I hate going to jail…but today, it was part of my job. Actually…it’s part of my job every time I go so just want to make that clear. Today, I wanted to complete an interview for a report the Court required on a guy (we’ll call him Oz) who is awaiting sentencing after pleading to a felony. I read over some of the initial paperwork from his file earlier in the morning and found Oz to give a favorable impression on paper.
Drugs and brokenness…these characters seem to play major roles in so many of the stories I encounter. This was no different as Oz had a very lengthy background with alcohol and heroin and served 3 years in the Department of Corrections in a neighboring state not too long ago. I’m not an interviewer, but more of a conversationalist so after meeting him I asked that he share his story and we’d fill in required gaps along the way.
I learned early in the story that Oz grew up in a family with both mom and dad there. He was the oldest of three brothers and was a real motocross junkie (bad choice of words perhaps) and began participating at an age when so many kids are just learning the word “kindergarten.” He talked of injuries he sustained in his wrists, legs, and ankles that eventually required him to seek pain relief. By age 13, he was smoking pot for the pain…by age 17, he was hooked on Percocet.
Here’s where life threw Oz a curveball. By age 18, the injuries had taken their toll and he had to quit pursuit of his dream to become a competitive motocross rider. For so many of us, it’s the end of a chapter and we move on to the next interest…but not for Oz.
See, there’s so much more to his story…there usually is. But in the microwave society we live in, if you can’t communicate your story in 40 characters or less, many won’t give the time to listen, and really hear the story…and if we fail to hear the story, we fail at getting to know the person…and in some ways…we fail at being human beings.
Oz found his identity behind the RPM’s of those racing bikes. He was a boy who struggled through all his years in school being classified as a special education kid. He had a form of dyslexia which he said was labeled as eye-tracking disorder. He wasn’t popular in his school and had very few long-term friends. But sitting on top of all that power on a motocross track, Oz found identity.
Once this identity was taken from him, Oz was left to search for who he was…and deal with the effects of a growing addiction to pain medications. A familiar bridge to the story in so many lives is when the scripts for the pain medications no longer come and the monster still has to be fed…a guy turns to the streets.
Oz turned to the needle and he turned to alcohol.
This is a story about Broken Dreams…but it could easily also be a story about the Perfect Storm, because as Oz was grasping to find a foundation to stand on, his mother and father decided they could no longer remain married.
So here’s a 20 year old man…but let’s still call him a boy in so many ways…and he’s struggling to find out who he is now that he’s not on top of that bike, he’s wrestling with a growing monster called “Addiction”, and he has no safe place to stand because the foundation of his family is crumbling. Even the experienced sailors on the Andrea Gail perished in their Perfect Storm.
This wasn’t really supposed to be a Thanksgiving Holiday reflection…but as I celebrate Thanksgiving tomorrow, Oz will also be celebrating in jail. What is he celebrating? He’s sober…and he’s alive still. I fear for Oz though. I’ve had two probationers die in the past 5 months due to forced sobriety because of longer stints in jail, only to get out and overdosed within days of their release.
This is really not about being thankful as we hit the holiday season, although we have so many reasons to be. It’s about stories. The guy holding the sign out at the busy intersection asking for money…he has a story. The grouchy cashier who takes your money at the convenience store with zero-customer service skills…she has a story.
I hate my job sometimes…I’m sure we all have those moments. However, its times like this that I pause and appreciate the privilege of crossing paths with so many remarkable characters in this story called “Life”.