Free at Last
Updated: Jun 8, 2021
| This is the 574th story of Our Life Logs® |
I was born in the humid Texas summer of 1973. And as I was raised in the lower-income areas of Houston, I saw first-hand how poverty could destroy a family. I grew up feeling the desperation of it. Money was the brunt of almost every shouting match and inevitably the reason for my parents’ separation. And what’s worse? My childhood was just one of a thousand like it.
Here’s the truth of the matter. Money ruled the city, and a lack of it led to a lot of senseless violence. Young men needed money to support their families and young mothers needed money to feed their babies, but nobody had any of it. Beggars and borrowers line the blocks where any other city would have investors and bankers. It’s a fight just to keep the bills paid on time. It’s a fight to reach happiness.
With poverty comes drug use. Unfortunately, that’s just how it is. If parents could not afford to raise their children, then at least they could escape that reality by altering their reactive brain waves. I saw how drugs hooked more people than the scent of blood in a pool of sharks. Almost everybody I knew was affected by substance abuse in some way. If you weren’t on something, your brother or your mother probably was.
Let me be clear. I didn’t do any drugs the entire time I sold. I was, however, an advocate for selling them. You see, my way of “getting high” was from helping a smoker feel better. Even if it was just for a day. I thought of it as being brotherly to let a person escape their miserable life momentarily. After all, who wants to be stuck in hell? I did not yet understand how much harm I was doing to myself and my community. I was just trying to get by like everyone else. I used to call money “go.” I felt like I could do anything when I had money, go anyplace. I was invincible.
Although there were plenty who got what they needed by simply taking it, I choose supply-and-demand as my “get-rich-quick scheme." This was considered the “noble” street career choice. I was not harming anybody, or so I thought. I would soon learn my lesson. But, as we all know, life does not teach for free. It’s the highest-paid teacher ever known to man. Life taught me my first awfully expensive lesson when I was 21.
I had just become a father and was making good money. I was about to head out to LA to cop a package when my baby mama begged me not to go. I brushed off her concerns.
“This is my last flip,” I promised.
Our son was only 11 months old when I hugged him goodbye and drove off, not realizing that it would be years until I could see him again. On the way back from making the flip, I was pulled over. You can probably guess the rest.
The cops found the drugs. I was arrested. I was sentenced to seven years in prison.
At first, I was pissed at myself for getting caught. Then, I felt immense guilt for missing my son’s life. He would not see me again until he was almost eight years old. I was going to miss so much. I’ll save you the details of those excruciating seven years because that’s not really what this story is about. Just know that I had a lot of time to think and get my priorities straight. I promised myself I would never get locked up again.
At 28 years old, I was released with a fresh outlook on life. I was going to fly right this time, even if that meant that I had to get a regular job. However, I was not prepared to be disqualified from 75% of the job market due to my charge and criminal record. I couldn’t even get my foot in the door to minimum-wage jobs. That shit was tough. It wasn’t too long before the pains of poverty brought back traumatic flashbacks from my past. The fear of jail was no match for it. I felt trapped on the outside and trapped on the inside. I fell back into my old ways.
During my time in jail, I built a network of soldiers who I trusted enough to work the streets for me. My plan was that I would be the man on top and no one would know. And once I had made enough money to start my own business, I would get out of the drug game and get straightened out again. Hell, I’d be out by 30. Except this wasn’t some simple deal I’d made. You don’t make a deal with the devil and get off scratch-free.
I hadn’t even been out a year when some younger boys who were selling for me got stopped and questioned. Scared out of their minds, they sang like birds. My hands were in cuffs again. I managed some luck when the charges were lowered to a violation instead of another charge. Still, I spent another three years behind bars.
Waking up in a jail cell on the day I turned 30 was not how I pictured such a monumental birthday. I hated the cold metal toilets, the public showers, the rigid bedtimes, and the horrible food. This sentence was the hardest because my mind was still at war with my heart. I wanted to make money, but I also wanted to be a father to my kid. During my time, we would exchange phone calls, and I savored every second I got to hear his little voice. It was a slow death not being able to have my flesh and blood, my baby boy, around me. Still, I lived inside those walls knowing that I only had myself to blame.
I promised—I mean, I really promised—myself that day that I would do whatever was necessary to stay out of jail. The last time I was incarcerated, I was like a bull being held in the barrier box right before he is released, waiting to charge full steam ahead. Now, all I could think about was my son. I lived off his letters and how he was becoming close with God. I realized he did not glorify money like me. He glorified love. Forgiveness. Patience. It finally hit me what was important. I began to read my Bible and know the Lord for myself. Then I understood. Money was not the root of all evil; the devotion of it was and I had been worshipping at its feet.
I spent the remainder of my time unlearning the coping mechanisms of my past. I challenged the fear of poverty and rested in the hope of a better, fuller, more joyful life with my son.
I was released a year after my “come-to-Jesus” moment. I was 32 and spent a total of 9 years behind bars. Exactly 3,285 days of my life had been wasted by being locked away. I didn’t want to waste any more time. I knew America locked up more people than anybody in the world, and I was on America’s shit list. I had to do better.
This time when I was released, I had a new set of challenges. I struggled to adjust to life outside of prison. I was plagued by suicidal thoughts and feelings of helplessness. I missed the spread of food. I missed the familiar adult life that I knew. But I did not miss being trapped. Prisoner re-entry into society can sometimes cause PTSD, and I tried to fight it.
Still, I struggled. I talked about all my memories and friends I had made in prison to anybody who would listen. When jobs attempted to hire me, like McDonald’s, there was a prejudice that came with my past that I could not escape. When people are sentenced, the sentence never ends. You carry that label with you.
To cope with my depression, I was prescribed medication. Wanting to be better, I took more than I was prescribed to, and it led me to develop a dependency that turned into addiction. This led to a slippery slope of taking other pills. It turned out I became an addict after all.
After several failed drug tests from my parole officer, I was tossed back in jail, sentenced to three more years. In this time behind bars, I was hit with many realizations, about addiction, about life, about my son. Becoming an addict made me realize what I was doing to my community from selling drugs. That was the heartbreaking truth I never saw until it was my reality. I was taking away their ability to cope with life. We need to face life substance free to ever be truly free. Upon understanding the power of addiction, I never sold drugs again.
It wasn’t until that sentence that the foggy picture of life in front of me became as clear as the Caribbean Sea. Yes, life outside of prison walls had hardship, but it also had my son. My son needed me. And I’d let him down again. My son occupied all my thoughts during this sentence. I had missed his entire childhood. Moments in his life would play in my head, but in each moment, I was absent, on the outside watching from a distance. By now, I was 36 which meant I would not be released until I was knocking on the door of 40. When I was released at 39, my son was 15, on the verge of becoming a man.
I knew that I needed to fix things with my son if I ever wanted to feel fulfilled in life. And so, when I was released, I sat down with him and told him the God-honest truth. Everything about my tumultuous experience with the prison system. Although he was still hurt and bothered by my absence, he respected me for being honest with him and wanting to fix things in the present. I told him from that day forward, he was going to be a part of my life—my everyday joys and struggles. I wanted him by my side.
Since my release, we have become closer. Instead of pills for my outlet, I have my son to turn to. I consider him my best friend now. We talk about anything and everything without judgment. I could not have asked for a better remedy.
Of course, there was the matter of getting a job when I got out of prison. As if by fate, I ran into an old friend from prison who had some job connections. An old friend of his had a maintenance company and they wanted to expand it in the West. Because they already knew me, they overlooked my record. Only God could give me favor like this. To help with the expansion, I will be able to head my own maintenance company from nothing.
I am 45 now. I have a job, a better relationship with my son, and a purpose. Now that there’s an opportunity in the company, I am flying my son out to join me. I would have never imagined that we would be working side-by-side and that I could still be a businessman, despite a felony. Even in the midst of this pandemic, I am blessed. I am looking forward to a bright future working for a living wage with my son by my side. What else could I ask for? I am finally free. I spend my days in gratitude and worship. I am so full of praise that no complaints can fit. I finally understand that your life is only as good as your mindset.
This is the story of Xavier Crosby
Xavier grew up in a life up poverty before he turned to selling drugs to make a living. It wasn’t until he experienced a “come-to-Jesus” moment while in prison that he learned how to shed his past demons and live more joyfully with his son. Xavier spends his days bringing people smiles. He is currently a maintenance man at a blood bank and is operating his own maintenance company, soon to be headed with his son too. He recently moved to Las Vegas to get away from the crowd and life he was trapped in before. He enjoys reading and studying the Bible in his free time to keep in perfect peace. Life in isolation due to the pandemic does not bother him because of his many years quarantined in jail.
This story first touched our hearts on March 4, 2020
Writer: Melodie Harris | Editor: Kristen Petronio; Colleen Walker