I received a letter from a gentleman in New York who will be self-surrendering to a Federal Prison in 5 weeks. He asked me numerous questions, one of which, I will answer here.


I had to think long and hard before trying to answer this question. Many factors affected my adjustment; Being alone, being separated from my family, fear, guilt, shame, etc. But in the end, my biggest obstacle was my own mental state when I entered prison. I was at the second lowest point of my existence on the planet. (the first being the loss of my son). I believe that this is a common state of mind for most people entering prison. So I showed up very depressed and was dumped in with a bunch of other very depressed people. In this state of mind and in these surroundings I was having a very difficult time adjusting to my environment. Further complicating the situation was the fact that I hated myself for what I had done and for the adverse consequences flowing from my actions. Each morning I got up, looked in the mirror and I was angry with the guy staring back at me. I could not live in the present, or plan for the future because I was pre-occupied with my past and the shame I was experiencing. It took me over a year to finally forgive myself for what I had done. Until I was able to do that, I was very unhappy.

I guess my advice to anyone who is facing prison would be to find away to forgive yourself for your wrongs. I accomplished it through meditation, self-help books and finally realizing that I was not a benefit to anyone while I wallowed in my self-loathing state of mind. I told myself I am human. Humans make poor choices (some worse than others) and have to live with the consequences. Prison is a harsh consequence. (I never imagined how harsh). Dumping my shame and self-hate, allowed me to accept my consequences and live in the here and now. I can also make plans for the future with my family.
Finally, just because I was able to forgive myself does not mean I do not have empathy for everyone I hurt. It simply means I will not allow my life to be forever defined by my poor choices and the shame that flowed from those choices.

Ken Flaska

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