As the months have been grinding through, some of my closest friends are getting ready to leave prison and I’m watching the weight of this reality as it sits upon the shoulders of these amazing people. I’ve watched people go through the stress of leaving prison before. I’ve helped a lot of people deal with it, but never have I been this close to those who are enduring the anxiety and feeling their struggle. To the free world, you might ask, “What struggle? Isn’t it easy to leave prison?” It comes with anxieties that have been forgotten by years of confinement.

Imagine this scenario… You know you need clean clothes and you know you have to go to a laundromat to make them that way. So you logistically plan for transportation (which comes in many varieties) to just get there. Then you walk in and look for a machine to start this process. Did you bring soap? Must you buy soap there? What kind? Which ones work for your clothing type? Coin operated….where’s the coin machine? What setting? Which dryer is next? Do I need dryer sheets? Which kind? Where do I wait? The process of all of this is anxiety inducing and to top it off, you pray that you don’t get pinned down in conversation by someone who is oblivious to the monumental stress you’re under. Then, when it’s all said and done, did you do it all correctly and can you get home? This is a two hour process… Imagine this level of anxiety and uncertainty for days, maybe weeks.

Leaving prison is much like being born… a required part of life, but you come out very uncomfortable to a world you don’t readily know. But as things settle, the returning citizen acclimates and readjusts, it just takes time. But I must say, I’m watching my friends prepare to the best of their ability for their rebirth, discomforts and all and I feel their anxieties. Everything from what to do for housing, to a fear of the first meal, to fears of travel, to fears of the first night and the emotions that have been stuffed down for years all get discussed. It takes at least three people, with at least a bachelors degree, to put someone in prison, but the mystery of release must be discovered without any education by the one releasing (and, God willing, the love of a supportive community). I say all this because the reality of the difficulties of release are profound and the scarlet letter that gets added by society to a felon just make it worse. So if you have a loved one getting ready to reenter society and they seem off, it’s not you, it’s them and it’s ok… just love them through their release anxieties, before and after they get out…

by Rory Andes

Being born can be traumatic. There’s a reason why we don’t remember it.

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