One Year Assessment
By: Ryan Pettigrew
It’s amazing how fast time flies when free from the confines of a dungeon; the last year flew by in a flash. I was released from prison on August 22, 2012 after almost a decade of incarceration (this time) and eight years of that in solitary confinement. Since catching my first felony in 1997, this last year is the longest I’ve remained free, but it’s also the first time I truly went legit. I’ve learned many lessons over this last year; some tough to swallow, but all of them helpful in my new journey.
It took time to adjust; the first week was almost too much to take. Being so used to a lighted cell, noise and a thin mattress; I couldn’t sleep in a dark and quiet room on the Tempurpedic my brother bought for me. A week without sleep and being forced to socialize when I hadn’t been around people for so long pushed me to my limits but I told my family to just rip the Band-Aid off because I knew I could handle anything that came my way. I struggled immensely but prevailed as expected.
After the first week, I could at least function but certain things would trigger serious panic attacks; where I had trained my mind to react aggressively to fear since the life I had chosen didn’t allow for that natural human emotion. After re-wiring my subconscious, the flight response no longer existed, and fear would bring out a rabid animal. That’s important where I just came from but very counterproductive in society. It took four months of freedom for me fix the problem and now I actually feel comfortable with my freedom, or at least as comfortable as I’m going to get.
My parole officer has made the transition easier than it could have been, allowing me enough rope to hang myself. If I choose to return to crime, why delay the inevitable? But if I choose to do well, it would be irresponsible for them to hold me back. I haven’t had any issues besides a failed UA (urine analysis) for one beer, at least until my friend Evan got out, but that’s a post in itself.
I tried to help those who were newly released get on their feet and adjust but I quickly found out I had to set boundaries or I’d be back to my old ways. Most who are released, truly want to get it together but lack the resources, know-how and emotional stability to succeed. They quickly resort to what they know and burn every positive bridge behind them. After being stolen from twice by guys newly released, I refuse to talk to anyone until they’ve been out for six months and still on the right track.
I’m surprised with how much support I have out here from strangers who hear my story. Sure, there’ll always be those ignorant, self-righteous haters who try to bring me down; trying to throw a wrench in my plans but there’s less than I thought there would be; which is a positive surprise. In fact, the ones who try to block me the most are those most closely associated with law enforcement; I’m guessing that my ability to get it together challenges their outlook on life and that may scare them a little. I just refuse to let their insecurities discourage me in any way.
I’ve found that my passion lies in helping people set out on the path to individual greatness and happiness; something desperately needed in modern society. People are lost, searching for a light at the end of the tunnel that never reveals itself. What they need to learn is that which they seek is internal rather than in front of them; sometimes the most complex questions have a simple answer. I just had the time to understand this answer due to my years in solitary confinement and am grateful for the opportunity to teach my findings to others; it makes me think that the suffering was worth it.
I started a real estate investment company and finalized my first deal, which was one of my proudest moments. It was that realization that I could profit lawfully and that all I had been working so hard for was worth it; even the most confident amongst us can doubt something until it has been accomplished. Now I brought my parents into the business, giving me more time to work on my self-help business and giving them a chance at a very nice retirement. At the end of the day, I have a need to bring my entire circle to higher levels of life so that I can atone for all the negativity I had brought into their lives. If it weren’t for them, even the best of intentions upon my release wouldn’t have mattered because they took care of me while I was insane and trying to adjust.
I’ve been on the Huffington Post Live bringing attention to the solitary confinement issue and now write for Cronic Magazine. I’m part of creating a product line (Canario Inc.) for our kennel and put in almost a year of labor for my friend’s construction company that was way outside of my comfort level, but pushing comfort levels is part of what I need to do. I’m also one of the poets on the Facebook page “The Lost Poet” and have been finding opportunity around every corner.
I’ve spent a lot of time meeting new people but with the understanding that most will let me down. So I remain extremely blunt, knowing that someone who’s fake, can’t deal with the truth being thrown in their face daily. It’s my filter system to attract like minds and push away scum, like sifting for gems. I prefer quality over quantity, refusing to waste time and effort on the unworthy.
The last year has been very rewarding but good things don’t come easy. I’ve worked hard and made serious gains that have surprised everyone but I’m still far from where I want to be. I have a need to succeed that has turned obsessive; revenge for those who tried to break me. I push too hard and am constantly told to take it easy but I’m too hungry to slow down. I look forward to what this next year will bring and will keep everyone posted.