< Chapter 3:8 Chapter 3:10 >
Having decided to return to Pennsylvania to begin facing the music, you would think that this is where my life changed direction. But I had to put my angel through some more tests first. Would you believe that the night before I was going to turn myself in, I went out drinking with my cousin, and on the way home was pulled over for running a stop sign?
By this point, you are either laughing at this whole story like I am, or in a complete state of disbelief. I want to say right now, that all these arrests and legal issues I am speaking of can be verified.
I was less than 5 miles from my mother’s house, when I was pulled over for running a stop sign. And as the officer approached the car, I thought, “No better time than now.”
I swear I made this guy’s night. Imagine being a police officer, walking up to a car for a simple stop sign violation, and the first thing you hear when you ask, “Do you know what I stopped you for?” is “Not really, but I need to tell you that I am wanted in Maryland. I have 5 warrants out for my arrest and would like to turn myself in now.” You should have seen this guys face.
That night began a 12-month ordeal in which I would spend time in 4 different jails, a drug and alcohol rehab and a halfway house. This was where my “recovery” began. There are so many experiences and lessons I learned in those places.
One of the first things I learned was that I wasn’t so “big and bad” after all. Meaning, I wasn’t the big criminal I thought I was. Now I was in with the real deal. My perception of how tough I was, and how much I had experienced in my life as a “criminal” changed dramatically.
In the very first jail I was taken to, there were 6 people on trial for murdering an 82-year-old woman while they robbed her house. They ranged in age from 17 to 30. That was my introduction to the system. Throughout the next 12 months I would spend time living with drug dealers, rapists, and murderers. Two of the most horrific people I lived with were a person who had raped a 13-year-old girl and one who was paid “$500 and a 6-pack” to kill someone.
I spent one month in Clinton County Jail in PA awaiting extradition to Maryland. I was returned to Howard County Detention Center and spent 2 months in jail there. I was transferred to a drug and alcohol rehab for one month, then to a halfway house for 4 months. Then it was back to another jail, this time in Baltimore County for another 2 months.
You learn a lot about people when you see them in this environment. I had the most interesting conversation with one of the inmates in Baltimore County Jail the day that I was leaving that institution to move to the fourth jail I would spend time in. This conversation really gave me a lot of insight into our system, and has become a principle I speak about a lot when I teach now.
As I sat there that morning waiting to be released, there was myself and this one other inmate who I had gotten to know over the 2 months that I was there. He was getting out in another week or so, and I will never forget what he said to me. He said, “Will, I’m scared. I don’t know how to exist out there. I’ve been in the system since I was 14. In here, I know how to hustle, I know how the system works, I can get whatever I want, when I want it. Out there… I can’t get a job… I can’t do anything. I’ve been out before, and I hate it. I’ll do whatever I have to do to get back here. If I have to kill someone, I will.” The sad part is, I knew he was serious.
This man was not even 24 years old. He was willing to take another persons life because he didn’t have the skills to survive in the real world. It is my belief that the prisons are filled with people like my friend I spoke of that day. We spend so much time complaining about the problem; when will we focus on the solution?
The next stop on my journey… was what I like to call Hotel Hell. Baltimore City Jail. The bus drove through the Iron gates into the courtyard in early June 1988. As I was getting processed in, I knew this was not going to be anything like my experiences up until this point. This place was old and falling apart. There were probably 100 other inmates in the area I was in who were also waiting to be processed. As they continued to “classify” me, they told me that I was going to be put in the medical section.
Now, I had learned by this point, that the medical section was the last place you wanted to be. Understand that in most jails, they separate you by the severity of your crime. When you are in medical, there is NO SEPARATION, and many of the worst cases, tend to end up in medical. They are some of the hard-core criminals and many times they know how to work the system well. The idea is that if you get into fights, you get hurt, and you get access to drugs. As I looked around at the caliber of people they were putting into this building, I actually protested wanting to be put into general population, but was denied.
In Baltimore City Jail, the medical cellblock is right next to the psychiatric cellblock. You know those movies you’ve seen where people are in jail screaming and crying and making weird animal noises all night long? It’s true. That was the Psych ward that was right next to where my cell was.
To get you accustomed to the new environment, you spend the first week on what is called “lockdown”. Lockdown is when you spend 23 out of 24 hours with your cell door locked. They open it for one hour when all the other inmates are in their cells to give you the ability to stretch out. And I have to say, with all the screaming that was going on, I was willing to stay the whole 2 months in lockdown. I can’t remember ever being more scared in my life. After the 7th day, they put you in with the rest of the population.
I had lived in some pretty rough places, and knew that because of a lack of balance on a wooden leg, fighting was not going to be my best bet when things got rough. So I had become very good at hiding my fear and facing off with some pretty mean characters. The day I was let out into the rest of the population, I pulled on all those resources to make an impression that I was not someone to be messed with. I knew that I was going to have to use every technique I learned in my life up until that point to walk around in there as the most intimidating scary person you could imagine.
Have you ever seen a picture of the inside of a jail where there are two or three “tiers” of cells? Where it looks like the building is two or three stories high with these small walkways outside of the cells and this open cavern that has bars from the floor to the ceiling? Now imagine seeing all those doors open at the same time. What usually happens is that a large number of the inmates come out of their cells and lean over the railings to wait and see who else is coming out. Now imagine this 6’3’, 250lb version of me walking out of one of those cells on the second level. My hair was well past my shoulders. The look on my face was emotionless. I looked to the left, then to the right at the other inmates who were just coming out and looking around. Not a word was spoken. To the right were the steps leading to the community area. To the left, was the wall of steel bars that ran from the floor to the ceiling. With an attitude in my step and mannerisms, I turned and walked to the left heading towards the wall. When I got there, I climbed up on the railing, slid my arm through my crutches so they would hang from my shoulder, grabbed onto the bars of the wall and began climbing down the wall. When I got to the bottom, I put my crutches back under my arms, and walked to the community area where I picked out the table that had the biggest, meanest looking group of inmates who were playing cards. I kept the stone cold look on my face, walked over sat down and said, “Deal me in.”
Now I want you to understand something. Inside, I was shaking like a leaf. I wanted to throw up because of the level of fear that was coursing through me. I don’t want anyone to think I was “Joe Cool” in that moment. But I knew that how I presented myself would set the tone for my stay there. By this time I had spent enough time in other jails to know how the environment runs. If I showed any fear, any weakness, I would have to fight daily to maintain any type of control. The way people act in a caged environment is very primal. You learn about what human beings will do to survive very quickly.
To make matters worse, there was no form of air conditioning in this building that must have been 100 years old. I can remember looking out the window on a mid-July day at a thermometer on the bank that was a few blocks away when the temperature rose to 116 degrees. That heat wave lasted for about a week. No matter what you did, there was no relief. I would take my t-shirt and run it under the cold water then put it back on, and within 10-15 minutes you had to do it all over again.
The living conditions were horrible. There were rats and roaches all over the place, and this was supposed to be the “sanitary” section because of the medical conditions of the inmates. One night I woke up and rolled over to grab my cigarettes, as I turned on the light, I almost threw up when I saw a roach on the top of my pack of cigarettes that was as long as the pack of cigarettes themselves.
The tension in this jail was so high that when I woke up in the morning, I prayed that I would make it back into my cell alive at the end of the day. It was not an uncommon occurrence for someone to be stabbed in that place. It just didn’t matter to them. Do you know the rumor is that you get less time for killing someone in jail than you do outside? There was even a riot that broke out while I was there. It only lasted for one day, but as soon as it broke out, they put us on lockdown.
Those were the longest and loneliest two months of my life. My mother would write every day and visit every other week. But in reality, I didn’t want to see her. I couldn’t stand her seeing me in this hole. Remember, the reason I had pushed my mother away was because I didn’t want to hurt her. Now, she had to see her son in this hell hole. She always covered it up, but I can’t imagine what she was going through. I spent my 23rd birthday sitting in my cell in Baltimore City Jail.
< Chapter 3:8 Chapter 3:10 >
The Warrior Sage Chapter/Section
Who Is Willard Barth?
Preface - Exploring Strength And Weakness
Chapter 1:1 - The Process Of Self-Awareness
Chapter 1:2 The Stages Of Child Development
Chapter 2:1 The World Changed Forever
Chapter 2:2 The Vicious Cycle Begins
Chapter 2:3 Losing Faith
Chapter 2:4 My Dark Secret
Chapter 2:5 Where Is The Love I Was Promised?
Chapter 3:2 The Road To Alcohol Dependence
Chapter 3:3 Leaving My Childhood Behind
Chapter 3:4 Escaping Responsibility; The Joy Ride Ends
Chapter 3:5 Living A Duality Begins
Chapter 3:6 Out Of Control
Chapter 3:7 Crossing The Line To Insanity
Chapter 3:8 The Black-out Drinking Begins
Chapter 3:9 Facing The Music
Chapter 3:10 A New Beginning
Chapter 3:11 More Lessons To Learn
Chapter 4:1 The Final Party
Chapter 4:2 A Moment Of Clarity
Chapter 4:3 My New Life Begins
Chapter 4:4 Sober - Time To Face The World
Chapter 4:5 The First Year Of Sobriety
Chapter 4:6 Major Change Comes In Year Two
Chapter 4:7 My Daughter Is Born April 20, 1992
Chapter 5:1 Life Changing Decisions Follow My Daughter's Birth
Chapter 5:2 Recognizing The Voice Inside
Chapter 5:3 The Empress Hotel
Chapter 5:4 A New Chapter In My Life Begins
Chapter 6:1 Finding My Way Home
Chapter 6:2 Falling Into Place
Chapter 6:3 A New Awareness
Chapter 6:4 Personal Finances And Personal Development
Chapter 6:5 The George Washington Story
Chapter 6:6 Letting Go So Others Can Grow
Chapter 6:7 The Wrap Up
Jump HOME from Facing The Music