The Only Way I Knew | By: Mike Gardippee

Hello, Mike here.

My children are dealing with the consequences of my actions, something I never thought of when I was a free man.

My eyes are now open to the pain that my actions are causing them. I never knew how to cope with my feelings and emotions in a healthy manner, so I did it the only way I knew how. It was actions like these, that are the cause of my imprisonment; let me give you an example:

My daughter Kayla was brought to the jail to see me while I was waiting to go back to prison on a parole violation, for drug use. She was very young at the time and confused about the whole situation. I remember her pounding on the Plexiglas crying and screaming, “Daddy, daddy, daddy.” I tried to comfort her with words, “It’s going to be okay, daddy loves you.”

She kept pounding harder and harder on the glass, and I remember feeling so helpless. I tried to hold back the tears, but it was too powerful of a moment. All she wanted at that moment was me. And I could not reach out to comfort her in any way.

In that moment shame and guilt filled my heart with whispers of failure.

When the visit was over we passed each other with iron bars between us. She grabbed them and started crying for me. The correctional officer must have felt my daughter’s pain because he opened the iron gate so that I could finally embrace my daughter with a hug. She didn’t want to let me go. They had to eventually pull her away.

As I was being led back to my cell block, I was overcome by another wave of intense emotions. I kept saying “motherfucker,” over and over in my head. I wanted to rip the flesh from my body. I had a deep-rooted belief back then that, “If I am feeling discomfort or pain, so will you.”

I also didn’t want anyone to see the emotional state I was in, so I found a way out, and it was the only way I knew. So, I punched the first guy I saw when they opened my cell block. At that moment I felt all that negative energy leave my body, I was relieved. As you can guess, I went to the special housing unit, also known as the SHU, where you are under 23-hour lockdown.

The immediate relief I felt didn’t last long, the rage quickly returned, and I started screaming, “Fuck you,” over and over, all while punching my cell door. I was drowning in self-pity and hatred.

Reflecting back on this moment in time. The uncontrollable anger that I expressed came from the realization, that I was a failure as a parent. I was the cause of the pain my daughter was experiencing. Then I found a way to make it all about me. Think about it for a moment, how did my outburst of anger help comfort my daughter? It didn’t, it only brought me relief, and only for a moment. That is the selfish man I was, my whole life up to that point has been all about me.

Poor me, poor me, pour me another drink. Self-pity is like quicksand, the way it sucks you in, and you don’t realize you are in it until it’s too late.

Today, I study my past so I can understand my faults. I learned at a young age that there were two ways to deal with emotion. The first one I learned was anger, which I demonstrated through violence. This one helped me manipulate situations to go the way I wanted them to go. Well, I had the illusion that I was in control, but as you can clearly see I was anything but. It pains me to share these moments because this is not what I want to be remembered for.

The second way I learned was by repression of emotions. In my experience, if you push your feelings deep within, they either come out in forms of anger, anxiety or depression and sometimes they all come at the same time. I believe this is why my mother committed suicide.

I myself have experienced all these symptoms and have tried to kill myself as well.

Today, I express my emotions in a healthy way. I process my emotions with others by communicating my feelings and talking about the situation, whatever it may be. At times I still feel the need to handle it in a different manner or even run, but I have humbled myself over the years and I now bring my concerns and worries to God. I draw strength and guidance from his word, The Bible. I now think before I act because recovery is a “we” program and God and others are my recovery.

“And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him. Who have been called according to his purpose.” Romans 8:28

God is good!
Mike


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