Preparing for release from jail or prison can stir a lot of emotions. Having a fresh start may offer feelings of relief, but it can also stir fear and anxiety about returning to tough circumstances, such as family life, finding work, finding safe housing, and staying clean and sober.
After release, it can be tempting to return to old behaviors that were not always positive–they were just enough to get by. You may be asking, “How can someone like me overcome these challenges?”
Here are some ideas to help get you started, which you can repeat as often as you need them.
Stay Positive, Find Hope, and Believe in Yourself
When you change your thoughts, you change your life. Though this alone won’t solve all your problems, it is important. By staying positive about the changes you can make (despite past mistakes) and being hopeful about the future, you can begin to focus on your inner strength to overcome such challenges. Believe in yourself. Embrace the idea that you are someone who is alive and worthy of love. You have to know deep down that you are capable of succeeding and, with a little help, can conquer the difficulties you may face at home and achieve the healthy life you want to live.
Create a Goal
Who are you? Who do you want to be? Who are you becoming? What do you want to achieve in your life? Why are those things important to you? What’s most important to you?
Perhaps you always had some idea of who you wanted to be, but just never had a chance to work toward it. Perhaps you never thought about who you’d become because you were just trying to get by. What better time than now to imagine what the next phase of your life could be, and moving towards your goal.
Find Support and Stay Connected
Thinking positively and letting go of old patterns in your life is hard work. It requires courage and commitment. Once you make the effort, you’ll want to find people who will support you. Consider finding people who could mentor and encourage you, and help you get connected to the resources you need to reach your goal.
Your support system doesn’t have to be limited to friends and family, although that’s a great place to start. You can also find support in local Twelve Step programs (such as Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous), the faith community, and organizations that offer reentry services. If you need help building a positive support system, please write to us and we’ll help you find positive connections to people in the community who are open to supporting you.
Once you find your support, it’s important to stay connected. When you make progress—by working again, having your own place, and having everything in your life feeling upbeat – stay connected. When your life appears to be turning for the worst, stay connected. Having a strong support system means you’ll increase your chances of going through life feeling less alone and disconnected from the rest of the world. We all have trials we go through, and none of us can overcome them alone. Be honest with yourself about the help you need, and stay connected.
Follow Up and Follow Through
Your word is your bond. It rings true in the streets and in the board room. It requires integrity. What is integrity? Integrity is defined as “the quality of being honest and having strong moral principles.” It’s the quality of being honest.
It’s not enough to commit to doing something, only to later not follow through with it. If you accept a job and not show up to work without calling in, it’s dishonest and lacking in integrity. You may be asking, “What if I really can’t do the job or follow through on the commitments I once thought I could do?”
Being honest with yourself and others, and being open to talking about any changes you may be experiencing, is a good way of addressing what you can and cannot do. It’s called knowing your limits. We all have them. The key to having and keeping your integrity is by following through with what you say you’ll do. If you can’t do it, be honest by following up and letting others know your limitations.
Take It One Day at a Time
Life after jail or prison will have its ups and downs. The important thing to remember is to take it one day at a time. If that seems too difficult, take things one step at a time. Change takes time.
Did you know it takes at least 21 days of consistently doing a new thing in order to replace an old habit? In some cases, the time is even longer. Consider viewing your life is a marathon. You have to pace yourself and be consistent, in order to get to the finish line. You may come across some hurdles here and there, and that’s okay. You can overcome them. You may also encounter successes along the way, and that’s okay too. Stay encouraged and keep moving forward.