A Geek in Prison — Part 4 — Getting Sick, Sober, & Healthy.

A Geek in Prison is Bitcoin Pioneer Charlie Shrem’s account of his experience going from being a force for increasing adoption of Bitcoin before the world had heard of cryptocurrency to a 15-month stint in federal prison for selling it to the wrong people. In his excitement to spread the word about Bitcoin, Charlie fell afoul of the law and acknowledges that he committed the crime. He has since gone on to found Crypto.IQ, an educational and investment firm.

Getting Sick

I was stressed. So I drank. A lot.

The day after I was granted bail and confined to my parents house in Brooklyn I started drinking. I fell into a deep depression and hid it from the world. I put on a face that everything was going to be ok. While giving speeches from my basement via Skype, I would tell my supporters that I was staying strong and going to ride this through.

Everyone would applaud, they would thank me for giving the talk, and the video Skype would end. I’d get up from my computer chair and pour myself a drink. Be it 8 a.m. or 8 p.m. It did not matter because I was going to prison.

The year from my arrest to the day I surrendered I gained 40 pounds and was drinking every day from the stress. Courtney and I partied a lot, but there was really no reason to quit because I would have to quit in prison anyway. I needed to live every day like it was my last. Wouldn’t you do the same?

In the days leading up to prison, I started getting really sick. I had a constant high temperature, fatigue, lack of appetite, rashes, and I couldn’t drink at all. Everyone I spoke to said it was stress. I was scared of the unknown and that once I settled into prison life I would start to feel better.

Getting Sober

When I got to Lewisburg, I was feeling somewhat better but still had no appetite. I started feeling the effects of alcohol withdrawal and got really sick. Being in withdrawal in prison is a normal thing, so many inmates helped me through it. However I was still feeling general fatigue and lack of appetite.

By this time, my throat started hurting a lot, and I couldn’t swallow without pain. I tried every prison remedy including tea with lemon and honey. I sucked on Halls all day and even put Halls in my tea. I thought it was a sore throat and needed to get worse before it got better. I was terrified of going to medical, as most inmates are, because they quarantine you in the Secure Housing Unit, AKA ‘The Hole’ until you get better.

About 2 weeks in, one night I woke up throwing up blood. My throat was completely blocked by something and was experiencing a gag reflex. I couldn’t breath or even talk because my throat was so blocked.

I went to the phone and called Courtney.

When you use the inmate phones, voice verification is needed to place a call. My throat being blocked off, it took me a good 20 tries before it finally accepted my voice.

It was about 6 a.m. when I got through to her

“Hey, is everything ok?”

“Court, I can’t breath right now. My throat is completely swelled up, and I’m throwing up blood. I’m going to medical. I don’t know what’s going to happen to me, but I wanted to speak to you before in case I don’t have access to the phones for a few days.”

“You are scaring me right now, should I do anything? Call your lawyers?”

“No baby, I’ll be OK. I need to go to medical right now. I love you so much.”

I got dressed and walked to the medical building. No one was there, so I waited outside the door until someone saw me and told me that open sick call wasn’t for a few hours.

“Officer, I can’t breath. Please help me.”

They immediately called medical and took me to the hospital.

A day later I was diagnosed with Infectious mononucleosis also known as Mono. The doctors told me I was at the end stages of it, not contagious anymore, and I likely had it for several months but it didn’t swell up my tonsils until now. They started me on antibiotics and treatment, and within a few days, I was back in prison feeling much better.

Getting Healthy

Everyone in prison goes one of two ways. Either they stress eat, sit around and do nothing while they gain tons of weight, or they stay healthy, workout and get in the best shape of their lives. I wanted to get into shape but did not know where to start.

Shimi asked me if I wanted to start walking with him. Shimi was in his 60’s but walked 10 miles every day on the track. This was impressive, so I went for a walk with him. After a few miles I was done, wiped out. Was I in such bad shape that this guy 3 times my age was in better shape than me?

So I started walking every day. I still hadn’t walked into the gym yet out of fear. I wasn’t ready and didn’t really know what to do.

The easiest thing would be to eat healthy, and in later posts in this series, I’ll discuss some of my recipes including the one I was famous for “Charlie’s Crazy Asian Chicken” and my Protein Pucks. It’s really easy to eat healthy in prison. All of the chow hall meals have their calorie content posted on the wall, and everything you eat from commissary has a nutritional label.

I simply started counting calories and eating less sugar. I noticed my weight started dropping off like crazy. I also started doing a lot of Yoga.

Yoga

One of my first nights there someone suggested Yoga. I started going to Yoga every other day, and it became part of my routine. After a few months, I was teaching my own weekly class.

This is my routine that was developed by another inmate. It’s a really easy routine to learn and do yourself at home.

Stretch Yoga Class
Pre Routine
Childs Pose > Down Dog Walk Dog > Rag Doll > Sway Side to Side > Mountain Pose > Crescent Moon Right / Left / Backbend — Repeat > Left Arm Behind Head / Across front — Repeat w/ Right Arm > Neck Rolls > Hands Heart Center > Make Intention
Routine
> Sun Salutation — 4x > Warrior I & II Series w/ Chair Post > Downward Dog > Low Lunge > Half Monkey God Post > Side Plank variation > Half Gate Pose > Bird Dogs > Cat Cows
Runners Lunch > Prayer Twist > Triangle > Twisted Triangle > Wide Stance Forward Fold > Hold the Barrel
Balance Series
Gorilla > Crow > Eagle Pose > Airplane > Tree
Stomach Ab Series (Push Up Position, Sky Dive, Superman) > Bow Pose > Bridge Series w/ Left Extended ? Boat > Steel Plank > Rock 5x to Seated > Seated w/ Feet Together Fold > Fold Over Right Leg / Left Leg / Both Legs > Lord of Fishes (Seated Spinal Twist) > Reverse Plank
Reclining Spinal Twist — Both Legs Sides > Happy Baby > Corpse Pose — 4–5 minutes > Right side Fetal Position > Seated Half Lotus > Hands Heart Center > Hands to 3rd eye > Bow Namaste

Staying Healthy

I started getting into a good routine and got help building a workout routine that did not rely on machinery or equipment.

In the next part of this series I will post my workout routines and recipes. Later I will talk about how I stayed mentally fit and not just physically.

If you have any questions, post them here!

-Charlie