My Prison Identity
By Chris Schuhmacher ||
I believe that being in prison has definitely become part of my identity. Not in the stereotypical fashion that would leave me cold, hardened, and covered with tattoos, but in the way I’ve worked to transform my life over the past 14 years. Before coming to prison, my life was on a hell-bent path of debauchery and destruction. I did everything in my power to make sure that the party never had to end. I somehow thought that if I could escape into a world of alcohol and drugs that I could avoid my feelings of being lost, lonely, and insecure.
My fatal mistake was in not realizing that by disconnecting from emotions, I was actually lighting the fuse to a bomb that would eventually explode and cause catastrophic results. I am saddened by the tragic irony that it took coming to prison for murder to wake up to just how far off the path of living like a healthy human being my life had gone. I was guilt-ridden and ashamed of who I had become and made the conscious decision to turn around and begin the journey back to my authentic self.
For me, there is no doubt that coming to prison saved my life. It separated me from the reckless and chaotic world that I had created for myself. It allowed me the time and the space to rediscover how to live with a clean body and a sober mind. It has given me the opportunity to analyze and evaluate the morals and ideals that had brought me to this point and reconnect with the emotions that I tried so hard to run from. These have been extremely hard lessons to learn in what is a harsh and depressing environment, but this experience has been vital in shaping the way I think and believe.
In this day and age, it seems virtually impossible to hide the fact that I’ve been to prison. That is why I’m so thankful to The Last Mile for providing the opportunity to be open and honest about my past, while at the same time giving me the chance to show who I’ve become. The transformation that has taken place in my life is nothing short of a miracle from God. As I go forward,I plan to continue to embrace my identity as someone who understands and appreciates the power of change.
I know that it is my responsibility to pay these gifts forward by passing my knowledge and experience onto others. My ultimate goal is to become a health and fitness expert with an emphasis on treating and preventing substance abuse and addiction. If my life can be used to enhance the lives of others, then prison or not, this is an identity I can be proud of.
All communications between inmates and external channels are facilitated by approved volunteers since inmates do not have access to the internet. This program is part of The Last Mile San Quentin. Twitter: @TLM
Originally published at thelastmile.org on January 3, 2014.