Friday, March 10, 2017

An Hour in the Drunk Tank - Charles Part 2

Charles Off the Wagon

"Is there anything you can do to help me?" I hear a low, coarse, almost-whisper on the phone.

"Is that you, Charles*? What kind of help do you need?"

"I'm in jail again. Third time DUI. The judge might send me to Jackson this time."

"Oh, boy! I'll have to think about this. I really don't know what I can do for you, but I'll try. Hang tough, pal."

Big talk, lady, I say to myself. What can you possibly do? You know that if you can't do anything and have to let him down, it will feel like another rejection.

What did I get myself into?

I'd been hoping that once Charles found his original family and had established relationships with some of them, that he'd begin making his way toward sobriety. But of course I knew that alcoholism isn't just magically 'cured' with a positive turn of events. Besides, Charles was still grieving the loss of the mother he would never meet. In his troubled heart, her death had taken the shape of yet another abandonment.

The Letter

Drawing on my non-professional but experience-based post-adoption leadership record, and utilizing my desktop publishing skills, I designed an impressive letterhead for the support group I had founded and led and used it to compose a letter to the judge.

I told him I was aware of Charles' incarceration and the possibility he could be transferred downstate to the Jackson maximum security prison. I filled him in on the work I had been doing with Charles relative to his separation from - and recent reunion with - blood kin.  I said I had hoped I could have continued working with him as he processed all his feelings upon learning of his mother's death, but now with his incarceration that was interrupted. I said it was significant that his record of DUI arrests coincided with events in his life that he perceived as rejections, a common, though erroneous, perception among adoptees.

I said that maximum security incarceration would do nothing to help him come to terms with the inner pain he experienced that drove his negative behaviors. Until he was helped to deal with his adoption-related issues, he would continue on the merry-go-round of attempted sobriety followed by mind-numbing drinking.

I boldly asked the judge to consider my offer of help for Charles - at no charge to the city or the county - to continue my adoption-related work with him. I said if he could stay in the local jail instead of being sent to Jackson, I'd donate up to 20 hours with him, an hour at a time, there in the jail.

I provided a number of very impressive references and sent the letter on its way.

A New Experience - Locked In!

The judge granted my request and directed the sheriff's office to make provisions for me to use the consultation room, used by attorneys with their prisoner clients. I was glad Charles and I weren't going to be separated by glass, but I admit to having a queazy feeling as the door locked behind us the first time the turnkey led me back to the consultation room.

Understandably, I won't reveal here the very private conversations we had over those weeks before his release. But I will mention that one of the times I came to the jail to see Charles, I was informed that the attorney consultation room was already occupied. And there was no way of knowing how long it might be unavailable. So I had two choices: I could skip that day's time with Charles or......we could spend our appointment in the drunk tank!

Charles knew I was scheduled to meet him that day, and there's no way I would have let him down. So I agreed to the drunk tank. After that experience, I can tell you I never want to be put there for the reason it exists! Stark stainless steel everything, including bed an loo, with glass walls facing the halls on either side. No cushions; we sat on the hard stainless steel 'furniture' and shifted our weight from side to side. But despite the discomfort, the hour went fast. And since then, I've enjoyed telling people I once spent an hour in a drunk tank!

Prayer Through Glass

I made one emergency evening visit to the jail during those weeks – at the request of his adoptive mom. It seems his favorite niece from his new-found family had been killed in an auto accident, and Charles was totally distraught. To make matters worse, he had inquired about the possibility of being released from jail long enough to attend her funeral, but was turned down.

I met his mother at the jail and we went together to see him. This time, we had to be separated by the glass window. After a brief exchange, I asked Charles if he'd like for me to pray with him. He said he'd like that. So his mother and I placed our hands on the glass on our side of the window and he placed his hands on his side, and I prayed. I prayed for the family of his niece and for peace and comfort for Charles as he struggled with yet another loss in his life. And I asked God to help him cope with his feelings of helplessness there in jail, unable to attend the funeral. After the prayer, he seemed less stressed and we even chatted a few minutes about when our next visit would be.

The Note

On one of our last visits, we talked about the fact that, as a newborn, he'd had no voice in what was to become of him. It's a lament shared by a great many adoptees: why did no one care what I would have wanted?

I handed him a pencil stub and small piece of paper from the desk. "If you could have communicated with your mother right after your birth, what would you like to have said to her?"

He wrote quickly, folded the paper and handed it to me. I asked his permission to read it and he gave it. I said then I'd like to take it with me and read it privately. (I wasn't sure of my gut reaction, remembering my own separation from my child years before.) He nodded and I signaled for the turnkey to show me out.

I didn't open the note until I got into my car and prepared to drive away. The note was very brief.

"Dear Mom. Please keep me. We'll make it somehow."


*Charles is a pseudonym, like all names in this series.

Part 1:The Psychic Connection

Part 3: The Memorial Service

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