Eric Needs Our Help

Eric Needs Our Help

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.

Jacob Schmitt – Empowering the Imprisoned: A Journey of Love

Jacob Schmitt – Empowering the Imprisoned: A Journey of Love

Our friend Jack Erdie produces and hosts a podcast called Plague Talk. The July 18, 2020 episode features Melissa’s husband Jacob Schmitt, interviewed from prison in Washington state.
Jacob Ivan Schmitt has spent most of his life locked up. Now he works to bring positive empowerment to the incarcerated and to thoroughly prepare them for “outside” thinking and successful reentry and community reintegration.
 

 

His is a story of the power of love and of dreaming being the bars that bind us. Even when we discuss the misery and losses for the incarcerated during Covid 19 lockdown squared, his vision is unwaveringly of internal and external freedom, autonomy, success and love.

 
My Unique Dilemma

My Unique Dilemma

As of 2018, I have a little over eight years left before I go before the board of parole and potentially release back into the community. Although I’m admittedly a bit apprehensive, I do feel prepared. I’ve put in considerably effort improving myself not only psychosocially and spiritually, but also relationally. It is extremely important to me that I not impact others negatively. 

Previously, I was ludicrously self-centered, focused only on what I could get in life and out of life, with very little regard for the struggles and feelings experienced by others. Rather than positively impact the lives of others, I was hurting virtually everyone with whom I came into contact. Once I finally realized how I was affecting the people around me everyday, I was able to choose how I impacted others. It was because of this revelation that I decided to pursue a career in counseling. 

I’m currently enrolled in a Ph.D. program (having earned a Master’s degree in 2017), and by the time I go before the parole board, I will have my Ph.D. in Counseling. For my certification, however, there are some additional requirements. I must complete 300 CEUs (Continued Education Units) in counseling and log 4000 clinical hours of actual counseling. While I have met the required 300 CEUs by taking several counseling courses in addition to my degree program, I have been unable to log any clinical hours. But I do have an opportunity to do so, which presents a dilemma. 

I expect to finish my Ph.D. program by mid-2021. At that point it will be possible to transfer to another facility and participate in an alcohol & drug treatment program that will help me log my clinical hours, allowing me to secure a CADC I or II (certification) prior to going before the parole board, and, I believe, increasing my chances for release. Having my certification will also make it easier to enter the workforce with a felony conviction on my record. 

On the other hand, once I complete my Ph.D. program I could go to work in one of the industry jobs that pay around $150 per month, allowing me to save a considerable amount of money for my release, and, I believe, increasing my chances for successful re-entry into society. Money is a critically important aspect of security as I acclimate to a totally new culture — I came to prison prior even to 9/11! Being able to save around $2500 can go a long way toward helping me get established. 

My dilemma lies in the fact that I cannot do both. If I enter the A & D program in order to log my clinical hours, I will be unable to save any significant amount of money for my release. And if I go to work in a job that pays enough for me to save real money, I’ll be unable to log any of the clinical hours I need for certification. It’s a difficult decision, and I haven’t made up my mind yet. I still have a couple of years before I have to decide, but it’s still an ever-present, anxiety-producing hurdle in my path that I know is coming. I think about it often. I’d be lying if I said I don’t long for some guidance, but in prison, rehabilitative guidance simply does not exist.