This blog is a reprint of my essay published in the Prisoner Express Monthly Writing Themes, June-July 2016. Prisoner Express comes from Cornell University’s CTA/Durland Alternatives Library, 127 Anabel Taylor Hall, Ithaca, NY 14853-1001 (www.prisonerexpress.org). Prisoners may receive the “Prisoner Express Newsletter” free.
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This is a copy of the original essay submitted for publication, not the edited version, as published.
RESCUED by Wayne T. Dowdy
Sad to say but it is true. Yes, I was rescued. God saved me from myself by allowing me to go to prison to serve a thirty-five year federal sentence for armed bank robbery and associated charges. What is best, to live in prison or to not live at all? That’s a debatable question, no doubt. In 1988 when I began serving this sentence, my answer was different than today. Now that I am near the end of it, I’m pleased to have survived long enough to discover my journey to recovery.
RECOVERY is the process of returning to the “Being” God created, in contrast to the one I become based upon life experiences. To recover, reclaim something lost. Rescue innocence. Innocence lost as a child. A child whose path lead to crime, drugs, and incarceration.
RESCUED: For me to admit that the government rescued me is growth, since my pride often denied the truth. I humble myself and am honest when I confess my imperfections because doing so tramples on the Ego.
My pride and ego have been my worst enemies. The two are running partners–one does not act without the other. My first sponsor in a Twelve Step program said that his head was the type that thought it could kill the body and keep on living. Mine, too.
RENEWED: Living in a renewed state of mind enables me to see life as it is, even when it is not how I planned for it to be, instead of painting a distorted picture of reality inside my head to make me feel okay when I am not.
God doesn’t ask my advice on how I want life to happen. As a human, if God did ask my advice, I’d mess things up by allowing my character defects of pride, lust, anger, greed and gluttony to influence my decisions, or by letting emotions drive action instead of intellect.
FANTASY: In prison and life in general, a common behavior is creating fanciful scenarios of past experiences and personal histories. The reporting of a fantasy life on the outside is common inside prison. Some prisoners bum commodities and claim to have been millionaires on the streets; others claim to have been “Scarface” style drug kingpins, when in truth, they may have been a homeless, street hustler, dope fiend, or prostitute.
TRUTH: The truths of my life contain a mixture of success and failure, a mediocre existence, nothing fancy or extravagant to report. I experienced success by working for two reputable companies in Atlanta, Georgia, where I climbed the ranks and did well, until my worst enemy appeared–Mr. Ego, demanding more than life was giving.
I quit good jobs and forfeited lucrative careers because of Mr. Ego, who drove pride with a distorted view of reality. The drugs I used altered my perception of truth. I told myself I deserved more money than I was earning. The companies weren’t paying me what I was worth. Those thoughts justified my struggle to survive with my unhealthy habits.
The truth was that I mismanaged my earnings and made unsound business decisions. I spent more money on shooting and smoking drugs than I did on rent, car payments, insurance, utilities, and groceries, which explains why a repo man chased me for months to take my car. I shot more drugs in a day than I could work and pay for in a week. I reverted to crime to cover the cost. When I landed in jail with multiple felonies, facing the rest of my life in prison, the truth set in and I wanted to commit suicide to end the pain caused by my past. I’m glad I didn’t chose to end my life.
LOVE AND PAIN: Things change. Love and resentment kept me alive. I loved my family and knew they loved me. I didn’t want to hurt them by killing myself, even though I did sometimes feel their lives would be better without the pains I caused by living a self-centered life.
The resentment originated from my interview with the Federal Bureau of Investigation. I refused to cooperate. The lead F.B.I. agent said, “I’m going to put you in prison for the rest of your life.”
“I will kill myself before I let you do that,” I said.
His response: “Do it!”
That made me want to live to avoid satisfying him, and to live to see the day I could make him regret saying it. Today I am thankful for him. God used him to rescue me from an abyss filled with anger and self-hatred.
THUG LIFE: From a thug point of view, I lived a life filled with danger and excitement by using guns to rob drug stores and other businesses to take what I wanted, using violence to accomplish my goals. Even inside prison I lived the thug life by playing the drug game, running gambling operations, and making decisions that affected the lives of others through prison politics. In my youth I did several things that gave me clout as a prisoner. For instance, kept my mouth shut when arrested; in the Georgia prison system, I assaulted two guards and later escaped with ten others by taking over a control room; made homemade wine and moonshine, sold drugs, and was later falsely accused of murdering another prisoner. I still held strong and did not rat on anyone. Those things happened many years ago when I was young and dumb, a phase most people seem to go through.
RETIRED: Seven years into this sentence, I retired from all the above because I tired of the associated drama. I was killing myself and acting insane by staying involved in dangerous situations to stay high and in control.
If God had not saved me from myself, my life of crime would have lead me to death row or the graveyard. I’m glad I was rescued, even though I do wish the path hadn’t been so rough.
June 15, 2019 Update: Wayne T. Dowdy writes straight from the pen. He is now a free citizen. Purchase UNKNOWN INNOCENCE (over 80,000-words for $10.95 USD); and a collection of his writings in ESSAYS & MORE STRAIGHT FROM THE PEN ($8.95 USD) from your favorite bookstore. Purchase the eBooks from all major eBook distributors, including Amazon.kindle, Apple iBookstore, Barnes & Noble, and Smashwords.com (https://www.smashwords.com/profile/view/WayneMrDowdy).
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