Probation: Let Go and Move On Before Destroying Everything in Your Path

Let me tell you a little story about the past few years of my life. Truth be told, the story isn’t really about me. The story is actually more so about my husband and his desire to make a positive change in his life.

A few years ago, my husband was arrested for a DWI. In the state of Missouri (where we were living at the time), he went through the typical courtroom drama — court fees, mandated probationary period and a series of classes. After the second DWI, those mandated “requests” only grew. This time, he was met with mandatory jail time, supervised probation and essentially a life sentence without the physical barriers. We survived 30 days. I cried for about 30 days, but he worked in the jail kitchen while completing his time. He had hours of staring at a wall, wondering how everything up to this point had led to this.

After the third time, I had to ask myself: what’s going on? After being extradited from Kansas to Missouri, I began to think again: how is my body and soul going to cope with another sentence? In his mind, he had royally messed up. He wasn’t sure he was going to recover.

I don’t need to tell you what 3 DWI’s does to your record. It puts you under the category of ‘felon’. That status follows you throughout your life and effects everything from the place you decide to live to the employer who decides they want to take a chance on you. My husband has 2 degrees and had 3 years under his belt of working at the same job in the social services field. He’s a good guy and if you ask anyone who has been around him for more than 5 minutes, they’d tell you the same thing. He had a hard life growing up and he may tell you he’s never really lived up to his potential.

He wasn’t given much growing much, but most of us aren’t. So that’s not necessarily why this was such a challenging road for us. After countless trips to the ER, many bailouts for his family, the life of living for another became his life. He wasn’t himself. In his family, he was the head of the household. Every sole problem went through him (and therefore me). I was the taxi, the shelter, the shoulder to cry on. I was the filter between what was and what could be.

By choice.

The mental health court on behalf of his mother was more like a job. Though he wasn’t directly involved, the problems that swirled around other family members only held him back. I will never forget the day the police raided his families apartment as they searched for one of his family members who was accused of a little bit of this and a little bit of that.

It was the revolving door.

I had big plans for myself. None of them included staying in Missouri. I wasn’t a big fan of my jobs and I couldn’t see myself settling in a place that provided me with little comfort. I was sad — really sad.

All the time.

I never really found happiness, except during the occasional weekend when I could drink and think about my poetry. I fell short on living my own dreams. He knew that as well as I did.

He worked overnight for 3 years in a domestic violence shelter, providing residential assistance and advocacy for new admits. He slept in a desk chair each night.

When I accepted a job in Washington state, I was taking a huge risk by not only leaving him, but traveling to a new state with no family, no place to live and a whim that I would enjoy my new job. Oh and I forgot something — I was pregnant. I still am. I’m over halfway through my pregnancy, working full-time (by choice, of course).

I don’t have to tell you how stressful it was (and still is) for him. What I will say is that he learned to listen and understand that he was simply going to have to ‘play by the rules’ so to speak. It was a funny concept considering he had tried very hard to follow the rules, yet somehow felt short. His first visit to his probation officer was quick and simple. He had already been on probation for a year, so he wasn’t learning any new information about the rules he had to follow, his check-in times or even his probation fees (not sure what he’s paying for considering he’s paid off his court fees, completed classes, etc). So maybe don’t come after me for asking what that monthly fee actually goes towards!

The sad part of the story is this: the ‘system’, if you will, never quite lets go. You can be on your best behavior for the rest of your life, pay your dues, rehabilitate and everything else in between, yet we continue to punish those who have made amends.

My husband is a good guy. He is ready to work. He wants to work. You’ll find that others in similar situations are READY to work too. They go from business to business pitching their resume, apply endlessly for jobs online and still get a hard ‘no’ to just about everything. I get it — there’s a level of risk an employer takes when they hire someone with a record.

I will leave you with this:

I’m tired. I’m ready for his life to keep moving forward. I’ve been ready (and so has he). Probation isn’t just about the probationer. It’s often coupled with their loved ones and the journey they take alongside them.

Dear anyone who is listening,

We’ve made amends, we’ve moved on. Now, will you let us go?

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