Four Years and A Feeling of Distance

Today is the fourth anniversary of getting sentenced in court. It was a Friday and like they were there through most of my ordeal, my wife and father accompanied me to the County Building.

I was full of anxiety, fear, hope, nausea, etc. My emotions were pinging far harder than they are pinging today. In fact, I’m barely registering the anniversary today.

This may sound like a strange analogy, but I can’t immediately think of anything else that springs to mind. When 9/11 happened, it was a huge, huge deal. You know what I mean if you were around at the time. It changed so many things in the world in an instant. The following year, every TV network had memorial shows. Then, as time went on, the networks stopped covering the anniversary and left it to cable channels. Eventually, the only cable that seemed to care was History Channel, but even they stopped making new documentaries eventually. Now, we have a world where many people who could remember 9/11 are dead and many who can’t because they were too young. Hard as it is to realize, someone coming out of college now was alive for it, but doesn’t remember it.

My sentencing was a pivotal piece in my legal ordeal and it was the unknown hanging over everything in the two years between arrest and sentencing. I was a healthier version of myself than I’d ever been walking into that court room, but I knew logically, you can’t just let someone who did what I did go free. You have to send some kind of message and the six months that was handed down seemed fair to me. I would have felt lucky with six weeks and totally screwed with six years. I know others still have differing opinions, but as I always mention, none of our opinions matter, just the judge’s, so I’ve learned to accept it. It’s also much easier to accept now that it’s so far in the rearview mirror.

This is the first anniversary of sentencing since completely being rid of the legal system, as I left the probation system in mid-2019.

I hope it’s a sign of progress that I’m moving on from an anniversary day causing deep emotions, and not that I’m somehow becoming cold to the events or what I did to end up in that position. In many respects, I can never just “move on.”

The day makes me a little sad because it reminds me of my wonderful lawyer who died a couple of years ago. He was a class act who never judged me and just wanted to help a guy who clearly made a horrible mistake but was trying to fix himself. His nudging toward rehab and reminding me multiple times it was about getting better, not about pleasing a judge, have stuck with me to this day.

Even if I’m not feeling strong emotions today, I thought it was important to at least mention it, remember it, and pause to check in with myself how I’m feeling over the whole situation against the backdrop of where I am now.

No, the Judge Didn’t Give Me a Raw Deal

I’ve mentioned in this space that long ago, I divorced myself from the debate of whether I got too much or too little jail time for engaging a teenager in a chatroom in 2013 that led to that life caving in and my new life starting. The judge deemed it appropriate I serve 9 months and the system whittled that time down to 6 months and a few days. It was what it was.

I was able to tune out the people who wanted me to rot in jail for the rest of my life – or worse – because they’re coming from an illogical place and don’t understand the facts of the situation. These are the people who make Facebook the loving, nurturing community that it has become in my absence.

I actually find it more difficult when somebody hears my story and then tells me, “That’s a bunch of bull crap. You shouldn’t have got any time” and then proceed to lay out a case for me not doing jail time based on what I did. I appreciate the defense, but it’s really uncomfortable. In many ways, I feel like they minimize, rationalize and even justify what I did. I always have to step in and remind them that I broke the law.

When this conversation happens in the context of an interview, I feel painted into a corner. From a selfish, individual point of view, did I want to go jail? Hell, no. Did I understand the rationale of giving me some jail time? On a very objective level, yes. As the judge in my case said, “Despite a set of extenuating circumstances, I can’t give you no jail time. People can’t do what you did and not serve some time.”

I never had it out for the police, the lawyers, the judge, CPS, the guards at jail or anybody else on “the other side” of my legal ordeal. I got myself into that situation by doing the wrong thing to such a level the government has to step in and get involved. I’m OK with that. Some of the guards were assholes. The CPS person who interviewed the kids scared the hell out of them. I understand they all have jobs though, and those jobs are to protect people and I’m glad they’re there.

It gets especially uncomfortable for me when the person starts attacking the teenage girl who was my victim. I don’t know a lot about her. I know she exposed herself in chat rooms with other men, and I do know that she had the kind of body type that one could mistake her for being older than she was. Despite these two pieces of information, it doesn’t let me off the hook for what I did. She still had a teenager’s brain and I showed no discretion.

Ideally, I never would be in a chatroom like that, but I should have been able to say to myself, “Like many females out there, this is one who looks older than she might be and I shouldn’t talk to her.” By that point, I had pulled myself off my mental health medication and my understanding of consequences, logic, etc. were fuzzy, especially with the alcohol. I made the incorrect decision to engage her in the devious activities I conducted with women of age.

There is no defending that. Don’t tell me I got a bad deal and that she was asking for it. Don’t tell me that she played me as much as I played her. Don’t tell me that despite my horrible manipulation of her, it was all in her control. This was a teenage girl and I did a heinous thing to her. Can I name 100 things that would have been more heinous? Sure, but that doesn’t let me off the hook for what I did. Victim blaming makes things worse, not better.

I appreciate those who try to come to my defense for me. I understand your heart is probably in the right place, but it doesn’t make me feel like the cheated victim of the system you may feel that I am. I got what I deserved. She didn’t get what she deserved.

Holding onto Hate, Grudges and Resentments Hurts You More Than The Other Guy

At what point is making the other person pay for their sins enough? When have they atoned for the wrongdoing they did to you or the wrongdoing they did to the world? Who decides? A judge? You? Them? When is it time to let somebody move on with their life…but more importantly, move on with yours?

Now, obviously, if you murder someone, you’re going to be paying for it the rest of your life behind bars. I’m not talking about extreme circumstances like this.

The judge in my case seemed to be very clearly weighing two options: nine months in county jail or three years in state prison. Since I attended two inpatient rehabilitation facilities and had been part of intense therapy for the 22 months between arrest and sentencing, not-to-mention that my support system was local, she opted for the county jail, followed by three years of probation.

This week, I’m finished my second year and the countdown to being off probation falls under 365 days. For anybody who thinks probation is easy, spend some real time on it. When I got to jail, I met people who opted to do extra jail time to NOT get probation. I didn’t understand it then, but I do now. It’s a cross to bear and a black cloud that follows you everywhere – or at least the places you’re allowed to go.

I have heard people say my sentence was too long and I never should have seen a day of jail time and I’ve heard people say they should put me in prison and throw away the key. From the moment I heard her verdict, I made the decision to accept the nine months I got (of which I served six months and six days) was appropriate. After all, isn’t the judge the person who was appointed by the Governor of Maine to make these kinds of decisions?

Dealing with injustice

Are you able to let things go? As I’ve mentioned on this site before, letting go of resentments has been a huge piece of my recovery. There is too much energy and thought wasted on resentment.

Sure, there were times that resentment felt good because I felt there was genuine injustice happening, but I now practice the concept of radical acceptance. It’s found in the Serenity Prayer in its purest form…know what you can fix, what you can’t and how to tell the difference.

Do I still think there is a lot of injustice in this world? Absolutely. Whether it’s a bunch of inept duck boat operators or a President who seems to get a pass on behavior that would have taken down any public leader before him, I see all kinds of injustice in this world. I just accept that my righteous indignation doesn’t change anything. And putting that righteous indignation on display says far more negative about me than about whatever I’m railing against.

If you want to see a bunch of resentful people, visit the comment section of any story on the Fox News website. Even when a story isn’t about politics, there are people who will twist whatever the topic is into a political debate where they are correct, you are wrong, end of story. And this comes from both the right and the left, politically speaking. It’s a place where people go to argue politics and when there are no immediate politics, they’ll argue about anything because they don’t know how to communicate any other way. It’s actually quite sad when you just stand back and watch.

Resenting other people takes time and energy and thought. Do you really have those things to spare and in looking back, how many positive results have developed out of your resentments?

Grudges are Resentments, too

Maybe you don’t think you carry resentments. Maybe you’re able to let the injustices of the world melt away. What about grudges? Carry any of them?

While it will probably be gone by the time you read this, somebody posted a vitriolic review of my book on Amazon recently. It wasn’t a review of the book at all, it was just a chance to call me a few horrible names. I don’t think the person did it to try and hurt sales. If they did, they don’t really understand how the process works. I think they did it to feel better about themselves. I hope it worked, but I know resentment doesn’t ultimately work that way.

Based on the content, they seem to be local and seem to still harbor a lot of anger toward me. It doesn’t seem like we were close based on what they said, but they knew me from afar, or maybe was an acquaintance. Six or seven years ago I would have been crazed to get their review off the page and making a federal case over the fact I was called a few names.

When I read this review, which is probably gone because it violated Amazon’s terms of services, I immediately felt bad for the person who wrote it. They seem very angry at me not just for the crime I committed, but for the fact I presented myself as someone I wasn’t prior to the arrest.

I still get the feeling that the populace where I’m from hasn’t let it go. The funny thing is, it’s not about any crime I committed, it’s about a deeper betrayal. I was a City Councilor and the “good guy” magazine maker who had the film festival that brought celebrities to town every year. I was eccentric, but in the best way possible. I was an interesting guy who was fun to have a conversation with.

Most of those things disappeared in many people’s eyes when I was arrested and convicted. Anything positive I did for the community was buried. I erased everything positive in one fell swoop.

There’s nothing I can do about that view of things. Once I figured it out a few years back I let it all go.

Let It Go

I will not be welcomed back into my community at any time because there are too many people who spend energy disliking me for poor choices I made five years ago when I was sick. I don’t use the illness as an excuse. I allowed myself to get there, but I also feel like I paid my dues and I’m done groveling. I’m sorry. I’ll always be sorry and I’ll always be vigilant to make sure nothing like my behavior ever happens again. But I have to move on. If you’re waiting for more groveling, you’re going to be waiting for a while.

I am a vastly different person today than I was prior to my arrest. Those who know me best can attest to that. Those who only knew me back then through Facebook postings couldn’t tell you anything about me, so they hang onto the anger and hate. I can explain for days I’m now a pornography addiction expert trying to do good with my situation. It won’t matter. They’ve frozen their opinion of me in time. I can’t unthaw it, so why try?

I paid my debt to society, or at least I’m in the last year of that process. I can get into the pathology of the people who yell the loudest about me not getting enough time, but it fascinates me far more than it bothers me. People don’t get as angry at gang members who knife somebody in the park. That person is expected to do that. I was never expected to commit my crime. I violated their trust.

I know there are plenty of people like that Amazon reviewer still out there and there probably always will be. It is what it is. I urge them, as I urge you, to let things go. Hate, resentments, grudges…they’re all a waste of time. Still hate the ex-husband or ex-wife? Let it go. Think Trump is the devil? Still want to prosecute Hillary Clinton? Let it go. Planning on being a bitch to the bitch who was a bitch to you in high school when you get to the reunion? Let it go.

When people get angry or indignant with me now, it just kind of goes through me. If they have a point, I’ll address it, but mostly it’s about needing to spew venom. That’s OK. I’ve got a permanent snake bite kit working 24/7 inside of me. That is one thing I will never let go of.