From the July 2011 magazine.

July 2011: A Lifer's Story

The only way to endure his prison sentence was to drink as much as possible

"I was finally able to say the things that I had always wanted to tell her."

I’ve been 20 years in this prison, for a horrible crime I committed while in an alcoholic blackout. Even so, I still maintained an attitude that, since I had a life sentence, I would stay as drunk as possible as much as possible. I did not want to deal with the feelings around the fact that I would never be released from prison. During my crime, I’d also been stabbed in the spine, which left me with some paralysis in my right leg and forced me to walk with a leg brace ... a perfect reason to dive very deep into self-pity.

After I was caught with two gallons of homemade wine, my prison case worker recommended I start going to AA meetings. I attended meetings for about three years before I got a sponsor. During that time, just like the Big Book says, I experienced loneliness such as few do. I was angry at myself for choosing alcohol over a loving wife and two beautiful children. My ex-wife had warned me that if I ever went to prison, she would never visit me. Well, it’s been 20 years and she has certainly kept her promise.

-- Barry M.

Mt. Pleasant, North Carolina

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