Tuesday, July 31, 2018

When life is. . . Life. . .

From my journal. .   When life is life, I am reminded that to stay clean and sober, there are things that I have to do everyday. The main thing I must do is remain on the grateful side of things.  It's often easier to think about and honestly obsess about what I do not have, what I'm missing out on, and what I would like my life to look like today.

That's dangerous . . . And a bad place to be.

The better route is to count my blessings and be thankful for the relationships, the things, and the life I do have. This life is immeasurably better than my life in addiction and I know that. But, my disease tells me different. It whispers screams in my ear and tells me that things are better when you're using me . . . I know that's a lie but it's a loud and constant ringing in my ear at times.

I have learned that the best way to combat that is to say the serenity prayer, my third step prayer, and to be grateful.

Not only to be grateful but to constantly make lists like this picture. . .

If you're struggling it's okay, help is only a prayer away.

Monday, July 30, 2018

My son's letter to me in prison. . .

I have heard it said that the greatest motivator for change is someone in your corner who has stood with you, rooted for you, prayed for you, and thought of you often. A person who can see the pain your in and also the pain that you have caused them and they can selflessly look past all that pain you caused and offer you encouragement and prayer.
My addiction has caused so much pain to my family but even early on in my prison sentence they were there for me and they too recovered by me being away. One of the first letters that I received was from my son, Seth, who in his own way motivated me for my change. 
Just as a background, I received this while I was in maximum security where I could not make calls, watch television and had no idea what was going on in the world for 38 days. I was here waiting to be sent to my treatment in prison. IT WAS HELL.
Dear Father Shane,
Hello, my name is Seth Beal. Things have been good at school. Doing good in all my classes. Went to go see "The Revenant" with Leonardo DiCaprio in it. Also went to go see the "Hateful Eight" (the new Quentin Tarentino movie). Papaw about killed us because he hated it so bad. LOL! The NFL playoffs have been some of the best in recent years. The Packers and the Cardinals game was legendary. You would have loved it. Avery and Elijah and everyone loves and misses you. Think and pray for you everyday. Hope we can see you soon. I know it's tough but just keep your head up and Don't drop the soap!!! I know you will get through this and be a greater man then ever and be a role model for everybody you meet. WE BELIEVE IN YOU!
Your Favorite Child,
Seth Eric Beal
p.s. I farted on this Paper and I hope you can smell it.
Wow, so I just cried again and laughed again!! What catches me is this: in a time when I should have been watching those movies and the games with my son, he was still okay and he thought enough of me to let me know what was going on. My family was there for him when I couldn't be. That is huge. 
At the end of the day, the last half of his letter (minus the p.s.) was a catalyst for my change and for me falling on my knees and looking up. I couldn't have done it without letters like this and there were many. But, when your son who YOU LET DOWN OVER AND OVER says, WE BELIEVE IN YOU......the only place you can look is up because that is a miracle from GOD.  Healing and forgiveness doesn't happen without the hope of something bigger and better than all the pain of our past. Healing like that only happens by the mercy and grace of God. 
Yesterday, I wrote about the aloneness in prison and I just want to take a moment to reiterate that point.  I was blessed to receive mail, books, cards, and pictures from many people who were there to support me in my most difficult time.  That is not the case for most of the men that I did time with.  If you have a cousin, a friend, a son, a daughter, or an enemy who is in prison, take the time to write them.  It will mean so much to them and it will help you realize that you can make a difference in someone's life and maybe even experience some healing and forgiveness in your own life. . . after all, we all need help at some point in our life.  
We all need some mercy, grace and forgiveness and the best way to get it is to give it away first. 
If you are struggling, it's okay, help is only a prayer away. 

Sunday, July 29, 2018

That's me in prison . . .

I've had a year and a few months to look back on my prison experience and I can still hear the pain, smell the despair, and feel the grappling claw of confinement.  It's an experience that can best be described as complete aloneness and that does it little justice.  I'm going to attempt to explain the three main sensual experiences of prison today and maybe throw in what I saw throughout.  This blog will NEVER be able to fully describe the complete pain and control of confinement, but it will hopefully enlighten us to be sensitive to the horror, shame, and regret that fills our prison system.

As an attorney who visited most of the prisons and jails in Indiana, you would have thought I had already experienced the pain of the prison environment and would have tried to help those held there.  Unfortunately, that's not what happened and that's not my story - - - although I have wished it was.  My story, like most, required a little fine tuning by God before I had an "Ah-Ha" moment.  That period of clarity for me was unfortunately a lived experience of 17 months (486 days for those counting on their fingers right now) in the Indiana Department of Correction (see attractive picture of me above).

We have all heard sayings like, "if you haven't been there, you don't know," and "walk a mile in my shoes."  My now personal favorite is from Colochie, in the song Drug Addiction, "if you've been through what I have been through, you couldn't walk in my shoes." . . . Powerful but true.

Smell of despair -  17 months of smelling 1700 men with varying degrees of personal care, mostly none.  17 months of the smell of all those men living like a rolled can of sardines - so close I was never more than an arm's length away from any other prisoner and yet that "closeness" did not lead to connection, to caring, to sharing, to conversation or anything that resembles a healthy relationship.  The despair of prison is the smell of isolation, control, order, and bologna sack lunches for 486 straight days.  It's funny because I joked about that smell as an attorney who visited many incarcerated people, but it's all together different when it's the smell of your life . . . of despair.

Hear the pain - Being cut off from the World is hard, damaging to the Psyche, and torture on a man.  That pain can be overheard when walking by the phones attached to the wall and hearing pain in the men's voices as they talk to their moms, their wives, and their children.  That pain can be heard late at night as a man cries and griefs in his bunk because the Chaplain made a visit and told him his mom, son, brother, or wife has passed and he cannot go to the funeral.  That is the sound of pain and make no mistake about it, it's deafening. That's what aloneness is. . . and it's torture for us all.  Pain is hard to watch and even harder to hear.

Feel the confinement - I still wake up very early most days at around 3:30 - 4:00 AM.  That's the "CHOW" call of prison confinement.  Breakfast (if you can call it that) is early and from my bunk was about 1/8 of a mile trip.  That trip was made in miserable heat and breath-stealing cold.  If the walk didn't get you, the waiting outside in the heat, rain, snow, or ice would.  There are many examples of control but this one sticks out the most.  Get up early, march to eat slop, wait in the elements, and repeat - - - 486 days of that would make anyone feel like a prisoner.  It doesn't seem like a lot until I also remember what I saw along the way. . . the fences, the barbed wire, all the men dressed alike, machine gun towers, German Shepherds, men with mace, and the screams and yells of Correctional Officers to move, stay, sit, roll-over or whatever else they wanted to make me do.

After all, I wasn't Shane Beal anymore . . . . I was 257988. . . .

I wasn't a man
I wasn't a son
I wasn't a Dad
I wasn't an attorney
I wasn't anything. . . I was a number

That's control. . . That's defeat. . . That's torture AND I FEEL IT.

I share my experience not to say look at me but rather to say look at YOU.  If as an attorney, I didn't get it prior to being an actual prisoner, I don't expect anyone else to either.  Unfortunately, 80% of the incarcerated are just like me - - - an addict.  Our society has criminalized a mental health disorder and we have the largest prison population in the world. Larger than any of the countries whose citizens our border patrol try to keep out. . . think about that for a minute (that's a different blog from a different blogger). 

Takes some time today and think about it. . . comment about it. . . have a conversation about it. . . write a letter to someone in prison or jail. . . .go visit a prisoner. . . learn something about yourself and them.....

After all, if nothing changes. . . nothing changes.

If you are struggling, it's okay. . . Help is only a prayer away.

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Me too. . . . .

from my journal..... addiction causes brokenness and pain and I honestly believe that both are necessary to show my own weakness and then the unwavering strength that comes from God.  I believe that the glory of God is revealed in my brokenness, in this prison cell, in the times when I can't get it right, or in my addiction that I can't seem to overcome alone.  

God's core value is at it's absolute highest when I am at my absolute lowest.  This doesn't mean that my pain, my struggle, or my addiction is magically or miraculously lifted but it does mean that the silent existence of God is alive in my brokenness.....He is there with me in my pain....our pain.  That is half the battle. Knowing that the God I serve is always there with me in my down times, my prisons, and my addictions.  He never leaves. Never has. Never will.  It took me a long time to realize that simple truth and to trust him in my brokenness.  Funny the lessons we learn in the prisons of our decisions, our lives, and our dreams. 

The other half of the battle is having someone you love, look up to, respect, or maybe just met in a meeting say to you the most human words of all......"me too."  Me too says above all other things, I understand.... I've been there.... I know what you are feeling...... I see you...... I appreciate you.......

It's God putting someone in my path that has the same or similar journey to encourage me, strengthen me, and give me hope.

C.S. Lewis said, "friendship is born at the moment when one man says to another, 'What! You too? I thought that no one but myself......"  The start of every friendship in my recovery has been with the words....Me Too.....Me too ---- you are not alone----we are the same.  Those simple words connect me to so many who have helped me in this journey.  I surely believe that God did for me what I could not do for myself and by his Grace he walks with me in this journey.  But, I also believe that he put a lot of people in my path to say....me too. 

If you have ever said the words "me too" to me, I appreciate you,   I see you, and I thank you for sharing your own personal grace with me.  God's grace is amazing and awe-inspiring but sometimes I need the grace of a fellow man saying "me too" to help me experience the grace of a friend.

I am sharing this today because yesterday I got to experience not only the grace of God but also the grace of a friend walking her own journey of recovery.  Her struggles and her story remind me of myself and we were both able to say to each other...."me too."

If you are struggling, it's okay....help is only a prayer away.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

He had a lot to say but couldn't . . .

This letter was written by me on January 30, 2015 at 3:00 a.m.  I was in treatment for my addiction and I was struggling with what I went through as a child.  My early childhood was marked by the drowning of my older brother and the divorce of my parents shortly thereafter.  I was also molested by the son of my babysitter and I never dealt with that until I wrote this letter and processed it in my treatment group.  I have never publicly shared this part of my life until now.  I share it so that I can start the process of real forgiveness for the person who molested me.  I share it because like a lot of my recovery journey, others have experienced similar pain and maybe this will give them hope that things can get better if we just accept, forgive, and learn to heal. 

My parents divorce, like all divorces, was hard but they did the best they could and were good parents.  This isn't so much about them anymore as I have learned that they loved me unconditionally, they just could not stay together after the loss of their son. . . but that didn't register with the 5 year old Shane, as you can now read. . . . . . . . . . .

Why do these chairs sit in front of the biggest window in the world?  I can see everything out there but not when I sit here.  I like them when I sit in them and can feel they're green.  The are soft and fuzzy on my hands.  I can feel them when I'm alone but not in your lap.  I don't like them in your lap.  They are sad and lonely and never see outside even though we always look there. . . What are we looking for?  Nothing ever comes.  I don't like these chairs.  They hurt.  Who has chairs that hurt?  You always cry when I'm in your lap. WHY?  Are you sad because it's just me?  Am I not enough?

I don't like these paintings.  I know I will hate them someday.  That's not me in that painting!!! THAT'S NOT ME!!!  And who is the other painting of?  Why is it next to mine when I don't know him.  I can't ask that because you look at them and cry.  They must be sad paintings for us.  Why do you always cry and why can't I?

I'm smothered and can't breath in these chairs on your lap and I don't like them.  I want to go outside this big window.  I will be okay. . . I'm NOT the paintings of this bigger me . . . I'm not him. . . I'm me.   I want to feel good, be okay, and be enough.  I don't want to sit in your lap.  I want out.  I want that painting down.  You can cry for him or Dad on your own chair but not on mine. 

Why do you cry for things that will never come back?  I want to help you but I never can.  I'm sorry Mom but you won't let me talk.  What I would say would make you cry.  I'm here . . . isn't that enough?  Do you need me to be BOTH paintings?  I will try real hard if you will just stop crying.  I promise I will.

This bigger me in the painting is also in you room where I go but I don't feel like I should.  He's everywhere now and he's holding me.  WHY?  I don't even know him and no one does.  So why do you cry when you see them?  How can you cry for something that doesn't exist?  I don't like this room.  I HATE YOUR BATHROOM.  Bad things happen here.  Things I will never tell.  I'm angry.  Smother me now even though I don't like it.  It's better than this. . . way better.  Now, I'm really alone in this room.  I won't go there unless I am told too.  I have to follow rules.  I don't like these rules.  I want to go look out the big window again. I want to burn this room down.  I am alone with this . . . always. 

Why is it just you and me in these chairs crying? I cry dry tears - never wet ones.  Why do Dad's break doors when they leave for good?  Who does that?  Maybe we cry because the door is broken.  Maybe it's more.  I know that my painting is not enough for him.  He likes both paintings.  How can you like something that's not here more than me?  I'M HERE... Don't break our door.  Your not coming back because we are broken.  I am not enough to make you stay.  I don't like you for that.  But, I will soon. 

Jeff must have been very special to you to make me feel unworthy.  I'm sorry you hurt even though it's never talked about.  I would do anything if would let me and see me.

I'm sad, scared, alone and hurt.  I'm five years old and that sucks.  Maybe one day I can cross the road without you watching me through the biggest window in the world. 


Wednesday, July 25, 2018

My eyes . . . your eyes

1st blog yesterday and that was a cool and new experience to write in this format.  Normally, I just sit on my phone and enter my journal entries from either memory, notes, or the actual entries themselves.  I have become a typing wiz of sorts on my smartphone. All day I was like is anybody even reading this?  I really thought no one was reading and honestly - - I was a little upset - - like why is no one reading this blog?  People tell me to blog and then they don't read it - - what's that about?

Then a good and trusted friend checked me by saying, "what's your motivation for this.....?"  Is it for you to get likes and follows or them to get your message (which I wanted to say they can't get the message if they don't read it but it's whatever 💅).  I've been told that my mess has become my message and to just get it out there and let God handle the rest.  Come to find out when I checked last night, people are reading. . . people are watching my life and my mess. . . and those people are the reason I write about my life.

So, as I have done a lot in this recovery journey, I checked my pride.  Being self-absorbed and prideful kept me in the shame of my addiction for many years.  I have to keep watch for those things to pop up.  I also have to keep good people near me who can immediately call me out on my thinking.  Pride, self, and shame will destroy recovery and I don't have time for that.

I said when I started this blog that I was going to get out of my comfort zone and do things differently.  Well, here goes..... a poem about my pain and what I see. . . written when I was really struggling with my own addiction this past weekend. . . yep . . . 31 months and 29 days clean and EVERY SINGLE DAY IS A FIGHT.

My Eyes . . . Your Eyes by Shane Beal

If I could live in your eyes 
I would see the world in color
in my vision of us we all dye
I see all the darkness and despair

If you could be my eyes
what would you want to see?
My eyes see pain. . . pain. . . pain
YOU don't deserve the world of my eyes

They have lived things you know nothing of

Don't confuse my eyes with your world
You pretend to see until you can't
I can feel you try to understand my world
Stay in your world of color and leave my
darkness alone. 

GO AWAY and look again
GO AWAY and don't look back
You see what you want.
I see what I feel. . . 

I've seen nothing 
You have seen it all
I am blind to your color. . . 
You ignore my eyes.

Tuesday, July 24, 2018

Just cleaning up some school buses and the junk of my past. . .

From my journal . . . I am hot, sweaty, and talk about humbled . . . cleaning school buses in 90 degree heat will do that for you.  I'm completing community service as a condition of my early release from prison and my terms of probation.  Honestly, it's not the best job I've ever had.  😉

I wash and wax the outside and sweep, power-wash, and clean the windows of the inside.  Sidebar - it's probably a heat index of 120 degrees in this bus.  I thought school buses were big as a kid but they seem giant today. This is yet another humbling day in the life of a recovering addict.  Sure, I've been humbled a lot these days . . . but school buses. . .

My life as seen the loss of many friendships, my family, my law license, my job, my freedom, but, most of all . . . I lost me.  I lost the essence of me.  On this day it seems that my addiction was devastating and complete. I was clean and not using but man, I was still paying the price for my addiction.

Cleaning school buses was just the next thing on my NOT TO DO list that I was easily perfecting on my road to recovery.  My recovery journey has led me down some roads I would have never taken prior to prison.  One of those roads opened up in the middle of cleaning that bus.  I was a hot mess of hard work, humidity, humility, and not in the best of moods when my phone rang. . . My life, like it has so many times in the last three years, changed that day.

I was hired to work at Grant-Blackford Mental Health and that meant I could stop cleaning school buses (well, after I finish this one). That day was the first day I knew my life would be dedicated to helping others in recovery.

It's been said that who could better help a person devastated by addiction than someone who has already been there?  Who better to walk with someone who is struggling than someone who has struggled down that same road.  Who better to understand and appreciate how much it sucks to pee in a cup in front of a probation officer than someone who has to do the same thing.

I look back on that day and realize that God had a plan for me and it wasn't to clean school buses.  I am grateful today.

What is God's plan for you?  What are you doing about it?  Are you even listening?

If you are struggling, it's okay....help is only a prayer away.

-- Shane

Friday, July 20, 2018

Feeling Grateful

From my journal. . . No one appreciates a sunrise like a man who for so long was held captive by addiction. Addiction even takes sunrises from us. It takes the Hope a new day brings. It takes life.

There were many days in prison that I certainly saw the sunrise since I had to be up at 4 a.m. but honestly they seem a little better on the streets (prison for home). My life got better in prison because I met the guy whose Dad makes these sunrises and I finally found some hope.

So, even this sunrise is a But, God moment for me in my life today. But, God I wouldn't be running on the campus of Northwestern University while visiting Elijah Beal. But, God I would not have restored that relationship. But, God I would still be an addict. But, God I would still have no purpose. And, But, God this would just be a sunrise. 

Fortunately, it's not just a sunrise. It's a sign of Hope for me today. A hope that says look to me and I will take care of you just like I always have even when you didn't appreciate my sunrises. . . But.....God... 

If you're struggling, it's okay...help is only a prayer away.
 — feeling grateful at Greenwood Street Beach, Evanston, Illinois, Usa.

Welcome to my Recovery Journal.

One year ago today I started Team Beal Recovery . .
I am moving the journal entries and such to this page so you can all like and follow them and us there!!! Thanks for listening to my stories of prison and I look forward to sharing all of them and a lot more on this page. Tell your friends or families who are struggling to check this page out and maybe it will help them realize that they are not alone!!!! If we can recover....anyone can.
Head there now and like, comment, and share!!!!!
If you are struggling.....it's okay, help is only a prayer away!!!

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