There are people we talk to every day who would confess that their lives may not have turned out as they intended. Most will freely admit that events such and finding love, changing professions, or dealing with health issues all shape the plot line in each of our individual stories. Usually, our upbringing and education build a foundation that carries us through a life that may not go as planned but unfolds into one of the greatest and most unique journeys imaginable. We all have a story to tell. Some just take unexpected turns that don’t necessarily correlate to how they began.
My life started out as normal as you can imagine; a robust middle-class upbringing in rural America that taught me to respect others, work hard, and appreciate what life hands us. Having a doctor as a father and a mother who involved herself in every aspect of her kids’ lives afforded me numerous opportunities to enjoy my childhood and look forward to growing up strong and healthy. Excelling at high school sports, enjoying vacations with family, and graduating from the University of Kansas were all milestones in a line of happy achievements and vivid memories.
Then, over the course of several years, when I transitioned into the workforce as an outside salesman for a Fortune 1000 telecom company, I started making rash decisions. I made choices that led me down a path that was peculiar and contrary iv to my solid upbringing. It could be blamed on mental illness, addiction, social anxiety, or just plain greed. Either way, my choices over this time were out of character and began to change my life for the worse. I may have been searching for something, though I still cannot quite pinpoint what that something was. It could have been the undue pressure I put on myself to show success through worldly and materialistic measures.
The downward departure in my life did not happen overnight but over the course of five to six years. I started treating people differently, not respectfully or with humble engagement; it was more entitlement and expected want. I took to doing drugs more and drinking irresponsibly. Being successful in outside sales led to happy hours after work at the bar that would stretch into the wee hours of the morning without a care for the consequences. From working in the corporate world to learning how to navigate the streets in the shady dealings of illegal drugs isn’t the typical progression for job advancement. It is, however, the path I took without a second thought to the dangers surrounding my activities. In these writings, you will hear about what haphazard decision-making and dauntless actions eventually earned me. You’ll absorb from my perspective how careless undertakings and poor follow-through can bring devastating results without warning. Subsequently, you will see how determined resolve brought me back to prominence no matter how far I had fallen. Resilience is a beautiful thing.
I could have made excuses, if I wanted to, but I didn’t. What kind of excuses would anyone have believed anyhow? Any pains or hardships were brought on by myself and my own actions. As artless as it may be, our choices are the essence of innumerable pains we go through in life. I didn’t start with a clear direction or formula for composing this book, but it has been tremendously important for my own sanity and purpose that it be a depiction of my experiences, beliefs, stories, and lessons learned from the trials and tribulations I’ve overcome. I basically sat down over the course of many months to put ideas on paper in order to share them with you. Some segments portray by what means I figured out how to come out the other side of a fast-paced and roller-coaster version of a life that I led for many years. Hard and risky times gave way to spiritual awakenings and modest new beginnings for what is now a life I would have never planned for myself - but wouldn’t trade for anything in the world.
“On to the next thing” is a phrase that we used in prison, specifically at the Leavenworth Prison Camp where I spent four of my six years in the federal system. This phrase was our way of keeping ourselves moving forward in the mundane existence we lived through each day. As long as we kept moving on to the next designated activity, planned or forced by the authority figures, then time would keep marching on and we would continue our prison sentences uninterrupted. It was a way to stay positive in a mostly dull and impeding environment; a place where none of us wanted to be but where assimilation was our only real choice. This ever-changing community was always on the edge of insanity and depression, but it was there where I confess that so much good came from this controlled setting. In that place there was the sharing of stories with fellow inmates and comradery with strangers in support of one another. The men I spent time with were all striving to reinvent themselves through the purpose of going back out into the world as better people equipped to take on life new and vi restored.
Yes, getting out of prison was just as hard as going in, though with a much brighter horizon to look forward to. From the invasion of my house by the SWAT team, to the renewal of a holiness that had long been forgotten, these accounts will prove that a person can change in huge ways. It starts with adaptation into a community structure so unfamiliar that it broke me to the core. It then leads to the hesitant joy of freedom once it finally arrives years later. I wouldn’t wish these hardships on anyone, and yet I praise a God who pulled me through it all and now thank Him for the experiences it has left me.
I hope these stories that I share will resonate with you and help bring sympathy to those suffering a similar fate in the prison system. I also want to inspire hope in others who feel that falling short is part of their DNA that will forever define them. As long as you are breathing air, then there’s a purpose and need for you in the world. Moving on to the next thing is all that you need to focus on.
I intended this to be a compilation that is entertaining and encouraging at the same time. It isn’t an “against all odds” story where you are enamored by the protagonist and motivated to conquer the world after reading it. No, it’s meant to hit you square between the eyes with a reality check. A reminder that we can all make bad choices at times and get caught up in the foibles of life. We also can make up for those shortcomings by simplifying our focus and living in the moment we are given.