Wednesday, August 26, 2015

And Then, There is Mercy

Today was an important and scary day for me.  

I went to court for disposition of my latest legal issue:  probation violation.

My probation conditions seemed fairly simple and straight forward when I agreed to them last February 27, 2015.

I pled guilty to the charge of Obstruction of Legal Process - Interfere w/Peace Officer, Statute 609.50.1(2).

To be frank, I didn't know that what I was doing was an obstruction of legal process. It's a fairly broad definition, in fact. 

Once I was made aware, I pled guilty to the charge, admitted to understanding the officers were trying to help me the day they arrested me, and accepted the terms of probation.
I was doing a good job for the conditions.  Until I didn't do a good job.  

After my sexual assault and arrest in Avon - a story for another day - I did as instructed and contacted Wright County Probation.  I was told to come to my scheduled appointment in August, and I did.  It would have been my last required meeting with Probation for the two years.  I was informed during that session that another agent had discovered my arrest in Avon and reported my arrest to the court; a judge had signed a Warrant for my arrest the day before my meeting.  My Probation Agent advised me to voluntarily turn myself in, which I did.  After being fingerprinted, photographed, and booked, I spent the night in Wright County Jail.  That arrest was reported to the Monticello Times under the original charge rather than a probation violation.  It's sort of sad to me that I wasn't even embarrassed.  My life in the criminal system is very surreal.

The next morning I went before the judge and pled guilty to violating the condition to abstain from alcohol use.  The other charges for failing to remain law abiding were dismissed.  I was able to leave jail on my own recognizance with another Alcohol Monitor and an agreement to follow the probation rules.  I also agreed to return to court for disposition (sentencing).

The prosecutor asked the judge to sentence me to 30 days in jail as a consequence for my violation.  My lawyer had warned me I should expect that, but my heart sank.  

My lawyer asked for ten days in jail, and talked about my history and the facts and circumstances of my husband's behavior with someone who called herself my best friend.  He talked about the impact of that on my own behavior. He recalled how my intention last February was to "follow the rules" and simply abstain from alcohol abuse.  He explained how the first thing I told him when I saw him in Stearns County was that I wanted help and that I "couldn't do this myself." He called me intelligent and successful in most areas of my life, and requested that the judge listen to me talk about my treatment program.  

And I did.  I had prepared a written statement so I wouldn't forget what I wanted to say.  This is what I said:
In the last two years, I have made choices that were self-destructive, and I made those choices believing the only person I was hurting was myself. 
When I was here in February I committed myself to following the rules.  I was convinced I would be easily able to follow the rules for probation since I’ve been a rule follower all my life.  I failed at that time to examine what it was that caused me to choose alcohol and other self-destructive behaviors.  I have learned that until I change the way I think, I will continue to choose those same behaviors over and over again.  I do not want that to be the story of my life.  
In July I followed my self-destructive pattern after receiving some fairly devastating news.  In the ensuing days, as I confessed the truth to my support network of friends and family, I learned that what I have been doing has hurt people deeply.  Remaining sober has become – for me – a moral issue.  I am committed to remaining sober for the rest of my life, not just because there is a great risk of more punitive consequences, but because I want to be well and whole, and I definitely want to stop hurting those people I love.  I recognize that eventually I would wound them enough to lose them.  That would be horrible. 
My 20 year old son came home last week, and I greeted him as usual.  He said the following words to me:  I am so proud of you.  You have taken every single negative thing that has happened to you and turned it into a positive.  You don’t complain or blame.  And even with everything you have going on you still want to know about my life and encourage me.  You are the strongest person I know and I want to be like you when I grow up.  
If that amazing young man can love me like that, I should be able to love myself enough to stop the behavior that is destroying my life. 
And I will.  
I am attending an out-patient treatment program at Minnesota Adult and Teen Challenge on Mondays, Tuesdays, and Thursdays. My treatment plan is aggressive and comprehensive:  not only is there an individual therapy session and group sessions, there are assignments that make me stop and reflect.  It’s already a painful – but also very hopeful – journey. 
I also implemented other lifestyle changes:  I ran 28 miles last week, and have a 32-mile goal for this week.  I am eating clean and have lost 17 pounds.  I am actively seeking a new faith community while remaining connected with my current one.  And I am taking time every day for meditation or reflection, journaling, and art therapy. 
I would like to request that jail time is imposed in a manner that allows me to continue to attend therapy while also following all the guidelines in my care plan, including continuing my existing therapies, physical activity, clean eating, and completing assignments.  
I am also my sole financial support, and have some very important deadlines for my new business and the product I am developing. I hope to manage the consequences here in a manner that allows me to continue to pay for my home and support my son.

Unfortunately, I cried.  My body was visibly shaking.  It is intimidating to stand before a judge who gets to have dominion over your life.  It is potentially humiliating to share the secrets of your heart and the sadness of your story in front of strangers.  To do it while crying and shaking is not something I would ever choose for myself, but I wasn't humiliated.  The path that I am taking is right for me, I feel strong and well, and I am going to share my story with everyone who will listen.  Recovery is possible!

When I cried, I wasn't crying for myself.  I cried for the bright light that is my son.  He has seen me at my worst and he still loves me with his whole boy heart and longs for me to be strong and well.  He is yet a boy - but so much a man, and a better man than any I ever knew.  I am so proud of him and his heart.  He gives me hope that my bad behavior will fade from his memory and he will learn things about dealing with adversity and people who fail us in profound ways.

After I completed my statement, the prosecutor and my lawyer had a whispered conference.  The prosecutor then requested that rather than incarceration, he would request 30 days of alcohol monitoring to help through these initial stages of treatment that are so difficult for so many people.  My attorney agreed that would be an acceptable alternative and I had nothing to add.

The judge said that he had intended to assign 24 days in jail for my violation.  But he didn't.  With great mercy and an eye toward furthering my treatment plan and schedule, he granted me the reprieve of 30 days of alcohol monitoring.  My treatment will continue.  My lifestyle changes, directed by my treatment plan, will continue.  My work on my business will continue. The hard work is only just beginning, but at the end of the path, I will be a new creation - not who I used to be, but the me I was meant to be.  

When I sat down to wait for my paperwork, a stranger across the aisle leaned over and whispered:  "I am SO proud of you."  So I lost the battle with the tears.  It's hard to take people being kind and maintain control of composure under those circumstances.

I know this:  every person who was a prayer warrior for me created today's outcome.  The people involved were surprised by the outcome, including my new Probation Agent who told me in today's meeting that she fully expected I would be spending time in jail.

God is so incredibly good and his mercy rains on us all the time.  

I did not walk away from today's events with any sense of "beating the system" or manipulating people or even "getting my way."  

I walked away with the sure conviction that I would have been sentenced to 24 days in jail without God's mercy and love.  With his grace, the people with dominion over my life heard the words that were spoken. Today was a complete victory for choosing healing over punishment.  And that is a beautiful thing.

Incidentally, we don't have to do anything to be worthy of God's mercy and love, and we cannot do anything to make it go away.  But it sure feels good to know he's got his eye on me, his arm around me, and his angels protecting me.

Peace.  Peace.  Peace.

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