In the latter part of 2004, I was convicted of Capital Murder and sentenced to life without parole in the Alabama Department of Corrections. Before this time my life was mostly devoted to getting money, half-handling my responsibilities, and supporting my habits. As the saying goes, “I was not a perfect person,” in fact I was like most people whose main focus is on getting money…selfish, self-centered, and self-righteous. Although I was reluctant to admit it, I was an addict. Obviously, in my environment, addicts came in many forms. My addictions ranged from getting money, having sex, smoking marijuana and tobacco, to drinking alcohol, and believe it or not…creating music.
In the midst of my issues, I became a father at an early age and like most seventeen year old boys I had no clue to what fathering was. This was partly due to the fact that my father (God rest his soul) had never bothered to give me instructions, and also that I was too stubborn and distracted to learn. For the record, my father officially left our family when I was about ten years old, but I know many that can testify that even while being physically present a father can be absent in other ways.
I discovered later in life that my dad had addictions and distractions of his own that rendered him incapable of giving us what we needed. Once dad was gone, my mom officially declared me, “The man of the house.” At ten years old, I spent many days under her roof trying to figure out what that was. I know that she meant well and she had to make do with what she had, but how does a boy figure out what a man is with no real man to guide him? For me, being made the man of the house meant that I could do whatever I wanted without any accountability. But the truth is that there is always accountability and there are always consequences. “Be not deceived; God is not mocked: for whatsoever a man soweth (plants), that shall he also reap (receive back)” – Galatians 6:7.
I grew up being pulled in several directions. My Mother’s influence was extremely strong in my life, but eventually the heart of a rebellious son being drawn by the many corrupt pleasures of the streets got to me. It’s amazing how far thinking you know something (that you don’t) can mislead you. I thought that I was a reasonably smart child, but as it turned out in the areas of relationships and expressing my true emotions…I had no clue. It was only after being incarcerated and taking certain courses that I realized my anger issues. All of my life I had been harboring deep anger focused on my father. I was angry that I was helpless to stop him from hurting my mom, and for leaving me unprepared to do his job. My addictions turned out to be the way I was self-medicating the pain of my anger.
As I look back, being an angry, stubborn addict never helped me. Instead, I became a terrible listener who was very resentful, and very bitter. So even when a qualified man did attempt to give me solid advice, I rejected it. Why? Because, internally, I feared he would be just like my dad, here one moment and gone the next. So I ignored the advice and continued to act as if I had it all together. Unfortunately, no matter how convincing we are to others, we cannot fool ourselves. My life was an avalanche collapsing with no hope of stopping until its course was done. So I kept doing what I knew…get money, support my addictions, half-handle my responsibilities. Following this philosophy, by the age of twenty-nine, I had four baby-mommas’ and was responsible for six precious children. My skills at maintaining relationships had not improved so naturally the connection between my children and their mothers was affected.
I always wanted to be a better father than my dad was, but as life would have it, we can only give that which we have. Unfortunately, I did not have the necessary parenting skills or mindset to provide my children with what they deserved. I had become more like my father than I would ever publically admit. “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge: because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee…seeing thou hast forgotten the law of thy God, I will also forget thy children.” Hosea 4:6. I learned later that there was a cycle running. It is called a generational curse by some. Its purpose is to destroy family units piece by piece, starting at the head. Not being aware of this places those most likely to be affected in a dangerous position. The issues that I had in life only increased my chances of being subjected to this cycle; in affect I was working against myself.
It is a statistical fact that most boys left to figure out manhood on their own face a high percentage of being incarcerated or embalmed at an early age. Even I, on the day I was incarcerated, could have been killed. I feel that I survived that day due to my mother’s prayers, the grace of God, military combat training, and the survival instinct infused in us all. I am not proud of what brought me to prison, but neither was I ready to die. What would you have chosen? There I was affecting the lives of two families of parents, children, and loved ones. In my mind they were all angry at me for either not dying, or for making a decision that took me physically out of their lives. It was neither my desire to cause hurt nor to change lives permanently. At the time, like anyone else, I only wanted to survive. Nevertheless, the high price of my survival ended up costing others who did not ask or deserve to be charged…the one thing I can say is this…on February 6, 2000 one avalanche did stopped.
My life of getting money, having sex, and intoxication was over. The crashing weight of consequences had crushed me, and night after night I was forced to think about all the others I affected on the way to where I was. Eventually, my body detoxed, and my mind came back to me. In that time I also discovered that the cycle I mentioned earlier had multiple stages and with that revelation I saw clearly how I had survived one avalanche…only to be standing atop another.
Months prior to my arrest I was working on escaping my self-destructive lifestyle. Things had changed, as they often do, and as they did, I ended up with custody of three of my six children. As a result I had to change as well. So I came up with a plan to construct a music studio and a home that would support and shelter us. Running the streets would have to end and I would have to become something that I knew nothing about…a real father.
This is strange, but that particular time that I spent with my children ended up having a most profound impact on my life. It was as if my eyes were being opened and I was finally realizing how much of their lives I had missed and was missing because of how blind and selfish I was. Those young ones had awakened something in me and for that I am grateful. There is nothing that is as powerful and fulfilling as the spirit of fathering. I thought about this during the time I was locked up, “Sometimes it takes a slap in the face to wake us up.” I made a promise then, “If I ever got back to my children, I will be the greatest father on earth.”
As the avalanche of the Alabama District Attorney’s office fell on me, I was painted as a murderous monster, lied upon, had injustice inflicted upon me, and then sentenced to die in the Alabama prison system. The vicious cycle was making its rounds and like the rest who got caught up, I lost my freedom and was swept out of the lives of my children. The three greatest pains I have ever experienced thus far are: the loss of my mother – 1991, the loss of my child – 2010, and while yet living, being absent from the lives of my children – ongoing. I am not an angel, but neither, am I a murderer. By the grace of God, I am no longer angry and where I have been wronged and hurt, I trust that it will be corrected and healed. I acknowledge the great prices that have been paid for me to learn how to deal with my emotions as I also learned to be a good father and a good son.
While in the middle of my avalanche I also discovered another great price. However, this price was paid for me and not by me. It was the price that Jesus paid for my sin (All that could separate me from a loving God): past, present and future, so that I would have no reason to remain separated and unaware of my Heavenly Father. Even in the absence of my biological dad, I always had my heavenly Father, but I just didn’t know it. I wish that my biological father and I had a better relationship, but now it is too late.