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Beyond Bars: Struggling to find a routine, motivation on the other side

By Brian Wood, Beyond Bars Columnist - | Mar 26, 2018

Someone recently asked me if I could go wherever I would like on a vacation, where would it be. I blurted out the first thing that popped into my head: prison, specifically to the exact place I was living just six months ago. He asked why, and I told him I would like to visit a friend who is never getting out.

But that wasn't all of it. Prison is a highly social environment, and I think I miss that. Coming out on parole to a changed world can be somewhat lonely. I imagine it's many times worse for the parolees who are trying to do well and don't have any positive influences in their life.

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When asked by people what prison was like, I've jokingly said it was like a big summer camp. While I was in prison, I often avoided writing about the uglier aspects of prison life, and to be clear, there are no shortages of these and it's not a nice place. Even so, there are aspects of prison and my life six months ago which I miss.

That might sound weird, but in my last six months of prison, I felt I was doing pretty well. I had the time to exercise twice a day, I had a sense of fulfillment through my job in education, I was receiving many benefits through my writing, and I had a cellie who I really enjoyed spending time with. I felt good about what I was accomplishing and my days were enjoyable.

I've talked about my challenges with technology, driving, and grocery stores, but that hasn't been my biggest adjustment -- I've struggled to find a routine. I think I've nailed down what I'm missing.

When I was in prison, I was counting down to the date when I would get out. I was motivated to do everything I could to prepare myself, and no one could say I did not work toward that end. Adjusting to a completely different environment and routine is no small thing. I imagine it is even harder for those inmates who do nothing but watch television and play cards, and are not used to being productive.

It turns out I had a pretty accurate notion of what my life would look like in the short term once I was released from prison. I knew I wouldn't have much of a social life and I would just be checking the boxes for a little while. As far as parole goes, I'm meeting with my parole officer, taking my required classes, and paying my fines, restitution, and supervision fees. I'm working a lot more than most in an effort to get back on my feet financially. I still exercise, though not as much.

I knew what to expect, and yet I catch myself being less positive from time to time and thinking that I miss prison. I think what I really miss is who I was when I was committed to a purpose.

I can think of two other instances in my life when I have felt similarly driven and motivated as I was while I primed for my release. One was when I was preparing to get married and the other was when I decided I was going to become the top salesperson at the company I worked for. One might say those goals were different because I was going to get out of prison no matter what, but that's exactly what made them the same: I knew the end result, I just had some things to do in order to make them happen.

I know what I need to do as far as adjusting and getting back to my more positive ways. It's what everyone needs to do if they haven't done it. Have a dream/goal/purpose and go after it. I know I am the best version of myself when I am striving towards something specific. I've written down what my life is going to be like a year from now and I am not just excited about what that will be, but I'm excited about getting there.

Brian Wood, of Layton, pleaded guilty to nine felony charges for offenses from 2011 to 2014, including counts of burglary, drug possession and prescription fraud. He served four years in the Utah State prison system before being released on parole on Jan. 2, 2018.


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