Recently, we’ve added to that program by starting a more old-fashioned service: pen pals for people who lack computer access. That includes prisoners. One of our volunteers (thanks, Tim!) sent along a letter he received from his inmate correspondent that is very much worth sharing. Arturo granted permission for us to offer this. It gives insight into addiction, prisons and the human spirit.
Response from Arturo (typed from his hand-written response to my letter – no corrections have been made). Dated 9/8/11.
Tim – Greetings to you!.
I do hope that this finds you doing well and in the best of heath and recovery on your end. As for myself, I am doing great! I received your letter as well as the LifeRing brochures. Thank you for extending your hand. I appreciate it and would like to begin a correspondence with you.
I intend to thoroughly read all of these brochures and I am sure that I will have questions regarding those. In the meantime I just wanted to briefly introduce myself to you and “break the ice” between strangers. I am an open book and always maintain honesty in my dealings with others. So if you ever want to talk about what I share with you, or whatever, please feel free to do so. I do not easily take offense!
So, with that said, here goes… As you know, recovering alcoholics will always be so, but I have had the ironic fortune of not having had a drink, due to my incarceration, for the last 17 years. I caught my case in 1994 at the age of 16, was tried as an adult, and have been serving a 19 to life sentence ever since. Unfortunately the gang life was my entire life all of these years until 2010 when I made the decision to walk away from that lifestyle forever. My new life is all about reform, parole and hopefully working with the youth one day. But for this to happen I need to earn a date from the parole board and one of their requirements is that I make an effort in the areas of drug and alcohol treatment. This is something that I wanted to do anyways because, really, who wants to get out after all these years just to backslide into alcohol and drugs? I genuinely want to have an approach to alcoholism and that is why I reached out to AA.
AA assigned me to a correspondence sponsor, but right from the start we had problems reconciling my atheistic position with the approach of the program. We still correspond and continue to break down the Big Book of AA though now only from a scholarly perspective. And on the side we are enjoying a science vs. religion discussion (he is a minister). I have learned enough to know that I could never actually be an AA member because I could not work all of the steps nor could I ever give over my “weakness” to a higher power (read: supernatural deity) that I am convinced does not exist. So this is my predicament and I am really hoping that LifeRing will turn out to be the alternative I am seeking. I will go over the brochures this weekend and will talk to you about that in our next correspondence.
I guess I just really wanted to convey to you right from the start that I am serious about my continued recovery and will not “fall off” on you. This life change of mine is real and, I have to tell you, feels so much truer to who I really am! (I look like a typical gang member, but I’m really a nerd! ha ha.) I walked away from the gang for a couple of different reasons, but the result has been very beneficial to my efforts. I am currently housed in a part of the prison reserved for drop-outs who are making the transition back to a mainline setting – I have been in the hole (solitary) for the past 7 years here in Pelican Bay for being identified as a gang member of “status.” In a few months I will be relocated to a prison in Delano, CA, to participate in a drop-out program on the mainline (general population). And I am excited! But now I will have greater access to life programs, education, and have more freedoms than I currently have.
I will also be able to once again receive contact visits and be able to hug my family. We are a small circle consisting of my mother, two brothers (and their women/children) and my two great-aunts. We are from San Jose, CA, but my great-aunts live in Oakland and San Francisco. I can’t wait to visit with them all!
When you respond, I would like to hear a little about yourself that you are comfortable sharing. Also, any thoughts or advice on how you think that I should best approach the Life Ring program would be highly appreciated. Anyhow, I hope that now you may call me your friend. Thank you for taking the time and effort out of your life to reach out to me. You have my sincerest gratitude! Until next time, take great care of yourself.