Behind Bars: Focusing on the expectations I have for myself, not on others’

Monday , March 13, 2017 - 5:30 AM

BRIAN WOOD, Behind Bars columnist

My parents visited me last week, and it was a bit of an eye-opening experience. This was the third time I have seen them in the three-plus years I’ve been locked up, with all three visits coming in the last six months.

I’m just starting to understand the tough road I have in front of me. Although I feel I am now a trustworthy version of myself and am surer of my character than I’ve ever been, the rest of the world is going to doubt me.

During my parents’ visit my mom told me she was worried about me being out. She had heard only 10 percent of drug addicts “make it.” I probably didn’t do much to alleviate her fears when I told her I’ve heard it’s more like 4 percent for IV heroin users, such as I was.

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It’s not as bleak as it sounds though because what I understand that she doesn’t is the vast majority of people in those statistics have no desire to quit. It’s sad, but I think it’s safe to say 9 out of 10 of the offenders I met in the prison’s drug program were planning on going right back to drugs.

On top of that, many of the prisoners who have intentions of staying away from drugs will be released into horrible situations where everyone they know uses drugs. I am fortunate to have good support and no drug influences in my life.

I can’t even imagine the obstacles some of those prisoners will face. Of course, I had every advantage in life and still ended up in prison, so I understand if no one considers me a sure thing.

I’m fortunate to have support. Besides not getting the benefit of the doubt, some prisoners returning to society are not getting any help doing it.

 

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It is rarer than I first imagined for families to disown their incarcerated members; however, the instances I have heard about occur often with prisoners raised in an LDS household. I figure this has to do with higher expectations, pride in values and probably a belief in tough love, rather than the religion itself.

Not only was my dad in the bishopric and my mom relief society president when I was getting into trouble, but high expectations and good values were very prevalent in my home growing up. If I figure in all those factors, I count myself lucky to have the family support I do.

Expectations from others for me are fairly low. It was disappointing to realize the extent of such feelings by my parents, but I can’t blame or begrudge them their feelings. I caused them. I destroyed the trust.

To say “I really disappointed them” would be quite the understatement.

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Just as my parents are judging me on my past, I have to prepare myself for everyone else to do so as well. I know I am going to have a tough time getting people to trust me, finding decent employment and getting past all the labels that come with being an ex-con.

The positive thing that has come from the limited access to loved ones and their inability to witness my progress is that I feel the changes I have been making are really for me.

My dad said to me, “Brian, you have a lot to prove.” I prefer to think “I have a lot to show.”

I believe I’m ready for the hardest part of all this, and that will be accepting that people will have varied opinions of me. It will be difficult to prove myself to them. I just need to focus on the expectations I have for myself and not worry about what I can’t control.

Brian Wood, formerly of Layton, is an inmate at the Utah Correctional Facility in Gunnison. He pleaded guilty to nine felony charges for offenses from 2011 to 2014, including counts of burglary, drug possession and prescription fraud. He could spend up to 35 years in prison, depending on parole hearings.

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