When I was asked if I wanted to write about my son and the last 11 months of my life, I contemplated for many days before I could pick up a pen and write it on paper. The effect of his crime, trial, and sentencing has had on our family cannot be measured; however, I have also realized the love and courage which we have as a family. We have looked to each other for strength to get us through and to help us heal, even though this healing is very slow. My son was convicted of Criminal Sexual Conduct in the 3rd degree, and sentenced to 1-15 years in prison. As of the date I wrote this letter, he has been incarcerated for 11 months. As difficult as this is to face, I am a mother who loves her son unconditionally. His crime was consensual and if it had been a forcible rape, my thoughts and actions may be quite different.
I believe my son would not be with us today if he was not sentenced to a term of imprisonment. What I have found through therapy, my son’s honesty, and my reading about addictions is that my son’s life was unmanageable. His sexual addiction had taken over and pulled him from us—the ones who love him. He was going in the wrong direction.
Since my son was 11 years old, I’ve felt that there was something bothering him. My husband and I went from being patient to being demanding (and everything in between) in attempts to get our son to open up. We tried everything, including professional counseling, to try and find out what was at the core of his problem. As he grew up he became an honorable, hard-working, caring young man and had a lot to offer society. Unfortunately, his addiction continued to become stronger and stronger.
My son’s incarceration has made him finally deal with personal issues in his life that had haunted him for years—mainly his sexual addiction. He has opened up and expresses the shame he has felt, and has related that he felt that there was nowhere to turn to for help. We, meaning his entire system of support, now know the real person, my son, who is free of shame and guilt (which also led to heavy drinking and depression). I believe he had to be separated from his loved ones in order to find the courage to open up and to truly understand the impact of his actions and why they occurred.
My life over the last 11 months, therefore, has been filled with a roller coaster of emotions and many setbacks. Sitting in a courtroom with his father, loved ones, and countless friends, and hearing the judge sentence him literally broke my heart. My son had never been in trouble with the law before, and now we were looking at county jails and prisons—it was almost too much to bare. His father and I had many sleepless nights in which we wandered the house crying, sometimes hysterically, trying to explain to one another how we, as parents, had failed. I would pray, light candles and ask God to give us all the strength to go on. I would also write letters to the facilities where my son was in hopes of getting him into a therapy program that would be suitable for him. Before his incarceration, he finally had found a psychotherapist whom he trusted and I felt he was going in the right direction. Who would be there to help him now? When and where would he finally be moved to? So many questions and I was beginning to lose control of my own life. My family saw the need for me to seek a professional for some much needed help. A wonderful person helped me in a short time to realize that my son’s actions were his own. No one made him commit his crime, not his dad, nor I, or anyone else. I slowly began to heal from the enormous burden I was putting on myself and learning to go with my life. So many people needed me—my son, my loving husband, my wonderful daughters, and my precious grandchildren.
My family has been awakened to our prison system, which I believe is filled with injustice. Our monthly phone bills have gone from $60.00 before he was incarcerated to up to $250.00 a month while he is there. We get our strength from talking to each other. My husband and I constantly worry if he’s safe and okay. The only way to be reassured is that phone call (which the state charges 300% on). We visit as often as possible, but he is three hours away and it becomes very tiring, stressful, and emotionally draining.
Our son is worried about us, too. He knows the pain, anguish, and financial burden we are under and even tells us not to visit and to limit the calls. We are a very close knit family and we encourage him to call us, for we have always sacrificed parts of ourselves for each other. Thus, we have no choice but to pay the 300% surcharge in order to have peace of mind.
The other mountain we have been climbing is the “not knowing” when he will be released. Everyone we talked to before he was sentenced said that if he stayed out of trouble and did what he was told, he would serve his minimum sentence and come home. However, this has not transpired. All sex offenders must complete a sex offender group therapy program, but it is not supposed to be mandatory in order to be paroled. My son has never been disciplined while incarcerated; has held a job, volunteered for every group possible, and was still denied parole. Why? He did not complete the program prior to his parole board hearing, and I believe this was used against him. We have since appealed their decision and spent more than $5000.00 just to be heard. They may still deny him, for “The Board” has absolute power. This system of injustice can be overwhelming, yet we continue to be strong, patient, and above all give our son all the love, hope, and support we can. Yet, it is a daily struggle and we have learned that we must take each day, which each obstacle, one at a time.
These last 11 months have been difficult but ironically, very rewarding. I got my son back—or maybe met him again for the first time in years. My son entered the prison system as a scared young man. But I now see he could never have survived in society without facing his demons—his sexual addiction. Remarkably, imprisonment has given him the courage to look into his past and begin to heal. He has opened his heart, mind, and soul up and has grown intellectually, spiritually, and above all he has begun a journey towards recovery from his sexual addiction.
I will continue to have all the strength, courage, and love and welcome him home, hopefully soon. If for some reason I must wait a little longer, he will be okay and I will be okay. God is watching over him, and my son is still working on self-improvement and also trying to help others with addictions as a facilitator. In many ways, he is shielded from having to face things and it will be difficult someday when he is released. However, we too have learned and accepted his addiction and know the role we must play in helping him to avoid the addictive cycle. With God’s help, we will do this together.