Alcohol only made my problems worse and caused me to make more mistakes in life. I would depend on alcohol to determine what and how I would act. I became incarcerated at the age of 15, ignorant to the issues I held within. Misunderstanding and mistrust left me with no one to talk to but a beer can. That’s what I thought as a kid. My parents would always mention their love for me as a kid but they had difficulties expressing it. I knew my parents did love me, but they were facing difficulties within themselves.
My parents’ relationship always involved arguments, mainly around financial issues. My parents would hide from each other and eventually, they separated. My father left, and our relationship gradually disappeared. My mother was struggling, working two jobs and still struggling to put food on the table. She was undocumented so she couldn’t receive government benefits. I was starving, with no food in the fridge, but on lucky days, she would come home with some.
I was 10 years old with no money or comprehension of what was happening. I had no reason to go home in these days and eventually became familiar with and developed my own crowd. I dressed with a white T-shirt, black Dickies and white Nikes. I hung out with people who were able to relate to my pain and expressed it the same way. I lost dependence on my parents. I started robbing expensive items to sell in the black market. I blinded myself from my reality, and alcohol was my painkiller.
Being prideful in my actions and refusing to listen to people who really cared for me caused me to place myself in situations I didn’t want to be in. I became incarcerated for robbing a middle-aged man at gunpoint. Earlier that morning, I had been drinking, and a lot of what I remember was my anger. I was mad at myself, blaming myself for everything that happened in my life.
My judge sentenced me to five years in prison, and I was sent to a juvenile prison because of my age. During my incarceration, I came across a handful of support groups, people who have been through similar situations. These support groups educated me about my trauma and helped me realize the repercussions of my actions. I found different ways to express my thoughts and emotions. I learned how to draw, write poetry and exercise. I found myself feeling better, sharing love and the constant urge to help those who have been in my shoes. My inspiration was my realization, and now I don’t feel good if I don’t inform the rest of the people who suffer from similar circumstances.
On Feb. 28, 2013, I was honorably discharged from fire camp — a program for prisoners to give back to the community and an opportunity to learn the special trades of wildland firefighters.
My return process was not easy, and self-evaluation is something we all have to do consistently to keep our minds aware of what we are committing ourselves to. Life moves fast, and being conscious of our actions is a life-changing realization. My release was filled with eagerness and excitement, which resulted in me becoming quickly involved in community programs and enrolling in school.
I found myself struggling with reconnecting with my family and friends but with their support, they helped me adapt back to society. Getting used to my freedom was a work in process. I learned to communicate without slang and started to adapt. My pain became my motivation and helps me grow even today. I’ve changed my life and continue to advance toward my goals.
Marcos Nunez, 22, is a full-time student at Los Angeles Mission College majoring in business administration and accounting, and works part-time selling cleaning supplies and luxury linen. He’s also an active member at InsideOUT Writers and the Anti-Recidivism Coalition.
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