Tag Archives: reintegration

Eyes of Gratitude by Wayne T. Dowdy

Gratitude Drives this Post: Gratitude for Experiencing Sight.

I posted the original version of this essay on Facebook to help those who follow my posts and who are friends, to understand why the majority of my content concerns a photo or video I make for their entertainment. At the end of this post I will include another video from the Adventures of Wayne.

I hope you enjoy this modified version of the essay I wrote while in prison and used to reach beyond the walls, bars, and fences, lined with rows of razor wire, which held my body but could not bind my mind.

Reading this may help you understand my fascination with taking photos to post online and why I am quick to post images of nature and the natural beauty of God’s creation. I’m grateful for my eyesight:

EYES by Wayne T. Dowdy (excerpt from Essays & More Straight from the Pen).

Seeing the beauty of God’s creation thrills me because I realize how fortunate I am to do so. This story will help you understand why I feel that way.

The sun shined brightly on the day my older brother, Stanley, came home from school with a bright idea that he had formulated from something taught in his science class: recharge a penlight battery with a twelve-volt car battery. I think I was about six-years-old. He was close to eleven.

My mother or dad had left the car battery sitting on the carport. Time has erased my memory of exactly what I was doing when he summoned me to assist him.

“Come here,” he yelled.

In one hand he held two wire coat hangers; in his other one was a double “A” battery, the ones like you might put in a radio, clock, or small flashlight. He had straightened the coat hangers to use as leads: one to make the connection between the negative post of the 12-volt battery and the negative post of the AA, and the other one for connecting the positive sides of each battery.

When I got to where he stood on the carport, he said, “Take this, “and then handed me one of the straightened coat hangers.

He laid down his coat hanger and the AA battery to free his hands as he wrapped the end of my coat hanger around one 12 volt post. Then he wrapped the end of his coat hanger on the opposite post. “Now,” he said, “hold this tight,” having me to grasp one end of the AA to hold to the coat hanger. “When I say let go, you let go. Okay?”

I nodded in agreement. I held the coat hanger tight to the end of the AA as instructed, always wanting to impress my big brother. I watched him hold the end of his coat hanger to the opposite 12-volt post. And then he touched the AA with the opposite end of the coat hanger. My fingers burned instantly from the heat of the coat hanger and AA. “Let it–,” he said.
BOOM!

The AA battery exploded before he completed his instruction. Particles of the battery struck both corneas of my eyes. I screamed, blinded by tears, eyes on fire.

Stanley grabbed me by the arm and led me to the water hose attached to the spigot on the front of our brick house. He sprayed my eyes with water.

“What have you did to that baby?” my grandmother yelled, accustomed to me and him fighting on a daily basis; me getting beat up, usually, though, I did sometimes win when using a weapon. More stories.

My grandmother made him bring me to her for examination. She was in poor health and unable to hurry to me. After inspecting my face and learning about what had happened, she yelled for my sister, Brenda.

“Get the mineral oil and pour some in his eyes,” she said.

My Mother was en route from work when the incident occurred. It was about time for her to get home, so they waited for her to arrive. As soon as she pulled in the driveway, someone ran and told her what had happened. She put me in her station wagon and then rushed me to the Emergency Room at the hospital that was about ten miles away.

The doctor examined me as he used a solution to rinse my eyes. His diagnosis was external damage to the cornea and surrounding tissue, from particles of sulfuric acid and fragments from the battery casing. The prognosis was that I would be okay, to keep putting eye drops in my eyes for the next few days to prevent any infection.

The doctor said to my mother, “If y’all had not put the mineral oil in his eyes, he would have been totally blind by the time you got him here.”

Mineral oil neutralizes acid, whereas water only dilutes it. Diluted sulfuric acid eats flesh and tissue; especially, the tender tissue of a child’s eye.

Ironically, for many years my vision was better than 20/20. I could see two lines below the 20/20 line, which isn’t true today, almost fifty years later. However, my eyes still allow me to enjoy the beauty of God’s creation, without glasses, except for reading.

I had written the above and thought this was ready for submission until I returned from the library to the cellblock where I live as a federal prisoner. Two chain link fences surround the compound, layered and lined with razor wire; several coiled rolls strung in-between the two. Back inside, I looked out the window and saw two mockingbirds fighting inside the compound, flipping and flopping on the ground. Seconds later, one took off and zoomed through a square in the chain link fence, then weaved between strands of coiled razor wire in-between the fences. Then it flew back and forth through squares in the fence closest to me; the other mockingbird hot on its tail. I watched the chase until both birds disappeared down the fence row.

Then I watched a gaggle of geese walk on the other side of the fence; some honking and flapping their wings. Two pair of geese escorted seven goslings, two adults in the front, two in the rear, protecting their offspring from other geese in the procession. I thoroughly enjoyed watching both events and knew I had not finished writing this story.

My feeling was confirmed later. It’s rare to look out the window and see deer. That night I watched six of them graze. I also have a fascination with great blue herons. The next evening I watched for maybe three minutes as one flew outside the fence and then across the compound, right above where I stood amazed.

After those events, I knew I had to write more. When I stand and admire the beauty of the trees and nature, beyond my reach, but within my sight, I feel grateful for having had a grandmother who told my sister to pour the mineral oil in my eyes. I know I am fortunate to have had the opportunity to observe the beauty of God’s creation for all these years.

Another Video from the Adventures of Wayne

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Could Be Me

But for the Grace of God There Go I

Provide Treatment for Addiction Problems to Reduce Recidivism

In December 2002, a study author stated that eighty-five percent of prisoners had addiction problems, and of those, half had an underlying mental condition (42.5%). To me, that study shows a critical need for providing resources to help treat addiction problems, if we plan to reduce recidivism.

Thirty Percent of Men and Women with Addiction Problems Have Underlying Mental Health Conditions.

Combine Treatment for Both Issues to Change Lives.

I am one who falls within the study findings and attest to the accuracy of the study finding; however, I don’t live that way anymore. The August 2008 publication from Readers Write in The Sun magazine, helps explain why that remains true: https://www.thesunmagazine.org/issues/392/up-all-night

(For more on the study and its findings, read “No Sympathy” on this site https://straightfromthepen.com/2019/05/02/no-sympathy/)

Note: I am now free and living my life as a productive member of society and reside in metro Atlanta, Georgia.

The Sun magazine Readers Write topic: Up All Night

I have spent many nights wide awake on methamphetamine, cocaine, LSD, and Ecstasy. In the late seventies, I used to go on PCP benders and lose days of my life to blackouts. As a result, I cannot honestly say what I have or have not done.

I am currently serving a thirty-five-year federal sentence for armed bank robbery and associated charges. For the first seven years of my sentence, I did cocaine, methamphetamine, heroin, or some combination of the above as often as I could. When the guards came around to count us after lights out, I’d fake being asleep to avoid getting a urinalysis the next day. In the morning I’d begin the search for another fix.

Then I began seeing a prison psychologist. I wanted to stop shooting drugs, but I had failed at it so many times that I didn’t have much hope. The psychologist arranged sessions with a drug-treatment specialist. After about a month, she decided that the core of my addiction was shame, and she gave me a homework assignment: to write about the most shameful event in my life.

I decided to give her more than she had bargained for. I wrote from 5:30 P.M. until 5:30 A.M., committing to paper all the sick secrets that I had vowed to take with me to my grave. I filled sixteen yellow, legal-size pages.

The following day the drug counselor read what I’d written and predicted that I would never use again. For thirteen years her prediction has held true. But I keep in mind that my reprieve from my addiction is contingent on my spiritual condition from day to day. To stay healthy I have to attend twelve-step meetings and continue to write about what’s going on in my life. Staying up all night writing, instead of doing drugs, has helped me to reach beyond the walls and razor wire and into the lives of others.

Wayne T. Dowdy
Edgefield, South Carolina

Swimming

Lake Blue Ridge

One thing I gave up when I went to prison was swimming because prisons don’t have swimming pools. At least, none I know of in the United States.  Some kiddy camps may have them, but because a knucklehead would drown someone, I understand why prison authorities don’t want swimming pools for prisoners.

Oh, I forgot, prisons are for punishing the inhabitants (in the two Youth Development Centers I was in as a juvenile, we did have swimming pools, but I don’t think they have swimming pools anymore in the Georgia Juvenile Justice system because a child drown years ago).

While in prison, I often wished for a large body of water on hot days, whether a lake, swimming pool, or ocean. Even a bathtub would have been a pleasure. Taking a bath was a rare occasion (I only had a couple while in a local hospital at Leavenworth, Kansas), so when I got home and used the bathtub to take a bath, it was the first bath I’d had in decades.  😊

I loved to swim! I swam like a fish three decades ago, Olympic-type swimming, rhythmic breathing and all of that, where the swimmer uses proven techniques to increase speed and to reduce fatigue. For instance, controlling the motion of the head when coming up for air during set intervals (I believe it’s every third stroke); holding the hands in a certain position, bringing them close to the body, and keeping legs straight while kicking to propel themselves through the water.

At a Youth Development Center, a staff member taught us how to swim like an Olympian, like a fish. Today I went swimming for the first time in three decades and did well, but struggled to get back into  the rhythmic breathing and ran out of air too fast when trying to swim like a fish under water, but … it was great to jump in a big body of water!  Life is wonderful!

Today

Moving slowly back into society, one day at a time. Nine months ago today, I walked out of federal prison after having served thirty-years and ten-days.

Today was a hot one that I was happy to enjoy as a free man, physically able to walk around, alone, without assistance, and without chains dangling from my wrists and ankles.

Before leaving a Twelve Step meeting today, I shared with a man I sponsor that, when I find myself disgruntled about my circumstances, I try to meditate on my favorite saying: “I complained of having no shoes until I met a man with no feet.” Then I become grateful for what I have and stop complaining about what I don’t have but want. I have all I need to survive, so Life Is Great!