I write to you from the other side — the side that awaits you if you don’t change your course of action soon.
I know you are going through an extremely difficult time right now as you seek independence while trying to figure out your identity. Most teenagers find themselves doing the same thing. Your friends are very influential right now, and I understand that no one wants to be shunned by their peers, but please believe me when I say what you have been doing to impress them and gain acceptance is NOT who you are and will only lead you down a path of self-destruction.
I know you started drinking because you are very shy and wanted to come out of your shell, but if you knew what I knew, you’d stop right now. You wouldn’t pick up another drink if you knew you would become a full-blown alcoholic within the next two years; if you knew your alcoholism would eventually cause you to tragically take two innocent lives by drinking and driving, leading to a seventeen-and-a-half year prison sentence! Martin, you’re better than that! You’re smarter than that and can make it in this world by pursuing what makes you happy — not what others want or expect from you.
You have so much potential. I see it beneath your bravado, tough-guy exterior. You don’t have to put up this facade with me — I know you . . . better than you will ever know! You’re not a gangster, thug, or tough guy — who are you kidding? No, you’re passionate about art and writing, so why not pursue those with everything in you? Trust me, you will not regret taking this path in life; it sure beats the alternative — the one that surely awaits you if you stay on the destructive path you’re currently on.
Man, if you only knew the pain you’re putting your mom through by going to jail for those stolen car escapades you and your brother have been going on with your so called friends. Are you crazy?! You’re already putting yourself in a category that makes it more likely you’ll end up in prison than college! How do you think your mom will feel about that? Believe me, Martin, her pain will be immense. In fact, it very well could contribute to her death some years from now! You don’t want that on your conscience, do you? But imagine how happy she would be if you did what you’ve always talked about doing, going to college to be an architect.
You don’t want to be where I am, where you’ll be told when you can shower, use the phone, watch TV, eat, and go to bed. You don’t want to miss your nieces and nephew’s birthdays and Christmases for the next seventeen and a half years, do you? It is beyond dejecting to have to watch them grow up in pictures and visits every six months or so. Trust me, that would make you regret every decision you are currently making in your life, Martin.
There are countless men where I am who routinely reflect on their lives when they were your age, expressing how they wished they had made different choices that would have kept them from this dreaded place. I am amongst them. I pray you change soon so you’re not counted among us as well. Change before it’s too late!
I see what you and your friends do. Where do you think that will lead you? Seriously, I want you to take a moment and ponder where you think those things will get you. Do you think there is a future in doing drugs, drinking, and stealing? Look around you; name one successful alcoholic or drug addict! Listen, I’m not here to lecture you; I never liked that either when I was your age, but as I now sit here in a concrete cell staring out of a narrow window into a courtyard with a basketball hoop and barbed wire, a huge part of me wishes I had paid attention to what those older people were trying to tell me. Clearly they knew things I didn’t, even though I thought I knew what I was doing. I only tell you these things because I love you and don’t want to see you end up here — this dreaded place that surely awaits you if you keep on your treacherous path. They even already have a number assigned to you if and when you show up here!
I want you to reject what those who claim to be your friends want you to do because when you really think about it, you should be able to see they don’t have your best interest at heart. Be true to yourself, believe in yourself, and give yourself a chance — you deserve it. Deny these people the opportunity of ever being able to use that state inmate identification number — ever!
Your Older Incarcerated Self