Because a family member allegedly chose to make the wrong decisions and ended up behind bars, several of my children are suffering. It breaks my heart to see them hurting because they are missing someone important to them. If I had the power to go back in time and show this person just how much their actions would affect everyone who loves them, I would. What I have written below is an open letter to this person, as well as to anyone else who has chosen to make the wrong decisions and left friends and family members behind.
When you choose to do something stupid and you think, “I can do whatever I want to because it’s my life and I don’t have to answer to anyone,” you forget just how many people in your life are affected by that decision. When you do something so serious that it removes you from society, your family and friends, not only does it ruin your life, but it very negatively impacts theirs as well. They don’t get to see you. They don’t get to talk to you. You don’t get to be a part of their lives. They grieve over the time they’ve lost with you. They grieve for the person you used to be and the person they wish you still were.
When things go wrong, they don’t have you to lean on for support. When things go right, you can’t be there to celebrate with them. They miss you every day, and that’s not fair to them. You made the decision to do something that cost you your freedom and yes, you are paying for that, but they are paying for it as well. They can’t magically turn off their feelings and no longer care about you or forget you exist. They carry you in their hearts and in their minds and wish every day they could have you back in their lives.
They spend countless nights crying themselves to sleep because you are not there. They feel lost and hopeless because they know there is nothing they can do to change things from the way they are. They want to know when it all went wrong; was there a breaking point that they missed? Was there something they could have done to stop you from making that decision that changed everyone’s lives? Was there something they could have said that would have made the difference?
The answer is usually no, because they didn’t make the decision for you; you made it yourself. You decided you had nothing left to lose, or maybe you thought you were above the law and your friends would never rat you out, and went out and did what you wanted to do. You made yourself feel like a big person by hurting someone else, taking their things, destroying their property or whatever it was that you felt would make you happy at the time.
Did you even take a second to think about how this action would affect your family? Your parents? Siblings? Children? Friends? Aunts? Uncles? Grandparents? ANYONE? Probably not. You were in the moment, only thinking about yourself and how to prove that you were bigger, “badder” and better than the other person. Now, you have all the time in the world to think about these things, but will you? I don’t know.
It doesn’t appear to me that you spent a lot of time thinking about anyone else when you were free and living among your friends and family. You didn’t think about how your actions would affect the lives of your children because if you had, you wouldn’t have done the things you did. I’d like to think the person they remember who was always there for them, always took care of them, looked out for them and supported them is still in there somewhere. If that’s true, that person is buried very deeply inside you because you certainly weren’t doing any of those things when you were out looking for/preparing for trouble.
Are you sitting there thinking about how you can make things up to your friends and family? Are you thinking about how you’ll do things differently if and when you ever get out? Are you making plans for how to make sure you don’t end up back in there again? Are you worried that what you’ve done will impact your family for the rest of their lives and that they will have to live with the stigma of what you’ve done?
Or are you in there thinking of ways to get back at the person who stepped up and said you need to pay for what you’ve done? Are you coming up with new and better ways of getting into more trouble if you get out? Are you refusing to own up to your mistakes and learn from them?
I certainly hope it’s the former, for everyone’s sake, but I’m not holding my breath. I also don’t expect you to ever understand just how much pain you’ve caused. The only thing I know to do is to be there for the ones you’ve left behind, try to answer their questions and love them unconditionally. It can’t ever make up for your loss, but it will show them there are people in this life they can always count on. I’m just sad that one of those people isn’t you.