By John Sullivan
I looked down at the metal shackles secured to my wrists and thought to myself, this is the last time I ever have to be in cuffs. I was on a LA County Sheriff’s bus heading to Men’s Central Jail from Wayside Jail and the next day I was released to Beit T’Shuvah.
Two weeks prior I was in court facing a non-drug related charge, which could easily curb my appeal for a drug program and line me up for another tour of state prison. I found myself staring at my Public Defender through the glass in the attorney-visiting cell just outside the courtroom while she rambled on about her gallant efforts to “get me a program”. Did I mention I have over 20 convictions and I just happened to be in front of this same judge one-month prior on another case? Her efforts had better be gallant with my history!
So out to battle she went while I paced the cell awaiting my fate. Half an hour later she returned, telling me the DA would not budge and I was on my way back to the joint. Oh joy! I instantly changed from “hopeful”, “this time I’ll get sober” and “please God help me one last time”, to “f@#k this, f@#k the world and f@#k me”. My Public “Pretender” slid the court documents under the window for me and I signed the conviction order. With a reframed attitude I snatched them rudely from her, initialed all the boxes and angrily scribbled my name on the dotted line.
The Deputy noticed my bad attitude, removed me from the attorney-visiting cell and placed me in one by myself. Once inside I threw my book at the wall and screamed with anger. I was going back and I was one step closer to a life of endless misery. I really didn’t know what was best for me; maybe prison was better for me than a program? Maybe a program would have been better for me than prison? All these questions were bouncing around in my head and then out of nowhere – for some reason I still do not understand today – I calmed down, took a deep breath and for the first time in my life entered into a real conversation with my Maker. No, not like the hundreds of pleas to Him to get me out of trouble in the past, but a very real attitude of humility and surrender had over taken me. I told God I didn’t know what was best for my life and that I was okay with what ever path He wanted for me.
After another hour or two had passed the Deputy cracked the cell door and told me my attorney wanted to speak with me. I went back in to see her and she said to me, “The DA changed his mind”. I thought she meant he wanted to give me more time but then I heard her say, “He wants to send you to a program”. What the hell? I thought it was a done deal; I had signed the papers, I had become a two-time loser, I was one step closer to a life trapped in the revolving doors of addiction and the justice system. But I had also surrendered to God and God definitely had taken notice.
Back to that bus ride, I really believed I never had to be shackled again and since then I haven’t been. With the help of Beit T’Shuvah I have embarked from a new beginning on an amazing journey of finding my passion and discovering my purpose. My relationship with God continues to grow from that moment I discovered Him in that little old jail cell. My eyes keep growing wider and wider in wonder of the miracles around me and the beauty of life. I am no longer a taker but rather I ask myself daily what I can bring to the table, to the people in my life and to the world.
Although not all of you have found a spiritual connection while sitting in a jail cell I believe it is through the pain and challenges of life we can unite with God and begin again to see through blessed eyes.
I invite the community to post comments describing your own New Beginning, whatever it may be.