Post by Susan Mwarabu
“Would you like a drink?” a friend might ask.
“No thanks… I don’t drink.” I would say.
“Why ever not?” the friend might then respond.
“Well I’ve just had some bad experiences with it in the past, so I prefer not to.”
This and many such variations of the same conversation have become part of my new life after my offense. After an offense, the only way to make a change in your life is to create room for opportunities to be open about what has changed but also to be straightforward about changes in your life.
I prefer to be open without shocking. There is a fine line, however, between being open and going for the shock factor. To me, being open means that I have to exist within the changes that have to become part of my life while I still find ways to enjoy life. Amazingly, my core friendships transcended the changes and I have forged new friendships simply by engaging in different activities designed to impact my life positively.
For some ex-offenders, a change means finding a completely new environment with new friends, a new job and new social activity. It’s not easy to make changes. Someone once said that if you don’t feel uncomfortable, then you have not made a change.
Reflecting on the common variables in the poor choices of one’s past can help in identify the life changes which need to be made. For me it was clear that the common variables were alcohol, poor company and dare I say, excessive celebration.
Coming from a collectivist culture that finds an excuse to celebrate for any and no reason means that I have to find ways to retain these indelible pieces of my culture while staying committed to the permanent, positive changes I needed to make. My changes had to do with location and entertainment.
It wasn’t easy at first; in fact, at times, my family and I were not sure whether we were making the right choices. All we knew was that something had to change if our family was going to survive. When those close to you see how much you want to make a change, they have little choice but to support you or stand by and watch you. In time, and with persistence. a change for good becomes part of you.
From interviewing some Amicus staff and being around them, I have been witness to their commitment to supporting change. That’s evident in each of the 6,500 times annually those transitioning from prison have used the services of Amicus Reconnect. One special day is set aside for any ex-offender who wants to explore the possibility of change in the Monday night Amicus Ex-offender Support Group. Members meet to talk about their lives and the changes they want to see take place in their lives. The first step, however, has to be taken by the individual themselves. Once taken, subsequent steps should be more familiar and easier until eventually they are simply part of you.
Making changes in your life is a way of giving yourself a second chance. Second Chances can start with You.