Welcome back to the journey through the TYRO Model of Change!
This is the final blog post in this series on how to break the cycles of self-destruction and begin a new cycle of self-improvement. Building a new legacy takes commitment and a lot of work. But I discovered that it was so much easier to put the effort into building a new family legacy than it was to do nothing but wait in anger and bitterness.
Waiting was the absolute worst. When I tried to just stop everything and wait for Ron to be released, it was torture! The days were long and lonely, and the weeks brought intense resentment. I realized that I wasn’t just waiting on Ron, I was waiting to be rescued out of the nightmare I found myself living. I knew I didn’t want to be living the way I was living, but I felt so helpless to change it. I had no idea how to change my life. Ron getting out of prison seemed like the total solution to getting my life back on track. I remember looking at my children and knowing that they deserved better. But I didn’t know how to make it better for them. I didn’t even know how to make it better for myself.
As I went through all the phases in the Cycle of Self-Destruction and came to the cross-road at Acceptance, I knew I could not wait for anyone else to do it for me. I had to figure out how to stabilize my family. Thankfully, Ron was on the same page with me. We talked in letters, visits, and on the phone about how we HAD to make it through this together. Failure was not an option for us. We decided that we would invest as much energy (which also meant a lot of money in phone calls and visits) as it took to make our family stronger and healthier, so we could thrive during the struggle. We were resolute, and maybe even a little maniacal in our determination to save our family.
"Instead of growing weary, we grew more and more determined to make it."
As we lived out every moment of every day of those 15 years of prison, we learned so much about what it was going to take to make it through. Instead of growing weary, we grew more and more determined to make it. We grew closer and began to dream again as we came through each of the phases of the cycle of self-improvement. We had days that the pain of being apart was unbearable and I wasn’t sure I could catch my breath enough to keep going. But then I would ask myself what my other options were if I quit. And there was not any other option that was even a possibility for me. My family would make it through intact
We were on a mission together.
Moving through all the R’s to build a new legacy was such an adventure with Ron. We connected in deeper ways than we had ever connected before. We learned to be vulnerable, transparent, and loyal to each other in prison visiting rooms. We forgave, held each other accountable, and dreamed together in our letters to each other. We found ways to inspire each other to move to the next level despite the distance that separated us. We were on a mission together.
Overcoming incarceration together
While Ron was still in prison, other families (men in prison and their families we met in visiting rooms) began to ask us how we were doing it. “Your family looks so strong and happy, why? And how can we get what you have?” Our answer was always, “God. We are Christians and He is faithful!” And that is oh, so true. But then they would tell us that they were Christians and trusted God too. But, they wanted to know WHAT we were doing that made us so different from all the other families they saw in the visiting room. Wow! Even strangers were noticing the difference. We had entered prison just like everyone else. We had been just as broken and devastated as every other family when Ron had first come to prison. Now, people were coming to us to get advice.
That moment was the beginning of the last step in the cycle of self-improvement, Reinvesting. To really solidify all that you learn and apply, you need to take the final step and teach it to someone else. When you reinvest, you also reinforce and reestablish your own goals and dreams. It is the most empowering and humbling experience.
Reinvesting is three-fold.
First, you begin to reinvest in your own personal and professional development. An amazing thing happens as you invest in your own learning; you continue to repeat the cycle of self-improvement. Each time you repeat this cycle, you will experience a deeper level of healing and a deeper commitment to your new lifestyle and role as a leader in your home, community, and workplace.
Next, you must reinvest in the lives of your children. This is even more important for their incarcerated parent to do. To develop perseverance, your children must see it in both of you. You now know what you need to do differently to prepare your children for a strong and healthy future. You also know how to help your children overcome the challenges and obstacles before them because you have already made the journey. As you pour your new wisdom into your children, they will become equipped to move through the levels of healing and avoid getting trapped in a cycle of self-destruction.
Finally, you (and your husband) need to reinvest in others who are coming behind you. Helping others achieve success in their lives is contagious and so very rewarding. Everything you have learned on your journey can be put into practice and multiplied in the lives of others when you invest in helping people. Prison is a cold and uncaring place. When you offer some warmth and care to someone whose world has just fallen apart, you are delivering hope and disrupting the despair in their life.
Here are some steps you can take to begin reinvesting:
- Make a list of skills you need to acquire to make your dreams become reality.
- Make a plan to learn one new skill in every quarter of the year. This is only 4 new skills a year. You can do it! (For you over-achievers, feel free to choose more than 4 per year!)
- Block time to connect with your children. Listen to them and be intentional about watching for non-verbal cues that will tell you where they are in the process.
- Encourage your children by helping them get through each phase. They need to know that this chapter in their life is only temporary.
- Laugh together as a family as often as you can.
- Find a place to volunteer formally or informally. Informal volunteering can be connecting with other families before or after visits and encouraging them. Whatever you do, do it at least twice a month.
You are now in the cycle of self-improvement! It just keeps getting better from here. You and your family are prepared to thrive no matter what the system does. You will still experience disappointments, sadness, and loss when appeals are denied or administrative changes occur. But you will be equipped to keep moving forward and not let it define you or your family. That is where the true victory is. You write your own story. You know that you are strong enough to get through it, and you know you will be successful because you determine your family’s future.
If we can do it, you can do it.
I am rooting for you!