From Worthless to Worthy

Big House Butterfly Series:

Ross was getting it ready. He had locked his cell door, ensuring he was alone and uninterrupted. His cell was immaculate, he was a very attention to detail type of guy. To say he was organized would be a severe understatement. The thing about Ross was that when he put his mind to a thing he did it all the way, no half- stepping no short cuts. So the same way he cleaned and directed his room, he took the same care while laying out all the accoutrements needed to push the methamphetamine into his arm.

Of course the needle and syringe were new, or at least not used by anyone else. Ross took the time to thoroughly bleach and disinfect it before and after each use. Sitting on his top bunk bed he had everything he needed laid out in perfect formation, almost as if each piece was a soldier dress-right-dress in perfect sequence. The baggie containing pure Ice Shards (in prison they call it a Hundred Paper), the spoon used to liquefy, and the already mentioned impeccable poker.

Mouth watering with anticipation, heart racing with excitement, eyes fixed on the process prior to puncture… Ross was in the Zone when suddenly without warning the cell door burst open. Standing there was Lt. Hancock, looking stern with the full force of the law behind the badge on his chest. Panic immediately attacked Ross.

It turned out that Lt. Hancock was simply leading a tour of college kids around the prison and since he knew Ross to have the best kept cell on the unit, he brought them to see it. A couple of smooth movements, and Ross had the illegal substances swept away out of view, the top bunk is good for something he thought. The tour group channeled in and out in turn, and soon left him to his own devises. Sweet Relief brought after a slight pain, disinfect the tools, and it’s time to clean the room again.

Ross was fully addicted to methamphetamine inside this Medium security prison. For the first 10 years of his incarceration he had been sober, but time has a way of wearing a man down. He was serving a violent 35 years sentence which meant he was stuck for at least 29.75 years before even the possibility of release. Left behind were his two young children, and any hope he had to raise them or be any kind of father. He was tired. Worn out from deferred hope and outright denial of appeal after appeal. A perfect concoction for chemical escape.

He resisted as long as possible; his celly used frequently in the cell. Ross’ resolve slowly melted and it wasn’t long before he was caught in a continual blizzard. Six months after the first taste he quit his job working for one of the best employers a prisoner can have. He had worked his way to solid money and respect in the company, but the Ice in his veins slowly turned his brain away from anything that was not related to skating. It would not be out of the question for Ross to spend up to $500 a day, and the dealers would front it to him because he was always good for it. $2,000. $3,000. $4,000 or more, who is even counting anymore, just give me the dope!

Until one day, deep in focus again, digging around inside his forearm he broke the needle off. It was kind of a shock, as you can probably imagine. Trying to find the vein, he finally was able to push the liquid into his bloodstream for the momentary respite from shame and pain when he notice the needle point missing from the syringe. Not just the pointy part, but the entire shaft that connects the needle to the tube, was lodged underneath the skin inside his vein. Panic ensued, but he did not go to medical. He waited to see what would happen. A week or so went by. He was smuggling contraband to a Lockdown section of the prison, under suspicion, but only focused on doing what he needed to do to get high. Could he get any lower? Does it even matter? Despair, anger, shame. These were his best friends, his closest companions. Life is different when only Shame remains.

At one point, he saw the nurse walking through an area where he was, and as discretely as possible he asked her what to do about the needle stuck inside his arm. Horrified, she adamantly pushed him to go to medical right away, but he refused. The nurse’s concern would not let her leave it alone, so once she was back in her office she made a couple of phone calls that resulted in Ross being brought to a holding cell for questioning. With an attitude of complete surrender and despair, Ross finally told the officers that he could not get clean on this yard. He wanted to be transferred away. That was the only way he thought he could get off the dope.

The staff tried to help him. There was another prison in the state that was designated for older inmates. In order to go there an inmate had to be over 45 years old, and have years of good conduct. The Department wanted to have a place where older offenders could get away from the drama and violence of “normal” prisons. Unfortunately these older offenders were worse (or better) where the drugs and contraband were concerned. Ross found himself right in the middle of the Arctic. Meaning there was so much Ice at the new facility that Ross actually burned through about $10,000 in six months of arrival.

Next came the voices. What was that? Who said that? Alone in his room, weeks of sleep deprivation and chemical commitment left him more afraid than he had ever been. Someone is talking but there is no one around! Demons? Spirits? Is my mind playing tricks on me? Panic once again reared its head.

“I need help!” Ross began to admit, began to beg, began to plead, “Help me God!” He told the officer he needed help, they put him in the Disciplinary Unit on isolation. This was his fourth write-up in six months, his last strike to stay on that yard. He would be transferred again, but not before spending over 3 months in an isolation cell.

It was hard, and slow. He spent his days begging God for protection. Sick with himself for his choices, he was at the end of his rope. He knew all along that he was wrong but was powerless to stop. He finally broke down and told Jesus, “if you don’t do it, it won’t get it done. Jesus you have to do it for me!”

Ever-so-slowly God did His work. Over the months Ross realized that his desire for the dope was no longer there, it had slowly waned all the way away. He rededicated his life to Jesus, committed to reading his Bible, and spending time in prayer. I was there at the beginning, and at the end. I witnessed the transformation from total junkie to strong man of Faith. Ross finally allowed God to rescue him, his situation has not changed, but his desire and outlook have changed. He has a great relationship with his daughter and prays for his son daily. He remains on guard against complacency so as to give the enemy no room. The battle is won, and failure is not an option. Ross is a walking billboard for sobriety and a shining example of what God can do with a person who surrenders.

January 24, 2016 was the crucial day when the voices overcame Ross, it was the day he finally focused on the One Voice that mattered and has since then been reborn from the cocoon of worthlessness to the beautiful wings of worthiness. People sneer at “jailhouse religion” but to me Ross is a prime example of A Big-House Butterfly!! And he is not alone…

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