Matt was released from prison today. We should be rejoicing, right? If the prison system works then Matt should be reformed and ready to make better choices in life. Should be.
A few weeks ago, when preparing for release, Matt finally decided to take us up on our offer to help him get into a halfway house. Although we felt he was not ready for lasting change in his life, we were willing to risk financial loss and spend the couple of thousand dollars it would cost to get him in. Our thought process was that, even if he walked out before completing any program he was accepted into, at least it would give him an introductory into recovery. It would show him a different way of living. He would have the opportunity to be influenced by other men who’ve been in his shoes and finally decided enough is enough and change the course of their lives. I thought maybe that’s all God had planned for him at this point and I was willing to accept that as God’s will. (It’s easy to accept things when they’re going your way and not so terribly difficult if they’re at least partially going your way)
Years ago my friend Jake told me that when he started into recovery he was told “You only have to change one thing. Everything.” That concept means separating yourself from friends, family, job, all the negative influences that help you to continue on the same path you’ve been on. I know that’s a scary and difficult thing to do. If Matt were in a halfway house, he wouldn’t be completely alone in doing that though.
A couple of weeks ago, Matt told us he’d changed his mind. He had talked to his Mom who had talked to his former roommate who had talked to his old boss. He was sure, based on word of mouth, that his old boss would give him his job back and sure, based on past experience, that his boss would give him an advance of pay to get on his feet. He told us there was a hotel he could live in for $150 per week. This seems, to me, like an awful lot to count on with absolutely no assurance that any of this will actually happen.
We have routinely asked Matt if he had reconsidered the halfway house and told him we’d help him if he chose to go that route. We’ve also told him that we will offer no financial help for living expenses unless it’s for recovery. He asked for $60 for work boots. David told him “Son, I will not give you cash. If you show me you have a job that needs work boots and give me an address to send them, I’ll send you boots.” We’ve tried to show Matt that we’re there for him, but on our terms, not his. We’ll help him, but we’ll do that in the manner we believe is best, not necessarily in the way he wants us to help.
Today Matt was given a bus ticket and $25 upon his release. He used that to return to the area he was living before serving his time and to get his phone activated. He called his old boss and was told there could possibly be some work for him but less than there used to be due to Covid 19 and at a lesser pay rate. He found out the hotel he thought he could get for $150 per week is actually $360 per week. He was fortunate enough to get his aunt to pay for one night in a hotel for him. When we talked to him tonight he was sitting in that hotel room. Alone. Scared of what tomorrow is going to bring. (Of course he doesn’t come right out and admit he’s scared but we know him. We know his voice. We know how to hear the things he doesn’t say.)
So tomorrow Matt will be homeless. A felon with very limited job opportunity trying to find work and somewhere to live during a pandemic. I had hoped and prayed that prison would be Matt’s rock bottom. It was not. Now I’m praying the fear and isolation that he’s feeling right now will be his rock bottom. We told him again tonight, if he wants REAL help, all he has to do is call us and ask for it.
Right now, as of tonight anyway, Matt is not willing to admit he has a problem and ask for help. He’s not willing to change that one thing that needs to be changed. He will continue to dig the hole deeper. I have no idea how far he’ll dig before he finds his bottom. I pray it’s soon.