Lights In the Distance. . .
Walks’ Outdate – 117 Days and Counting
By Steven Maisenbacher
I hate to feel like I’m doing it, but as I sit here with less than 4 months left to serve before my release to halfway house, I am concerned, and every day of not having answers is even more concerning and stressful. See I have asked for a copy of the rules to the halfway house I am being sent to in Springfield, Illinois. (The Triangle Center) and they have not responded to the query of the prison’s administration or the personal/business letter I sent back in October requesting these rules so that I can be prepared and make a smoother transition.
The things I don’t know are myriad and yet, I’m told, “Oh, you’ll find out when you get there.” Well, that’s really not fair, it’s like trying to navigate your way thru your house in the pitch black of the night and not stubbing your toe on something that you couldn’t see coming.
I want to succeed, I will make it, but I don’t think I should have to try to “weave” in and out of a brand new set of rules within hours of release. I want to be able to know when I will be able to get a photo identification card, what all the department of motor vehicles is gonna need from me – money for sure, $250.00 to be exact at the minimum – then there is the “hearing” I will have to go to with the Secretary of State’s license violation bureau to contend with.
I need to know when I will be allowed to go to the Social Security Administration to start a process that may take up to 18 months to get approved, if at all. See, I have to go to them or the state’s Department of Public Aid, one or the other. I am an insulin dependent diabetic and I have NO money for insulin, or insurance or a medical card.
All these things are weighing heavily on my mind. I mean it’s getting to the point where I’m going nuts trying to figure out what the possible answers could be. And on top of everything else, I have to apply for housing assistance in order to get out of the halfway house into a place on home confinement. It’s that or pay the rent for a full cost rental every month on top of everything else. I have to go to the local community college and beg for assistance in enrollment and tuition and any and all help I can get there, but still in all its back to this, I feel like I’m beating a dead horse trying to figure these various things out.
It’s not like I don’t need to know; some of these things are enough to affect my life. I know if I don’t get a driver’s license right away it won’t kill me; I can take the bus. I know if I have to I can find a way to pay for the insulin I need to stay alive, I know that I will be able to find a place to live, I have 364 days to do it after all, but if I can’t get assistance, I will definitely have to find a job, something that I can physically handle with my medical condition. Let’s face it, I won’t be up on any roofs doing shingles, I won’t be doing anything that is going to require respirators or whatnot, so painting is out. I won’t be standing 8 hour shifts on my feet. I don’t have the ability to do that anymore without excruciating pain in my lower back and legs the next day.
Now I have been doing everything I can to build up strength in my legs and lower back. I ride the recumbent bike 5 miles a day 5 times a week. That’s not bad really when you think about the fact that I’m an old geezer. Smile. Bottom line, I don’t know what the hell I’m going to do to pay for all these things that I will HAVE to have. These are not wants, these are the basics, medicine, a roof over my head and a way to get to wherever I will need to be, whether it’s a bus (they still cost money last time I checked) or whatever. I dang sure know I won’t be able to afford a car and insurance and fuel, not for quite some time. It’s just that I will be better able to understand the world if I can find out in advance how I’m going to navigate in it and the parameters of my involvement.
Oh, did I mention the halfway house is going to want 25% of any earnings I get if I don’t get accepted as exempt from charge due to being “homeless,” and I don’t know how that is done other than it can be done so I hear. This is just another thing I’m going to have to step into blindly. Let me ask you, have you ever seen the movie, Shawshank Redemption? Well, there is a reason so many men don’t make it when they have served far less time than I have. It’s because they can’t. Everything in the world is stacked against us from the moment we walk out the door and though you would think we have paid our debt to society by serving our sentences, the real cost has just begun. The heavy weight of all these things that I have never had to manage before is weighing on me and I’m scared.
I just want to be able to say, “Debt Paid” and mean it but I feel like I’ve sung this song before to you. I feel like what I am saying can be seen as petty and minor, but it’s not to me! This is the biggest stressor I have ever been under and I’m trying to lessen the pressure on myself by telling you.
So there it is, these are the things that concern me, not this prison world. Here I know how to navigate. Sadly enough, it’s “home.” Prison is where I live and have lived for almost 37 years. Think about that! I am expected to just enter a world I know nothing about and virtually no one in. Say what you want, when I step out the door, even with all the well-wishers and the people who want me to do and be ok, I am still on my own, alone in an unknown existence. Everything you take for granted is alien to me. A 5 year old is more prepared technologically to be able to make it than I am. I know nothing about being free. So here it is folks…ready?
I’m so afraid it makes me cry at night. I’m not proud of that fact, but it’s the simple truth. I have weathered prison riots, gang wars, attempted knifings, stun grenades and tasers, bean bag shotguns and years in solitary confinement, and still talked smack to my oppressors – but now they have come up with a new punishment, they are letting me go in 117 days and I don’t know the first thing about how to be free. I’m scared and I’m afraid and it has brought me to tears to admit this to myself, and now to you.
I was once broken. Now I’m just afraid.
Nevertheless… I’m sticking with my exercise program. I’m up to 10 miles a day on the bike and man, I’m a monster! Yesterday I rode my first clip of 5 miles in 20:11, then 2 minutes standing muscle shock rest, and then did the second clip in 19:47. That’s cruising for real, that gave me 10 miles in 39:58, so that’s right under 4-minute miles, or right at an average of 15 miles and hour. I already got 30 miles in and it’s only Wednesday, gonna try for 50 this series of 5 days… My blood sugar is lovin’ it too and I feel so much better; my back doesn’t hurt as much now either!
“Go Team Walks!”