April 10, 2017 will always be a special day in the history and memories of my life. At 10:30 AM, Mike Jacob from the Grant County Sheriffs Department arrived to transport me back to the Grant County Jail – but, not before a stop at McDonald’s for my first real meal in as long as my sentence (Thank you Mike, you will never fully appreciate what that simple act of kindness has meant to me and to my recovery). I left Plainfield Correctional Facility a week shy of 17 months incarcerated.
This blog is about the week of April 10th – April 18th - - my last week behind bars, my last experiences as a prisoner, and my last thoughts of being not a man but a number. I arrived at the Grant County Hilton shortly after 12:30 PM and had my first real cup of coffee since December of 2015. I wrote in my journal that I met Kyle for cOFFEE - - LOL - - actually, he brought cOFFEE to me in Jail and to this day it was better than anything Starbucks has to offer. Funny thing life is, until prison I didn’t appreciate McDonald’s, Starbucks, or Ruth’s Chris for that matter. A change in perspective can change a man and my prison sentence certainly helped me realize that I was on a dead-end road of addiction, sin, and a lack of appreciation let alone gratefulness.
My good friend and attorney, David Glickfield came to see me that night and and we prepared for my sentence modification hearing that next morning. I was so ready to come home, and David assured me that I was going to be successful in my petition for early release. But, honestly, who really trusts lawyers? 😊 The best part of that first night was dinner (sorry David) – spaghetti with real beef, green beans, actual garlic bread, and, get this - - pineapple, my first real fruit besides an apple in 16 months. You only get apples and only two a week in prison. I journaled that it was a restless night but a night of prayer, of reflection, and of trusting God.
The next morning, I was shackled and led across the street to the Courthouse. The same Courthouse where I represented people just like me in their bids to come home early - - surreal. When I arrived at Court, I was struck with some serious emotions when I saw the amount of people who had come to support me. If you remember anything about my story, you will recall that when I was sentenced, the only people there were my parents, Aaron Vermilion and Kyle Beal. I had literally burned every other bridge in my life and not just burned but stomped on, trampled over, and didn’t look back for the ashes.
Why were all these people there? See, God changed me in prison and in doing so, He changed the hearts of the people in the Courtroom that day (including the heart of Judge Young). Some came to testify, some came to pray, and honestly some came to see if what they had heard was true. I am not sure if there was an empty seat or a dry eye during the hearing. God is good. . . all the time.
I am not sure if I have ever publicly thanked all those who came to support me, so I will today. Thank you to Tade Powell, David Anderson, Aaron Vermilion, Ann Vermilion, Elle Vermilion, Beck Vermilion, Samuel Vermilion, John and Judy Pennington, Steve and Garie Beal, N.L. and Linda Pennington, Tony Pennington, Chris Pennington, Amy Beal, Seth Beal, Avery Beal, Jim Botkin, Jennifer Moore, Greg Kitts, Evan Hammond, Tom Myers, David Glickfield, Kyle Beal, Blake Beal, Mike Sample, Bruce Elliott, Marty Harker, and Leslie Hendricks (if I missed any forgive me as I was emotional by the time I was able to get back to my cell and write names down). After a long hearing, Judge Young decided to release me, and I was so excited - - briefly. I was to be release after I signed rules of probation, which in my experience took about 30 minutes more time and I would be on my way. Not so in my case as I was not able to sign them until a week later, on April 18th. Thus, the final week of incarceration and the theme for this blog.
The theme for that last week incarcerated and this blog is that God keeps His promises and answers all prayers. How He answers them is not for me to understand or try to figure out or try to control. I prayed to go home, and He delivered. Sure, a week later than Shane and all those people wanted but home nonetheless. Looking back now I think God wanted a week alone with me. A week to prepare me, mold me, and guide me.
That week I was reminded that God never left me and was always with me – especially in prison. How else could I have become things that I was not while suffering in my addiction and prior to prison? I have become forgiven, tranquil, content, loved, saved, loving, compassionate, happy and kind.
I used that week to reflect and plan. I prayed. I meditated. I read. I talked to myself (a lot). I talked to God. I sang. I drew. I ate some good jail food (so much better than prison, but that is for a blog all its own). Mostly, I just was. Have you ever just been? Just sat? Just listened? Just nothing? Trust me, that’s when God gets you. I am not suggesting anyone do a week in jail, but I am suggesting trying to get that close God in any way you can – if only for a week.
I am grateful for my prison sentence and especially for that last week because it prepared me for a life of acceptance and trusting God to know way better than me what I need. A week alone with God is a darn good week, even if where you are is the worse place on Earth.
Because of that last week, I remember these three things:
1) Hope means the most to those who have lived without it;
2) Every part of the recovery process requires time and patience;
3) We must all learn to wait on God.
If you are struggling, it’s okay. . . help is only a prayer away.