In a certain context, I would have been put to death.
Mother Night is a book by Kurt Vonnegut, and is, far-and-away, my favorite work of fiction. In fact, I liked it so much, I figured out a way to incorporate it into my teaching curriculum, and as a result, many students told me at the end of the year that it was their favorite piece we’d read.
The protagonist, Howard W. Campbell, Jr., is a Nazi during World War II. But actually, he’s not a Nazi, he’s an American spy. He’s an American spy masquerading as a Nazi propagandist, broadcasting his message of anti-Semitism over the radio waves of Germany, doing his best to sway public opinion in the way Fox News and MSNBC do in contemporary America. However, his job over the radio waves was to incorporate coded messages within his content that would reach all of Germany; a series of coughs, sniffles, misspeaks, throat-clearings, or pauses would send messages across the country in a time before mass-communication. Howard never knew what he was communicating over the airwaves, he was simply given his codes by another American spy.
So Howard was an American living in Germany, and was (by all perception) a Nazi. He lived in Germany, spoke German, and married a German woman, a famous stage actress named Helga Noth. And the two of them fell in love.
It was no secret that Howard was an American. He was born in New York and spoke with a standard American dialect; it was merely understood (or believed) that he was an American Nazi living in Germany. No one ever knew he was a spy, not even Helga. But regardless of their differing nationalities, Howard and Helga were genuinely in love. During World War II, during a time when Americans were forcing Japanese citizens into Concentration Camps and hurling insults at anyone of German descent, Howard and Helga, living in Berlin together, held no such feelings toward one-another. They weren’t an American and a German, they were husband and wife. And as Howard describes it, they were a “Nation of Two.”
The logistical premise of Mother Night is something to which I can relate: The novel is written as the memoirs of Howard W. Campbell, written from prison as he awaits trial for his war crimes against Israel – no one from the United States government will admit he was a spy, not a Nazi. So all he can do is sit in prison and reflect on the life he lived, longing for his “Nation of Two.”
My wife and I had a “Nation of Two,” and it was amazing. I was proud to have the beautiful and loving wife I’d married, and as a citizen of our “Nation of Two,” I gleamed with patriotism. But unfortunately, that patriotism and pride was not enough to prevent me from committing High Treason. I betrayed our “Nation of Two” when I decided to be unfaithful; I became a traitor to my nation, and a criminal.
Marriage is sacred, and it’s a one-time shot. Sure, there are second marriages and third marriages for many people, but each marriage is a one-time shot because of one simple fact: You can never un-cheat. Once that betrayal – that act of marital treason – is committed, there is absolutely no way to undo it. And once you even entertain the notion or consider the possibility, you’re on a very slippery downward slope that can easily lead to the demise of your relationship. I entertained the notion because I thought it made me feel attractive and powerful and young, but the fact of the matter is, the only thing I entertained was the notion of adultery. And when that notion came to fruition, there was nothing I could do to change that. Once it happened, it happened – I was an adulterer. And now, in the eyes of most, that is what (and who) I will always be. Regardless of who we became later in life, or what our motives may have been, Howard W. Campbell Jr. knew he would always be a Nazi, a traitor, and a war criminal; and I will always be an adulterer, a sex addict, and a cheater.
I tried to end my life’s memoir the same way Howard did, but for me, it didn’t work out – that particular sentence was commuted. So I’m left to this life of shame, searching for hope wherever I can find it. My “Nation of Two” still exists, but only because my wife has remained by my side. I can never un-cheat on her, and the fact that she has bestowed upon me complete forgiveness is the exception, not the rule. She should have left. But she didn’t.
You can never un-cheat on your spouse, and that betrayal is the worst kind of treason a person can commit. I was – undeservingly – forgiven. In a certain context, figuratively speaking, I should have been put to death.
DISCLAIMER: I am, for all intents and purposes, a sentimental fool.
It is an odd trait of the human condition that we possess the intrinsic ability to, simultaneously, love and hate someone. I struggle with this regularly. And in one instance, it makes me a complete hypocrite.
I had a “best friend” once. A long time ago. And things were good. We enjoyed each other’s company just enough to make it fun, and we annoyed each other just enough to keep it interesting. Our discussions were substantive and our interests were more-or-less similar. He was my best man, and I his. And then we both became teachers. And that was cool too. But then, I made the unfortunate choices which changed everything about everything, forever.
He disavowed our friendship after my release from prison (along with his entire family) and I, clearly, did not deal well with losing my best friend. I saw him in public about a year ago (a few months after my release), and he wanted to shake my hand. I obliged, then walked away, snarkily remarking to him, “Well, this is awkward.” I was subsequently informed that my actions had offended him, and so, feeling as though I had the upper-hand, decided to fire-off an extremely honest and extremely vulgar and extremely rude email to him.
He never replied.
Listen: I meant every fucking word of that email, and I wish I’d never sent it. I was brutally honest – too honest. He ended our friendship for reasons that were valid to him, no matter how ridiculous I may perceive those reasons to appear. And rather than accepting his perspective, I lashed out.
And therein lies my hypocrisy. There is no way I can expect him (or anyone) to forgive me for what I’ve done without first forgiving the things that others have done to hurt me, even if I was deserving. I cannot demand forgiveness while simultaneously refusing to forgive.
I’m not writing about losing a friend; I’m writing about forgiving a friend – a former friend. Should he choose to forgive me, then so-be-it. But I ask for no such gesture. Instead, I have come to my own peace by forgiving him for the way in which he hurt me, deeply, when I was in need of a best friend. I will likely never talk to him again, and I’m fine with that; but that is immaterial to the overall point: In order to be at peace with this particular aspect of my life, I must first forgive, whether I am forgiven or not.
And yet, the reality is this: Whether or not he forgives me as I have forgiven him, the friendship is, for all intents and purposes, dead.
So it goes.
The first book I ever read, cover-to-cover, was Breakfast of Champions by Kurt Vonnegut. This book is quite bizarre and moderately complex, but in it (in one of my favorite scenes, early in the book), the reclusive fictional science fiction writer named Kilgore Trout is invited to be the keynote speaker at an event in which he is required to wear a tuxedo. And as he takes his tuxedo out of an old trunk to clean it up, Kilgore Trout converses aloud with his parakeet, Bill.
He dabbed at his tuxedo with a damp rag, and the fungi came away easily. “Hate to do this, Bill,” he said of the fungi he was murdering. “Fungi have as much right to life as I do. they know what they want, Bill. Damned if I do anymore.”
Then he thought about what Bill himself might want. It was easy to guess. “Bill,” he said,
“I like you so much, and I am such a big shot in the Universe, that I will make your three biggest wishes come true.” He opened the door of the cage, something Bill couldn’t have done in a thousand years.
Bill flew over to the windowsill. He put his little shoulder against the glass. there was just one layer of glass between Bill and the great out-of-doors. Although Trout was in the storm window business, he had no storm windows on his own abode.
“Your second wish is about to come true,” said Trout, and he again did something which Bill could never have done. He opened the window. But the opening of the window was such an alarming business to the parakeet that he flew back to his cage and hopped inside.
Trout closed the door of the cage and latched it. “That’s the most intelligent use of three wishes I ever heard of,” he told the bird. “You made sure you’d still have something worth wishing for – to get out of the cage.”
My wife and I love to travel. She is the absolute best travel companion. And when we travel, we go meet people we don’t normally meet and do things we don’t normally do and feel ways we don’t normally feel and see things we don’t normally see – We live life as we don’t normally live. It is a sweet escape, but admittedly, it would be nothing without her.
We just returned from Dallas, visiting some old friends and seeing some beloved family and enjoying one of my favorite cities. Saturday night we went to dinner with a few friends we only see a few times a year, and we talked about this-and-that, including our occupations, the banalities of life, and for us, joy of the road trip away from Wichita, etc. And during our dinner conversation, I made the comment that I didn’t particularly enjoy living in Wichita because the amount of negative history I have there and how nice it is to be in a city like Dallas where no one knows me, so I don’t have to worry about “running into” someone from the past (such as a former student or colleague – not that I mind this at all; I’ve never had a negative experience with this, and in fact, each one has been positive). But all-the-same, it’s nice to walk into a restaurant and not feel the need to scan the crowd to make sure there’s no one there I know.
During this conversation, as I voiced my displeasure at still living in Wichita, my friend asked, “Why not just move?” Solid question; a question I’ve asked myself many times. And it is a question, to which I don’t have a solid answer. “Family,” I replied. “My whole family is there and now that I have a daughter, I wouldn’t want to take her away from her grandparents and cousins and everyone.” This, I suppose, was a factual and truthful answer, though not the answer in its entirety – it was not a complete answer because, essentially, I don’t have an answer that even resembles completion. But as I was thinking about this solid question, I couldn’t help but feel like Bill, Kilgore Trout’s parakeet.
Not to seem overly dramatic, but my “dreams” are being shattered left-and-right these days. The choices of my past have limited the opportunities of my present to such an extent that I feel like I’m often merely trying to maintain. For example, I recently applied to graduate school. But, of course, being “me,” it’s a long-shot that any university would allow me to be admitted. I’ve applied to four schools, and of the four, two have denied me. And I expect similar results from the remaining two. That is my reality, here. The ghosts of this town that follow me and peak from behind corners are constant reminders of the choices I’ve made in my life.
“The choices you’re making now won’t even feel like choices until it’s too late,” said Jason Sudeikis, playing the part of track & field Coach Larry Snyder in the new film Race about the life of Jesse Owens. When I heard this line in the film as my wife and I sat and watched it in the theater this weekend, I replayed the line in my mind over and over again. It was one of those quotes that I wish I’d heard years ago. Maybe it wouldn’t have made a difference, but maybe it would have. I don’t know. But it certainly capped-off the metaphorical message of how I was feeling at the moment. We stopped in Oklahoma on our way back from Dallas and decided to take a break from driving and catch a movie; perhaps I was subconsciously delaying our return to Wichita as long as possible – I knew that Friday, Saturday, and Sunday were days when I didn’t have to live in the reality of “being me,” burdened by the choices of my past, being in a new place with new people who had no clue who I was. But Monday, I would have to wake up, get into my car, and step back into “my life,” plagued by guilt and stigma. Blue Monday, indeed.
I will eventually leave. I will eventually move away from Wichita. There is simply too much history here; there are too many demons chasing me around this town. (I, of course, mean that figuratively; I don’t honestly believe that real demons are actually chasing me around town – although, from a Frank Peretti point-of-view, I wouldn’t completely rule it out.) But until I do move away, just knowing that a bigger better world exists out there is one of the few things that still fills me with hope. The expanse of the great “unknown” of a brighter future in a better place keeps me moving forward. Two graduate schools have rejected me. Two have yet to respond. So I still have … hope. But if (or when) the remaining two reject me as well, I will have no choice but to keep moving on. And I don’t know where that will take me, but I pray it takes me to a new place with better opportunities for me, my family, and our lives together. My wife and daughter don’t deserve the problems that come with being attached to me, so it is my responsibility to provide the best possible life for them apart from the choices of my past. And my aspirations are designed to do exactly that. Some day, I hope to be known by my peers by what I’m doing, rather than what I’ve done; known by who I am, not who I used to be. But I am also not so narcissistic as to think this doesn’t impact my family. They deserve to be the wife and daughter of someone who is doing something great, rather than someone who has done something terrible. So why do I strive for a better life? Not for me – for them.
Because eventually, coming home from a trip on Sunday night won’t lead to the inevitable feeling of dismay in knowing that a Blue Monday will follow, but instead, a feeling of joy in knowing that a bright Monday will follow, in a new place, in a new job, in a new life, but with the familiar and loving wife and daughter whom I love, and who love me. So for now, like Bill the parakeet, I will stay in the cage and keep grasping my third wish. Because sometimes in life, a difficulties “now” can be handled just a little easier when the possibilities of the future still hold promise. And then I will finally be able to say, “Goodbye, Blue Monday!”
There’s a feeling of pseudo-emptiness that comes with the completion of a solid Netflix series binge-watch. When you’ve spent weeks watching ninety or a hundred episodes of the same show, following the ongoing plot, growing with the characters and becoming emotionally attached to them, the final credits of the Series Finale, followed by the return of the Netflix menu showing Episode One again seems to almost bring forth a sense of loss, like a close friend has moved away and now you don’t have anyone to share in the sporadic oddities of your day or your completely nonsensical and random thoughts. There’s literally an emptiness.
I’ve felt this emptiness numerous times since coming home from prison, including as recently as yesterday. People don’t want to be my friend anymore because of who I was and what I’ve done. And honestly, I don’t blame them. If the situation was reversed, maybe I’d feel the same way. Maybe not, but maybe so. I don’t know. What I do know is, if I sulk in the loss and emptiness of all the friends I’ve lost, it would literally encompass my entire day. So all I can do is move on – on to the future that awaits; moving on to the next Act.
My wife and I just finished a binge-watch on Netflix of the entire series of “Parenthood,” a 103-episode drama about four grown siblings and how their lives all intertwine with the fateful decisions of living adult lives, professional lives, and the lives of parents. And the four siblings’ parents, played by Craig T. Nelson and Bonnie Bedelia, experience nearly identical struggles in their mature marriage as the adult children experience in their own, but within the context of their years of experience and deep dedication to one another.
Late in the series (I believe in the final season), Bonnie Bedelia’s character, Camille, tells her husband, Craig T. Nelson’s character, Zeek, that she thinks they should sell their big house in the country suburbs because it had become too much house for just the two of them in the years since the children had grown up and moved-out. And after discussing the move with Zeek, Camille finally convinces him to sell the house, telling him that moving to a new house would be the beginning of the “Third Act” of their lives. In my mind, I envision her perception of the play of their lives together divided into three Acts: Act One would be their marriage before children; Act Two would be their marriage as parents as they raised four children; so Act Three, then, would be their lives together as grandparents.
Teaching Shakespearian drama to high school freshmen wasn’t as bad as it sounds. I was a really good teacher and Romeo & Juliet was a required part of the freshman curriculum, and (admittedly) I learned a lot about drama simply from teaching it. And so I understand how the basic structure of a “play” works. And in the most basic form, the quintessential Shakespeare play typically has five Acts. And for me, as I watched the final season of “Parenthood” and heard Zeek and Camille talk about entering the third (and final) Act of their lives, I began to wonder, what Act am I in right now, and how many will there be?
It was an easy question with an easier answer: I’m in Act Four – but the play of my life will carry into Act Five, just as Shakespeare’s did, I hope. The play of my life began in the spring of 1990 when I was ten years old and decided to play little league baseball. That decision essentially set the path for the rest of my life because the decision to be a baseball player drove my personal desire to grow up as an athlete (as opposed to a musician or actor or dancer or, something). Being an athlete became the nexus of who I was, even leading up to 1994 when I made the decision to switch from baseball to track and cross country. I learned a lot about life during the 90s. I’m a child of the 90s. I love the music of the 90s. I love the movies of the 90s. I love the TV shows of the 90s. For the most part, Act One of my life was the 90s.
But like any drama, the happiness of the early-goings of a play must come crashing down; because, after all, every play needs a plot, and plot is driven by conflict. And so, in the summer of 1998, Act One of my life came to a screeching, dramatic, and painful halt – on a drunken summer night, everything changed; I was raped. I was raped by a guy whom I thought was my friend, and whom I did not know was gay. It mortified me.
And nothing was ever the same after that.
Act Two in my play was the dramatic progression of watching the protagonist slowly and unknowingly (yet steadily) decline. In August of 1998, the curtain for Act Two of my life opened in Emporia at Emporia State University as my days were spent running up and down the white-lined straightaways of the ESU track, and my nights were spent running up and down the cheaply-carpeted halls of the women’s dorms. One year of living that out-of-control faux-fratboy life led to a plot twist: I transferred schools, to a Christian school. But just when you thought that plot-twist would change the motif of the plot, I kept the same thematic bullshit at my new school that I’d had at my previous school: Promiscuity; because as it turns out, Christian college girls are just as easy as secular ones. So essentially, I fucked my way through college with reckless disregard for anyone except my own selfish and subconsciously driven desire (to – as I was told years later by a therapist – somehow prove to myself I wasn’t gay by having as much sex as possible). In retrospect, my behavior back then makes perfect sense; at the time, I just thought I was lucky and smooth because I got laid a lot.
So when I met my wife and got married, one might think this plot-twist would change the thematic motif of the play, but nay did it do so. Nope. I kept on fucking my way through Act Two, because apparently getting married wasn’t a dramatic enough conclusion to the Act, so it had to keep going; evidently I wasn’t ready for it to end (switching from college girls to coworkers after I graduated and got a job). Someone (or something) would have to end it for me. And then, I became a high school teacher where I carried on multiple affairs with multiple teachers at the school – literally at the school; and a few years later, I decided to make-out with a former student.
I’ve said this before, but I feel this is a point that merits reiterating: Making out with my former student was not a mistake – it was a choice. It wasn’t something that “just happened,” it wasn’t an “accident,” and it wasn’t something I “couldn’t control.” I was a sex addict in full-force, but that doesn’t mean I didn’t have the ability to make positive choices. Being a sex addict simply gave me the drive to which I chose to surrender. I never lacked free will – I simply lacked the will to be free. So when I hear people in Sex Addicts Anonymous say they “couldn’t help it,” it fucking pisses me off. I knew that what I was doing was wrong. I simply chose to do it anyway. It’s just that simple because I was just that evil. True talk.
So how would Act Two of my play finally wind-down? On March 9, 2012, I was arrested and charged with numerous felonies stemming from my brief relationship with my former student. And on November 2, 2012, Act Two of my life finally came to a merciful yet fatefully-deserving end when I was led from a courtroom in the Sedgwick County Courthouse, leaving my wife and family in tears behind me as I was escorted out, to Prison. And with the closing of my first jailhouse door, Act Two abruptly ended and Act Three not-so-quietly began.
And thus, Act Three was prison. Prison was when I, the protagonist, began to resolve (to the best of my abilities) the conflicts that had driven the plot of my life for so long; but in the process, new conflicts drove an entirely new plot. In prison, with the help of an amazing therapist, I was able to face the deeply-buried reality of the 1998 sexual assault I endured, and say audibly for the first time, “I was raped.” And oddly enough, that was the first giant step toward coming to terms with what happened and beginning the healing process. In prison, I began to understand and comprehend the fact that I was a sex addict, and I read countless books on addiction and recovery. In prison, I learned just how much my wife loved me, remaining married to me in the face of not only my betrayal and unfaithfulness, but also in the face of the complete and utter humiliation of being married to – me.
Act Three was the shortest Act, lasting exactly 763 days – November 2, 2012 until December 5, 2014. There is a long and winding road (literally, but I suppose figuratively as well) that leads away from Winfield Correctional Facility, the prison from which I was released. Act Three ended when I could no longer see the prison buildings in the rear-view mirrors, making my way nervously back into reality.
This Ongoing Commentary – this narrative of “Act Four” – is the current Act of my life. I’ve had several people indicate to me or to my wife that they read these writings regularly. And to those who do, from the bottom of my heart, Thank You. Writing about my walk through life began as a way for me to cope with each new experience as the curtain of Act Four remains open and the drama plays-out on the stage of my life. But I’ve been told on numerous occasions that people have been reading the multiple entries of this narrative and drawing inspiration and enjoyment. My cousin’s wife told me recently, “I love your writing; you just have an amazing way with words.” At the time, I didn’t indicate to her how huge of a compliment that was, but it literally made me smile uncontrollably. Today my wife told me that someone she knows has been reading this because my life experiences help her understand and cope with some of the experiences of her past. This was an equally wonderful compliment and I am so glad I’m able to, from a distance, be something positive in someone’s life, even if it’s merely through words on a screen. Because the truth is, I feel like I’ve bestowed so much evil upon the world through the selfish addictive actions of my past that I owe it to – someone – God, maybe? – to be a positive part of the lives of those around me, or perhaps even the people I’ve never met, but who regularly read my writings.
So to those who read this, please accept my humble gratitude for your willingness to come with me on this journey through Act Four. Thank you for your complimentary words of encouragement and support, but also know that your encouragement is appreciated exponentially. Living a better life is essential to being a better person, but when people notice – well, that’s truly rewarding.
My favorite play by William Shakespeare is The Merchant of Venice. I first became interested in this particular one after seeing Mel Gibson dramatically portray it during his film The Man Without a Face. And one of my favorite lines is spoken by Antonio when he says, “I hold the world but as the world, Gratiano – A stage where every man must play a part, and mine a sad one.” And for the first three Acts of my life, I think I felt this way as well. But Act Four has become the first one with encouragement and potential, even in the face of the limitations of being on parole, being a felon, being a criminal, and being perceived as some untreatable sicko. It’s ironic (in an Alanis Morissette sort of way) – logistically, my life might seem difficult and even “bad,” but the reality is, the hell that I’ve put myself through has turned me into (as I like to put it) the “best possible version of myself.” I suppose the lesson is simple: Even in the worst of times, the best of times can still happen. My bad choices can shape the way other people perceive me – there’s nothing I can do to change that. However, my bad choices do not have to shape the way I perceive myself. And so, on the stage of my world, the part I play will no longer be a sad one, but rather, one of hope, recovery, humility, and gratitude. The curtain for Act Four is still open, and anything is possible.
I don’t typically get really pissed off anymore. Today was an exception.
As I sat in a waiting room today awaiting an appointment, I scrolled through my phone for something to occupy my attention until my name was called. I opened the KAKE-TV app and began reading the local news, as I often do with the apps of the three local Wichita news stations. And as I scrolled down, I saw a headline that prompted me to click. The headline read, “Former Eureka teacher & coach pleads guilty in child sex crime case.” Obviously this type of headline caught my eye, considering in 2012, a similar headline ran about me.
As the story stated, an attractive female teacher named Kourtnie Sanchez admitted to an inappropriate relationship with three high school boys. And the result of her sentencing hearing today? What was her punishment for haphazardly inviting three high school boys into her sex life? Probation. Fucking probation. I was pissed! I was charged with one girl, she was charged with three boys; I went to prison for two years, she received only eighteen months of probation! She received less probation than I received prison time! And my inner-monologue spoke loudly in my head with the voice of Chris Tucker screaming, “What kind of shit is that?”
I’m not saying I should have been given probation – I’m saying she should go to prison.
This trend is scary, but this trend is sickeningly normal. Scroll through the website comments on these stories and you’ll see the clear discrepancy I’m talking about. In the event that a man commits these actions, he’s a “sick” “twisted” “predator” “pedophile” and should be promptly executed on the school yard lawn (all of which was said about me). However, when a woman commits nearly identical crimes, suddenly it’s the “lucky boy” and “where were those teachers when I was in school” and “she was just teaching him sex education,” and inevitably, some douche bag posts lyrics from Van Halen’s “Hot for Teacher” (shit, I fucking hate that song).
There is a well-known (yet seldom-remedied) inequality in the punitive measures taken against male teachers and female teachers when a relationship with a student occurs. As I’ve pointed out in “American Horror Story,” teacher-student relationships happen all the time – A LOT. It is the absolute worst and most under-reported problem plaguing the educational system. And when a teacher is caught sending naked pictures like the ones Kourtnie Sanchez sent to numerous male students; or if a teacher is caught having a year-long sexual relationship with a student, as was the case with former Clearwater teacher Cathleen Balman who, in May of 2013 admitted to having a full-on sexual intercourse relationship with a 15-year-old boy that lasted over a year. And her punishment as well? Of course, she was granted probation as well. (For comparison’s sake, my relationship with my former student lasted a mere four weeks, and we “made-out” only four times – we never had sex).
I’m not saying I should have been given probation – I’m saying they should go to prison.
We were teachers. We were mentors, leaders, role models – we were entrusted with the safety and security of these students, and we violated that trust in the worst possible way. How the hell can any parent trust the school system when teachers are taking advantage of students, school districts are sweeping instance-after-instance under the rug, and the judicial system (on which these parents depend for justice) selectively allows some teachers to simply walk away with probation? Explain to me how the fuck probation is supposed to deter this sort of crime. And explain to me this not-so-subtle distinction between the sentencing guidelines for men and women and how they differ in this situation.
The Balman case really does piss me off. This woman had a year-long sexual affair with this boy, exchanged sext-messages with him, and she’d even groomed him since being his junior high English teacher from several years prior. When it comes to logistical severity, her crime far exceeded mine. And here’s another kicker: We both were prosecuted by the same Sedgwick County Assistant District Attorney: Justin Edwards. Granted, this pear-shaped troglodyte was not just incompetent, he literally embodied the bumbling moron lawyer who would, in any cinematic circumstance, be considered moronic comic relief. But as it was, he was simply moronic. And this dolt couldn’t manage to send a woman – a teacher – to prison who admitted to having repeated sex with a 15-year-old boy, after having me sent to prison for just making-out with a 15-year-old girl a few times (but then again, my sentencing hearing was on the Friday before the 2012 Election Day, the courtroom was full of television cameras, and my judge was running for re-election – fucked by fate, I guess).
I’m not saying I should have been given probation – I’m saying she should go to prison.
A newspaper in New Jersey did an investigative report about this issue. They found that male teachers do indeed received harsher sentences than female teachers who commit the same crime. In fact, the study examined nearly 100 cases and found that 54% of men received prison time and only 44% of women did, and the duration of those sentences differed as well, men getting an average sentence of nearly two-and-a-half years, while women averaged just over eighteen months. So clearly, an imbalance exists.
My prison sentence was appropriate. In fact, I probably deserved more time. The pain I’ve caused is unforgivable. I let more people down than I will ever truly know, and I carry that guilt with me daily. Anyone who was once a student of mine is now in college or beyond, and some still talk to me – they have forgiven me for my actions and accept (and hopefully appreciate) who I am now. And for that, I am exceedingly appreciative. I’ve made no secret of my addiction to sex and my struggles to live a better life. And here’s the thing: If I’d walked away with probation, the extent to which I have changed the very nucleus of my life would have been to a far lesser degree. I do not – at all – regret the time I spent in prison. I was living an out-of-control lifestyle and prison was exactly the punch in the face I needed to get my shit together. As I’ve written before, right now I am the best possible version of myself. And while I still have struggles, I am not even an afterthought of the piece-of-shit human garbage I was in 2009 – Thank God! Now, I live a life worth living rather than a life worth hiding. And if Judge Philip Journey had given me probation on that day, November 2, 2012, there’s a good chance that I would never have come to the realization that I was a sex addict.
A teacher who has a relationship with a student needs to go to prison. I needed to go to prison. Shit, I should have gone for longer. The severity of Cathleen Balman’s crime exceeded mine; the quantity of Kourtnie Sanchez’s crime exceeded mine. And yet, they both walked away with probation – this is the rule, not the exception, for women. When the justice system applies lighter sentences to female teachers who have the same relationships that would send a male teacher to prison, the justice system fails. Stop considering male students in these situations “lucky guys” while in the same breath calling the female students “victims.” They’re all victims. Stop making “Hot for Teacher” jokes about the female teachers while demanding that the male teachers be locked-up. We all deserve to be locked-up. Lord knows I did.
So as long as the perceptions of these crimes differ, so will the punishments. Cute blonde teachers like Kourtnie Sanchez will continue to sleep with students, get caught, get probation, and change nothing about their lives. And any female teacher seeing these sentences of probation being handed out left-and-right is going to be less likely to second-guess her actions if she’s ever in a situation where an inappropriate relationship can take place. Because, shit, she’ll just get probation and find a new job.
I’m not saying I should have been given probation – I’m saying they should go to prison.
All of them.
I recently wrote in “The Martyrdom of Saint Me,” that I credit my wife with helping me become the man I am now – a much improved version of myself, nothing like the person I was. And forever, I will believe that I could not have made the life changes I’ve made without her. She could have (and maybe should have) left me. But she didn’t. Instead, she stayed dutifully by my side, remaining faithful and determined to make our marriage work, even through my unfaithfulness, my addiction, my time in prison, and my continuing struggles for self-improvement. And as I continue to read the book “Every Man’s Marriage,” I see more and more how amazing she is as a wife and as a person.
People have questioned why she stayed with me, and rightfully so. Her refusal to give up on our marriage is seen as foolish to some. But on the contrary, it took an immense amount of strength to stand with me, for better or for worse, even when the “worse” was as bad as it could possibly be. And in the midst of a wife’s worst nightmare, she could not be phased. She is, by far, the strongest woman I’ve ever met – she can carry an incredible amount of emotional weight and she is amazingly resilient.
She didn’t stay in our marriage because of a lack of options or because she was too weak to leave or was afraid to be alone. She remained in our marriage because she felt that it was her duty as a Christian woman to support her husband – in spite of my many many faults – and to make our marriage work, even when it seemed that I wasn’t willing or able. “I didn’t marry you to divorce you,” she said to me on multiple occasions.
Fred Stoeker writes in “Every Man’s Marriage” that a wife’s life – specifically the way she lives her life – is, in essence, her ministry. And this is exactly how I feel about my wife. As I have told her many times, she is my proof on Earth that God exists. Her faithfulness and perseverance in marriage is her ministry. By living the life she lives, she is able to show the people around her (through her actions and commitment) how strong, dedicated, and faithful a Christian woman can be. I am exponentially undeserving of this woman. Sometimes God gives us blessings we don’t deserve, and she is mine. The things I’ve done to her are unforgivable, and yet, she forgave me, repeatedly. Our marriage has outlasted the marriages of many of our friends (and former friends) and for us, the future is bright and encouraging. We’re in this together, but we are still together because of her, not me. We are still married because she chose not to leave, not by any feat of mine.
So on this Valentine’s Day, I can truly say that not only am I in love with my best and strongest friend, but that she is in love with me as well. We have overcome more in eleven years of marriage than many couples experience in fifty years. And the things that have torn other couples apart have been overcome and forgiven in our marriage. Our marriage is stronger today than it was yesterday, but not as strong as it will be tomorrow. She is the angel who protects me – she is the embrace that comforts me – she is the voice that soothes me. She is my wife, until death do us part, for as long as we both shall live.
Below is a letter I wrote home from prison in 2012. During my first few months of incarceration, I was housed in the Maximum Custody section of El Dorado Correctional Facility in the initial stage of the prison process known as R.D.U. (Residency and Diagnostics Unit) where everyone goes to have their custody level determined. During this 23-hour lock-down (which was only temporary for me, until I was shipped-out to my final destination), there is very little to do except read books and write letters. Very little happened, except on this particular night, when I got to see what real prison was like, luckily as a mere observer.
I have included footnotes to elaborate on the experiences.
December 30, 2012
My Loving Wife,
So last night was an interesting, yet creepy experience. Just about every night, about a half-dozen of the R.D.U. inmates (if they want to) go to another cell house or another part of the prison and do some custodial work. It’s only for those who have completed R.D.U. and are waiting to get shipped-out, and it’s a chance to spend some much-needed time out of the cell and being active. I was asked to work last night and ended up going to Cell House B – also known as “Super-Max” – which is the highest level security cell house in the El Dorado prison (and possibly, from what I hear, the highest in Kansas).
After spending less than a minute inside that cell house, it occurred to me that I was seeing prison in its genuine quintessence. It was built with the same layout as my cell house – an open large room, two levels, both with cells lining the perimeter. But their cell house has some major differences. Their doors had no openings, except at the very bottom underneath. There were no tables or chairs on the main floor outside the cells (as there are in ours), and even the linoleum tiles had been removed, leaving an expansive grid of squares on the floor of bare gray cement. Even with the lights on, the Super-Max cell house was dark, every cell door was a shade of forest green with what seemed like blue mixed into the hue and the remainder of the room seemed blanketed in grays and off-yellows.
The entire cell house – all five cell houses in my section of the prison – is one very large triangle, open in the center with a balcony walkway lining the perimeter of the second level and identical cells on the first level immediately beneath.
These men are locked-down 23 hours a day, always. And their time out isn’t like mine – we socialize in the open room, watch TV, etc. – their hour out consists of being cuffed-and-shackled, walked to the one-man shower (assuming they choose to shower, which appeared to be 50/50), or going to a different cell (roughly the same size as their regular cell) that contains a very crude workout apparatus (which was little more than several pull-up bars welded together). Otherwise, they do not leave their cells – at all.
The cell house was a disaster. Dirty laundry was littered everywhere, along with ripped pieces of paper showered like confetti, mixed with the occasional candy wrapper or empty chips bag. And it was loud! There were inmates yelling from cell to cell, carrying on full (very descriptive, very profane) conversations. One inmate had a radio which he turned up all the way and placed at his door, filling the cell house with echoing melodies of gangsta rap; but oddly enough, also he played some country, some 80s pop, and even some Phil Collins and Bryan Adams. It was bizarre.
The only thing that didn’t surprise me was the smell. Stepping into that cell house and inhaling once, I inhaled the likes of dirty laundry, cheap air freshener, urine, sweat, hopelessness, despair, and rage. The odor hung in the air like a storm cloud in calm winds.
I was given a different prison jumpsuit to work in, and at first, I wasn’t sure why. After spending less than a minute in there, I understood perfectly. Upon entering the populated area of the cell house, my fellow workers and I were escorted to a small room with individual cages where we were stripped naked and searched before approaching the Super-Max cells; it was insanely cold in there.
So I got dressed and got to work, sweeping the floor of the main Day Room with one other worker from my cell house, keeping an eye out for the one thing I wanted to see. Rumor had it, he was in Cell #213. And he was. Every inmate in that cell house – one inmate per cell, obviously – had his name and picture taped to the wall next to his door. So I swept my way down the perimeter walkway in front of the second level cells, making my way casually to Cell #213 – I saw his paper taped to the wall next to the cell number, and stopped. The name on his Face Sheet stood-out like a gargoyle in a dark rose garden: Dennis Rader.
I looked into his small narrow cell window – the only visual opening to the cell, but still thick and sealed – and the sight of him struck me with a chill; the reality struck me that a steel door and six feet of sticky prison air were all that separated me from the serial killer known as “B.T.K.” He merely sat, a brittle skeleton covered in the skin of an old man. But his cadaverous frame and membranous face reminded me of the way Frank Peretti described what a demon looked like. He appeared to be fervently typing something on his typewriter, like Howard W. Campbell trying to justify what made him the monster he was; or perhaps he was answering fan mail; or maybe he was just writing to keep his mind off of the fact that he would never – ever – be free again. But regardless, I could feel the malevolence oozing from his presence – it was almost palpable. To my knowledge, it was the first time I’d ever been face-to-face with a real killer.
So many things crossed my mind as I saw him sitting there. I thought about how this old man could have, at one time, been the very incarnation of wickedness, and yet, now he was nothing more than a fragile old man hunched over a typewriter. As he breathed, I could see the bend in his back slowly rise and fall, and his skeletal frame seemed to give off the figurative sound of wheezing – the broken and sulfurous inhale and exhale of this man, who was also part demon. For one very brief moment, he turned his head ever-so-slightly in my direction, subtly acknowledging my presence, like an apathetic old lion in the zoo; I could hear my heartbeat. I wondered how the other inmates viewed him – were they afraid of him; did they bully him; did they just not give a shit? I don’t know. The only thing I know for sure is that I’ve never felt chills in my body so strong as I felt as I stared into the window of Super-Max cell #213 – the prison cell of Denis Rader. I could only stand there for so long. Eventually, for my own good, I had to continue sweeping.
And as I mindlessly pushed my broom around the walkway, I caught something out of the corner of my eye, darting along the wall like a mouse. But it was no mouse. It was “fishing line.” Fishing line is simply a very long woven string made from threads pulled from prison blankets, pieces of mattress, or whatever else they can use. The inmates use these long lines to communicate between cells. Through what seemed to be genius ingenuity, nearly anything could be passed between cells using this string – anything from notes to food to clothing. These strings, with their little makeshift anchors, whipped all around the cell house making a mischievous skidding sound as it skipped across the gray concrete floor. It was quite entertaining to watch. They even managed to attach a line across second level adjacent cells, across the balcony walkway. It was definitely one of the more impressive things I’d seen in a while. If only these guys had used their powers for good instead of evil; they’d be working for NASA.
And all-the-while, through all the shouting and cussing and filth and fishing line, the corrections officers sat at their desk at the center of the cell house triangle, doing nothing. In the RDU cell house, we get in trouble for being too loud, yelling from our cells, giving something (even a book) to an inmate in another cell; but in this cell house, these guards were ignoring the chaos that rained-down around them. This blew my mind, until I really thought about it.
The men in Cell House B – “Super Max” – are at the absolute bottom of the system. This was “The Hole;” this was “The Pit of Despair;” many of these guys would never breathe free air in their lives again; what did they care if they received a “write-up” or got into trouble? These men literally had nothing to lose – nothing. And being in those guards’ position, they really needed to “pick their battles.” And if they tried to enforce every rule on the books in that cell house, they’d be doing violent cell extractions day-in and day-out. Quite frankly, they didn’t think it was worth it, and I completely agree.
So after sweeping, mopping, restocking the cell house laundry supply, we were done, and exhausted. That was the most physically active I’d been in over two months. We were taken and strip-searched (again) and went back to our cell house after four hours of free labor.
I was allowed to take a shower when I got back, thank God. I felt disgusting after leaving that place and only wanted to scrub it off of me. And by the time I was finally able to put my head on my pillow, it was roughly 2:45am.
Considering the time, it took me a little longer to fall asleep than you might expect. All I could think of was how, earlier that night, I stood for (seemingly) a long time and stared at evil – pure evil – and the cold creepy chills I felt as I stood outside of the prison cell of Denis Rader will likely never be matched, ever. I hope that is the closest I ever stand to Satan, because that was pretty fucking close. Never again.
So there you go, an interesting story.
 Whenever I read or hear people say that people who go to prison “got it easy,” it kind of pisses me off. While I completely think that the people in Super Max absolutely deserved to be there – and most should never be let out – don’t fucking say they’ve “got it easy” unless you’re willing to attempt to live that life for a month – or a week, or even a few days. Yes, they deserve every moment of that – No, it isn’t some sort of cushy prison life.
 This was really awkward for me – just generally uncomfortable. But then I found out later that strip-searches were required at the end of every visitation session on the weekends, so eventually, stripping naked in front of a prison guard became so routine that we’d carry on conversations during the searches. It continues to amaze me how many odd things in prison became “routine.”
 Seriously, I felt like an incognito tourist.
 This paper was known as your “Face Sheet” and was more-or-less a vitals sheet that included all pertinent information, including the inmate’s charges. In minimum security, they just gave us our Face Sheets for no particular reason. Swapping Face Sheets became a common practice to find out what people were in for and brag about their crimes.
 No bullshit. Creepiest moment of my life. I mean, damn…
 It sounded almost identical to slowly ripping a piece of paper in half.
 …but these guys were just mostly dead, not all dead.
 Also a strategy for teachers dealing with students. Actually, as my time in prison wore-on, I began to see (from the guards’ perspective) how much minimum security prison was like high school – including several instances at Winfield of a subordinate (inmate) hooking-up with the one in charge (guard). Some of these female guards were predators when it came to these guys in prison. One of them brought in marijuana, K2, and tobacco on a regular basis for a guy I knew, and of course, they were fucking too.
Making amends is a vital part of the the Sex Addicts Anonymous steps eight and nine. And to the greatest extent possible, I am going to complete those steps: Making a list of those I wronged; and making amends to those I wronged whenever possible. It is a process that will likely a) take the rest of my life, and b) never actually be fully completed.
And yesterday, that list got longer.
I’m reading a book right now called Every Man’s Marriage by two men who have both failed miserably at being married, and have learned enough lessons to now succeed admirably (These are the same two men who wrote Every Man’s Battle). Reading that book prompted an extensive train of thought, which was subsequently exacerbated by a conversation with a close friend, both of which took me to the same unfortunate conclusion: The people I’ve hurt go far beyond the women whose emotions I exploited, bodies I used, and hearts I broke; many (if not most) of these women had husbands or boyfriends. And by having a relationship with these woman, I not only hurt them, but I hurt these men as well by promoting their significant others to be as unfaithful as I was, even if they never knew anything of our affairs. Even the former student I infamously made-out with was also sleeping with two other guys at the time (which may or may not be the same, but it’s at least somewhat relevant).
So as much as I owe these women the heart-felt apologies they deserve, I owe their husbands and boyfriends as well. And admittedly, I deserve every scream, yell, and punch-to-the-face I get. I still carry a lot of guilt — in fact, I carry so much guilt that I sometimes feel like it’s become one of the essential aspects of my identity.
I need my guilt.
There is a very deep and scared part of me that feels like, if I ever forgive myself completely, I am somehow condoning what I’ve done. I’ve told my SAA group that I’ve forgiven myself, but I don’t think that’s entirely accurate. I need to carry this guilt, because if I ever let it go, I’m scared to death that I’ll become that same piece of shit human being that I was before prison. And that scares the fucking hell out of me. Seriously. My biggest fear in life is becoming who I was.
The husbands and boyfriends I betrayed may or may not ever know about me, and there is essentially nothing I can do about that. However, the only productive thing I can do is live my life in a way that will assure that no one else in the world is added to the already extensive list I have accumulated in Step Nine. All I can do now is, “Do the next right thing.”
I heard our song today.
And I thought of you.
I haven’t heard the sound of your voice in over a decade, and yet, if I heard it today, I would recognize it in an instant, like a quote of a favorite sentimental film. But I heard our song today. And I thought of you.
I don’t miss you. I really don’t. I am beyond happy now with my wife. She is my everything. But that doesn’t change the fact that I am a sentimental old fool. I don’t miss you, but I do remember how much I hurt you. I remember all the times I made you cry, and I know that caused you an immeasurable amount of pain. We were in college and naive and … well … stupid – or at least I was.
Step #8 in the Twelve Steps of Sex Addicts Anonymous is to “make a list of all persons we had harmed, and became willing to make amends to them all.” And although my list is extremely long, your name is at the top. I’ve hurt so many people in my life, but I think I’ve hurt you the most. I’ve caused my wife a lot of pain during our marriage, but I’ve had the chance to seek and receive her forgiveness, so as far as she is concerned, I have nothing more to apologize for (though I continue to do so on a nearly daily basis). But with you, I’ve never actually looked you in the eyes and been truly sorry.
You see, my doomed and tragic relationship with you was a microcosm of everything that was wrong with me, and how I saw the world through my jaded eyes of addiction. I must admit that much of our intimate life was driven my addiction to sexual highs and conquests, not love. I cheated on you more times than I can remember and I used you to enact my fantasies and desires without any respect for your feelings, emotions, or well-being. I would give anything to tell you I was sorry, but I will never get that chance. I will never get the opportunity to make amends as part of Step #8, because of Step #9: “Made direct amends to such people wherever possible, except when to do so would injure them or others.”
I saw you at a concert a few years ago in Kansas City, and I know you saw me. And I saw the look on your face when you saw me as I stood backstage with my wife. I saw the horrid disgust in your eyes that blanketed your face upon the mere sight of me, and I completely understood. I (of course) tried to play it off like I wasn’t phased, but my facade was only skin-deep. My wife recognized you as well from old pictures she’d seen. But to her knowledge, all she knew of you were the negatives of our relationship – I never told her about the good things, and I would be genuinely surprised if you even remembered them. But I do. I don’t miss them and I don’t long for them, but I remember them – and I also remember how it was often me who shattered them, not you.
I heard our song today. And I thought of you.
I hear you’re engaged now. Congratulations – seriously. I really am glad that you’re happy. You deserve someone who will treat you exponentially better than I ever did. Because if there was ever a person who experienced the worst parts of the addiction-driven piece of shit I was, you were that person. I will never have the chance to express this, and the odds of you actually stumbling across this particular piece of writing are slim-to-none. And that’s fine, I guess. You don’t want to hear from me, and I completely understand.
But regardless, I am working on Step #8; I’m working on my list of those I’ve harmed, and you are at the top of that list, even above that former student. The pain I caused you during the years of our tumultuous relationship is unforgivable, which is why I will never be afforded the opportunity to say to you, genuinely, “I’m sorry.” But wherever you are and wherever you will go, maybe the universe will find a way to say, just once, “I’m sorry.”
I’m not asking you for anything (not even forgiveness), I’m not really trying to tell you anything (or maybe I am; I don’t know), and I’m not looking for any sort of direct result from … well … anything. I am simply writing, because writing is how I cope, and I have to find a way to cope with how much I hurt you. Aside from my wife, I’ve caused you more pain than anyone else, and perhaps one of these days, you’ll know that I’m aware of that. I didn’t just walk away from our relationship like some bad-ass action hero walking casually away from a massive explosion behind him. I understand the pain I’ve caused and the damage I left, and this is the best method I know to say “I’m sorry.” And maybe you’re completely over all of it and have forgotten about me with the utter finality and swiftness of a Texas death row execution – and if that is indeed the case, then I am beyond happy that you have been able to move forward. But in my heart, that doesn’t take away the weight of the harm I caused you.
I heard our song today, and I needed to say, “I’m sorry.”
This is my amends to you.
To My Wife’s Family,
In all the years I spent as an English major or an English teacher or a writer, I have never come across the words that could adequately describe the complete remorse I feel for what I’ve done to my wife. The indescribable pain I have caused her and our daughter is clearly unforgivable, though they have chosen to do just that. But I also realize that betraying them means I have also betrayed you. You are her family, and, by default, my family as well. You have expressed your displeasure and discomfort with me – both sentiments I completely understand and do not fault you in the least. There is no way I could ever offer enough apologies to adequately illustrate how horrible I feel about all of this; not only how I’ve made my wife and daughter feel, but how I have made you feel as well. My overwhelming betrayal could only be rivaled by my overwhelming remorse. I hate myself for what I’ve done, and nothing I can do can change that.
However, what I can do is try to help you understand some of the things below the surface that she knows, and nearly no one else does. I want to give you complete and brutal honesty, and I want to be 100% open about it, so that you’ll know how serious I am about wanting to work toward regaining your trust. I am not attempting to make excuses or explain-away the terrible choices I’ve made. I only want you to have the full picture. So please, read on.
I am a sex addict in recovery. Sex addiction is real and it impacts the lives of more people than anyone wants to admit, and I am numbered among this sad demographic. Sex addiction can manifest itself in many forms. The most common form of sex addiction is pornography, though this was not my struggle. As I’m certain you know by now, my struggle was with promiscuity and infidelity. I’ve cheated on my wife more times than I can remember. I will spare you the details, but most of it occurred with other teachers while I was teaching. I was addicted to the power, the conquest, the rush, and the high of initiating affair after affair. This behavior started in college, and grew and festered throughout my adulthood. I naively thought that getting married would simply “make me faithful” but it didn’t. The compulsion of promiscuity was such a driving force that I continued to act like an out-of-control frat boy, even after getting married. At the time, I didn’t realize I had a problem (though I always regretted cheating), but now, after seemingly endless hours therapy and regular attendance to Sex Addicts Anonymous meetings, my choices make more sense to me.
During prison, in Lansing, I was required to undergo therapy and treatment prior to being released. I had a therapist who was relentless and honest, and who didn’t give up until I was able to put all my cards on the table. When I first told her the story of my life, my past, and my choices – dating all the way back to high school – she flat-out told me, “There’s something missing.” And then she asked, “What are you not telling me?” And the truth is, there really was one thing I hadn’t told her; I hadn’t told her, because I’d never told anyone. In fact, I’d never – ever – spoken audibly about it to anyone. But when I did finally tell her, it was the missing puzzle piece that clarified everything for her.
When I was 18-years-old, the summer after I graduated from high school, I was raped. I was raped by a guy who I thought was my friend, and who I did not know was gay. One night that summer, my buddies and I were all out drinking, and after getting sufficiently liquored-up, we came back to my house, and around 3AM, the other guys began leaving until it was just him and me left in my room. I was so wasted I was more-or-less passing in and out of a drunken sleep, trying to sit still enough not to puke. And that’s when he did it.
My memory of these events is not fluid – it’s more like grainy film clips in the trailer for an old movie. But I remember it. I remember saying “No,” and “Don’t,” but being so drunk that I was more-or-less unable move, it didn’t make a difference, and he kept repeating, “It’s okay. It’s cool.” And when he was done, he left and I passed out.
When I woke up the next morning, I prayed it had been a nightmare, but I knew it’d happened. I’d been raped. I couldn’t wish it away, but I really couldn’t accept it either.
I never spoke to him again after that, and I’ve only seen him once – at my ten year high school reunion (when he walked in, we immediately left, but I never explained our abrupt departure to her). A few months ago, my sister casually told me that she’d seen him in a grocery store (obviously not knowing what he’d done to me) and it threw me into a depression that lasted for several days; last I’d heard, he was living in Kansas City, so knowing he’s in town petrified me.
My therapist in Lansing, once I told her what he’d done to me, told me that my promiscuous lifestyle – which, no-so-coincidentally began a month after it happened, when college started – made sense to her. It was her opinion that the reason I spent so many years and so much effort having meaningless sexual relationships with woman after woman after woman was because, on a subconscious level, I was continually trying to convince and prove to myself that I wasn’t gay. Additionally, I described to her that the crux of my addiction was the rush of power whenever I was able to initiate a new conquest; this, in her opinion, made sense as well – I thrived on the power because during the rape (and for the years following), I felt utterly powerless. And thus, my compulsion for these things drove me toward more and more promiscuity.
Numerous sessions with this therapist were invaluable to me, and after I told her I’d been raped, I told her. We talked, I cried, she listened, she understood – and now that I’ve begun the long process of dealing with the trauma that I’ve kept buried for so many years, it’s almost as though I’ve been freed from that bondage.
Now I understand why I was an addict and can attack the problem head-on. Being “in recovery” for a sex addict means implementing very strict rules about that aspect of my life. And maintaining my “sobriety” has become one of my life’s top priorities. I owe it to my wife and daughter to remain faithful and sober, but I also owe it to you.
You are my wife’s family and I know how much you love her. So I know it pains you to see her going through the things I’ve put her through and I completely understand your anger with me. But here is what I hope you will come to know: The person who did those things to her no longer exists. I’ve been to jail, prison, therapy, and back to reality, and at this very moment, I am the best possible version of myself. I am nothing like the piece-of-shit subhuman being I was before going to prison, and the people who are still in my life tell me this often. I am simply a different person; prison changed me, and for me, the “correctional” system worked. I never want to live the way I lived for all those years, and the mere thought of those horrid choices I made during the height of my sexual addiction literally makes me want to throw-up. I hate myself for who I was, and I know I can’t just say “I’m sorry” and have everything suddenly be fine. But what I want is the chance to show who I am now, and allow you to make the decision for yourself. I would only hope that you would allow this opportunity with an open mind. I know that it would mean the world to all three of us if we could all be in your family again.