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I Thought I'd Always Be a Criminal

And why that is bullshit

Me on the yard at OSP

I am a criminal, I heard that so often that I believed it. My mother told me that my father was killed in a shootout with the police, so I grew up with this idea in my head of who I was based on things I was told. Turns out that my father died almost thirty years after my mother told me that he did. I grew up dirt poor and my step father was physically abusive to me and my sister. We moved to a new city every couple of years, I always felt that I did not fit in. Kids, being who they are, would tease me about my Goodwill clothes and my parents ugly car. I started to steal candy from the local store early on and I learned that if I gave candy to the kids that they would like me or at least pretend to. As I got older I began to associate money with acceptance. I never felt like I was good enough for people to just like me, so I bought friends often by stealing and hustling.

I felt powerless because of the abuse at home 'til I got older and put on some size and weight and then I learned, that bullies were like balloons you just had to pop them. My friends started to call me the quicker picker upper, cause I was quick to pick something up and hit you with it. I went to prison the first time at 18 years old for assault with a deadly weapon, for hitting a man with a bottle. While in prison I learned to be a better criminal, and I carried that to the streets with me when I was released. It was five years before I was sent back to prison again for stealing and attempted robbery. This started a cycle that would continue for the next 15 years, never being out of prison for more than a few years, then going back always thinking I just need one good score to set me up so I could go legit.

I had trouble with relationships as well, I was terrified to be alone, I thought that someone could fix me if they only loved me and would be there for me. I would sabotage my relationships with needy behavior, or just get locked up again, and they would move on. I continued to tell myself that I was just a criminal and that is what it is. That I can't help it my dad was like this, its in my DNA. Finally I was arrested in 2009 and facing a long prison sentence for robbery, I was sent to prison for 105 months. I sat in the intake center alone in my cell and did a true inventory of myself and decided that I needed to change.

So I made a plan. Oregon, where I live, has prison industries where you work for outside companies, you get paid decently and I knew, most importantly, I could develop a good work ethic. I got a job in the call center, got up for work every day at 5:30 AM and worked till 3:40 PM a full day of work, I discovered that I had some natural leadership talents and rose to become a trainer, followed by a lead, then group lead, finally to floor manager. I began to have confidence in myself that maybe I was more than just a criminal, that maybe I could have a life outside of prison.

I was released from prison in November of 2017 with a plan. I learned of a company that would employ me and that would offer me housing and overlook my felonies, I went to the interview looking for any job and left with a shift supervisor position. I have stumbled along the way, I can be impatient and impulsive at times, it has caused me to struggle with some things in life. But I am getting better, I have completed half of my parole and been placed on inactive status, I no longer am required to report to my parole officer. I still struggle with personal relationships, I am insecure and seek approval, this led the best woman I ever dated to leave me. Though I am starting to see that it is her loss. I may be needy and clingy, but I am a good guy with a huge heart and I was always honest and good to her.

I am going to therapy to work on my issues and I know that I will not always be like this. I am getting stronger every day. It is a struggle for me to manage at times, I get depressed being alone, and I want to do better financially. But I know that Rome was not built in a day. I am in college and I have dreams now. I hope to be an advocate for people with criminal histories because I now know that change is possible. I am working on becoming a motivational speaker. Because I know that if I can change then anyone can. I never believed that I could live a life like this. It is not my best life yet, but I am on my way. So if you are struggling take a breath and take a moment, take a good look at yourself and be honest what can you do about it today. What is one thing that you can do today to improve your life and your situation? Even if it is one small thing, just do it, and do it now don't wait. It will get better but you have to work at it. Wishing it will not make it so.

Daniel Sullivan
Daniel Sullivan
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Daniel Sullivan
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