A good friend who I'll call "Benny" is a former inmate who is having a rough time. He's been out of prison for a couple of years, but it has been a series of uphill battles with few successes.
He entered prison as a teenager and made very few decisions on his own for the next 20+ years of his life. Not surprisingly, right decision making is one of the biggest challenges reentrants face, and Benny is no exception. That is why mentors are so vitally important to their success after release. Mentors are experienced, caring people, who are always giving advice that will help the reentrant through the difficult passage to success, but they are only as good as the advice that is taken and used by the mentee. Reentrants often ignore their mentor friends in favor of quick decisions based on feelings at a given moment. They don't weigh pros and cons, and have difficulty acting slowly and thoughtfully, as they consider important life goals.
Like many reentrants, Benny started making big decisions right away—decisions that defied those who wanted the best for him. He worked at many jobs in quick succession and he met someone soon after release and they quickly married. At one of his jobs he was introduced to the habit of drinking after work, which led to everyone's knowledge that alcohol was a problem for him. Over the course of the next year, his marriage has withered, he is leaving his home, and he wants to move, has no regular job or money. He called. He needs our help.
But this is not the first time. We helped him to get out of prison and into a half-way house, which he left before finishing the program. My husband, Jim, later helped him get into a great alcohol abatement program, but he quit almost before it started. A car was purchased, which got stolen when he left it running outside a gas station in the middle of the night, and there have been many jobs, chosen poorly and quit too often. Lately, it's getting harder and harder to believe Benny will develop the self control, right decision-making, and commitment to make a success out of his life.
Yet we sincerely care for him. He never had a childhood, much less a father or mother that directed his steps. If it takes a village to raise a child, his village utterly failed him. More than 80% of inmates have used illicit substances. After release, many with mental illness use drugs or alcohol in an effort to self-medicate. Others merely return to their old addictive habits. Either way, it often dooms the user to re-incarceration. Obviously, we don't want that for Benny.
Studies abound—I mean, hundreds of studies have been done on Alcohol Use Disorder (AUD), and Substance Use Disorder (SUD). I've read so many that I can paraphrase their findings for you: Alcohol and drugs are bad, plus they cause trouble. (Seriously, that's pretty much it in a nutshell.)
Benny doesn't need any more trouble. His bad decision-making is the spark that ignited a bomb which has blown up his once semi-orderly life and has left us all at another crossroad. Big decisions need to be made. Right now, we're working to help him get a job and find a place to live that he can afford. Luckily, through our work we have many amazing friends who can help us to make that happen, but there are no guarantees of success. This time, Benny needs to be an active participant, fully engaged in creating his own success story and sticking with it no matter what. No more quitting.
Meanwhile, we work and pray for his success, but when all is said and done, his future is not up to us. It is, and always has been, up to him.