 2016 if the situation in prison back in 2010 was so impactful upon him. He went into the details of how a bad romantic relationship led to his current predicament…remember, everyone has a story right? We finished our conversation, shook hands, and I left. I completed all the paperwork and transferred the case to my work partner and informed him he was going to like Chase.

Fast-forward about four weeks to today. Chase came into the office for a weekly appointment with my partner. I stuck my head in the office and said hello, then went about my own business. After his appointment, Chase asked my partner if he could talk with me. He then came into my office and sat down in a chair and we talked for about 30 minutes about his transition out of jail back into the community. Chase seemed like he was in no hurry to leave so after about 10-15 minutes I asked him his thoughts on “Change”.

I told him that I work with so many guys who deal with addiction issues and I wondered openly if Chase felt it was true for him that it’s easier to do straight time than to do probation. On probation, you have to deal with your issues and look at change; doing straight time…well, you just hang out, play cards, and stir up some drama from time-to-time to fight the boredom. Chase thought for a moment and then shared some great personal insight with me.

He began by talking about how a guy is completely aware of the destructive path he’s on when he’s using, and he’s got a head knowledge that being clean should result in better outcomes. But using is a familiar path and a guy knows what he can expect from using. The path of change is the unknown, and although we have a head-knowledge that things should be better, there’s always that doubt that it will be better for “me”. He talked about the sick security a person finds in walking the familiar path even though we know the outcome won’t be good, and he really drove home the point that change brings insecurity because it’s a whole different world than a person’s ever known, and it’s tough to hold the course when things get rocky along the path. When things get crazy, you go back to that old girlfriend (or boyfriend) even though you know they’re no good for you.

Once again I thoroughly enjoyed my conversation with Chase, and again we shook hands…but this time he got to walk out.

Our conversation led to a lot of personal reflecting on my part. What is it within the human condition that can convince a guy that losing his freedom and doing straight-time behind bars is a better option than facing things in his life and dealing with them? Perhaps a better question here is, do I (we) possess this type of thinking around certain things within our own lives…even out here on the streets? Do we basically say we’ll do the “straight-time” verses do the incredibly hard work to change destructive patterns in our own lives?
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