Eric Needs Our Help

Written by Eric Burnham

Personal growth, to me, means becoming the person I was designed to be. I’m not too sure where the balance is found between nature and nurture in the formation of my spirit as a unique human being. I do know, however, that I’m just one incarcerated man trying to overcome my past mistakes and make a positive impact on this crazy world. I kind of think that’s what life is all about: taking the bad and using it for good. Eric Burnham #12729124 Eastern Oregon Correctional Institution 2500 Westgate Pendleton OR 97801

March 8, 2022

Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

Many of our followers are familiar with Eric, who is a frequent contributor to our blog. Read below to learn more about his moving story. The world loves people who help themselves, and now Eric needs some support from the world. Please share his fundraiser, and let’s help him get off to a good start out here.

A few words from Eric

I need your help. Please take a few moments to learn my story, and once you do, I really hope you can find it in your heart to lend a hand. Elements of my story may seem extraordinary, but I assure you that everything you are about to read is completely true and verifiable. Please… read on.

I have been incarcerated for twenty-one years, but I have not wasted my time. I have worked extremely hard, changed my life, earned a PhD in Psychology and Counseling, and dedicated my life to helping others. I have worked as a tutor in the GED program here at the prison for the last fourteen years. I am nearing release, and although I have saved as much as I can, it is not nearly enough to re-launch my life. I desperately need re-entry assistance, and I would greatly appreciate anything you would be willing to give.

Allow me to tell you a little about my journey. In 2001, I took a man’s life in a fight while drunk. I was 21-years-old and addicted to alcohol, marijuana, and methamphetamines in a misguided attempt to self-medicate my internal dysfunction. I was staggeringly self-absorbed, and I take total responsibility for both the actions and lifestyle that put me in prison — I did this to myself. And worse, I hurt so many people. I cannot ever change that, as much as I wish I could. I unquestionably deserved to be sent to prison, but I have worked hard to never be a man who belongs here. I have had plenty of time to reflect upon both who I was and who I want to be.

When I was arrested in 2001, I was angry at the world, confused about who I was, oblivious to the pain and suffering I left in my wake, and profoundly undereducated. I didn’t even have a GED. I was stuck in perpetual adolescence, unable to move beyond an egotistical “teenage” mindset. I didn’t care how I affected the world; I only thought about how the world affected me. I had no conception of how backward that was. Once I took responsibility for the pain I caused as a result of my selfishness and violence, I regained the power to determine the direction of my life, and through a dedication to authentic personal, emotional, and spiritual growth, I have arrived at a place where I genuinely want to use my education and personal experiences to positively impact others.

A transformational moment in my life came while I was serving time in disciplinary segregation for fighting. I believe I had a spiritual experience, yet I never want to push my perspective upon others. Although nothing happened that broke the laws of physics, I believe God illuminated to me the fact that I am worth more than the way I had been living, an idea I had never internalized before, and it permanently altered the focus of my life. I didn’t know how to be anything other than what I had always been, and I certainly didn’t know what the future held. Yet, I knew I would never be the same, but I also knew I had to work hard.

I use the metaphor of a weed often — I look back on my young life, and I see that I was a weed. I was ultimately removed from society because my impact was ugly. I brought nothing of worth to anyone. In fact, I was a burden to those who love me the most, and when I finally realized this, I didn’t want to live anymore. I really didn’t. It was at this low point that some educational opportunities came into my life, and I found purpose.

I went on to earn my GED in 2003, and I was given a job as a tutor in 2008, a job I still hold today. I earned an Associate of Arts degree in 2013 and a Bachelor of Arts in Counseling in 2015, graduating Summa Cum Laude with a 3.98 GPA. I earned a Master of Counseling degree in 2017, and on December 10, 2021 I completed my doctoral program, earning a PhD in Psychology and Counseling. Moreover, I have accumulated over 350 additional CEU credits toward certification in alcohol and drug counseling. I have everything I need for my license except the 4000 hours of supervised clinical counseling, which I cannot accrue until I am released. However, I am immediately employable in my field. Furthermore, my doctoral research revolved around the biological, psychological, social, and spiritual issues and struggles of homosexuality. I am well-trained and ready to pursue a career of service to hurting people with the second half of my life.

My aim is to positively impact those who struggle with substance abuse problems, identity issues, and spiritual direction. I have overcome similar problems in my own life, and I believe my experiences and insight can provide a unique voice that lends credibility to the counseling of struggling people.

I have made so many mistakes in my life and hurt so many people, and although my violence was over twenty years ago, it remains powerfully present for me. It is the motivating factor behind my desire to help others. I don’t want to hurt anyone ever again. I want to be a channel for light in the world by using my faith in God, my education in counseling, and my experiences of failure, incarceration, and personal growth to benefit others. I can never repay all I have taken from this world, but I can spend the rest of my life giving back.

Although my educational achievements are considerable, I think the best lessons I have learned go beyond academics. I have learned what it means to know who I am, to know my purpose, and to find meaning in my mistakes. I have learned that who I am is okay; I don’t need to hide my imperfections behind a mask or to numb my emotional struggles with alcohol or drugs. I have learned self-awareness, empathy, and personal responsibility. I have learned that my life impacts others and that I have a choice about that impact.

Below is video of Eric’s graduation in prison:

I am a featured writer on this website, and you can read my posts here. It will help you see that I am genuine and serious about helping others. I simply need some help to get started — housing, clothing, food, a phone, and transportation all cost money, and while it is not anyone’s responsibility to provide these things, I am asking for some initial assistance. I am extremely grateful for anything you would be willing to give. Thank you so much for taking the time to read my story. Stay safe.

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