From Prison To Paradise: On My Way

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My WakeUp Story

by Greg Newman

Sleeping consciously, is so much easier than living awake. Problem is, once you’re woke, it’s impossible to go back to sleep. To be woke is to be aware and to look past the surface and recognize the truth. Once the truth is recognized, or at least the fact that lies to manipulate and control are abundant is understood, one cannot simply live the same, trusting, naïve experience as they once did. It just does not work. You can’t serve me a shit sandwich and call it nutritious anymore. But there’s more to it – there’s a desire to wake others up, to lead by example, to be the change that we wish to see in the world. To not just talk about it but to be about it. It was a long road for me, but it’s okay, because that is simply the path I’ve chosen to walk, and new revelations keep coming. Those who master are those who dedicate their lives to learning. Well, one thing I really want to be masterful at is life, so I will continue learning everything I can about what it is to be the person I want to be.

I used to say I wanted to experience everything firsthand – I wanted to be a writer and the experience was required for authenticity. I was interested in the rock star life. I lived it prior to achieving rock star status and I went to extremes. I was socially awkward so I turned to drugs at age 16. I started getting into trouble immediately and getting sent to various rehab classes, even two weeks impatient over marijuana. Three months after my 18th birthday, I was arrested for pot and put on probation. Not wanting to give up the social confidence drugs gave me but scared of violating probation, I tried crack, as I was told it gets out of one’s system in 3 days (which is a lie I found out later). I wish I had never picked a fight with crack, cause that’s a battle I’ve fought since that day. I’ve won and lost throughout my life.

Another enemy I willfully took on at the age of 20 was heroin. I was in a band and we experimented with psychedelics like LSD and Magic Mushrooms and Ecstasy, but I was more adventurous than the others. I tried xanax and valium and cocaine, and I had this unhealthy fantasy about heroin. Jane’s Addiction had been one of my major artistic influences and the dark nature of it called to me as I yearned to emulate their lifestyle. I didn’t know where to get it, and it was taboo, so I couldn’t just ask people – it had to be a clandestine mission. I had to find a partner in crime. I did, through a close friend who was also a taboo love interest, as she and I were part of a group of 4 close friends, two guys and two girls, and the sexual tension and dynamic was difficult to navigate to say the least. So this partner in crime and I found a source and exploited it. I went to great lengths to self-sabotage, to destroy a very promising life and spiral into the depths of hell. I lost my band to it, then my girl, then my education, and then my physical health. I overdosed a couple of times, but nothing lethal. I met another girl and got her pregnant immediately. I found out she was pregnant right after I found out I was on academic probation, so I freaked out, dropped out, and moved back home. Over the next almost 2 years, I was back and forth from Zionsville to Bloomington, and then I broke out of the addictive lifestyle I had been living with my son’s mom and moved back home to make a fresh start – but heroin wanted to see me one more time.

Just before I turned 23, I overdosed on heroin for the 4th or 5th time. I remember waking up thinking I was living in an apartment in New York with my friends Benny and Rebecca, who, interestingly enough, had been in a car accident just a year before which left them both paralyzed from the waist down. So in this lucid dream, I was on the floor and was trying to get back on the bed, but my arms were asleep – my whole body was asleep. I somehow was able to awkwardly throw myself from the ground to the floor (in retrospect and knowing what the end result was, it’s amazing that I was able to do that). It was early in the morning and my brother’s room was right across the hall from me. Apparently, my mom had come into my room the day before to get me for dinner and I was nodded out. She was mad because I was high, so she left – she did not know what to do about me. Anyway, when I made it to the top of the bed, I fell off and it jarred me awake. I screamed and my brother came in and saw me. He got my dad, and they scooped me up and carried me downstairs and out to the car to take me to the hospital. I thought I was a fish and told them to throw me in a lake. I was delusional, out of my mind. I got to the hospital and remember being thirsty. I was still lucid dreaming. I couldn’t hear anything like my head was in an aquarium. I remember lying on the bed in terror, then sitting up quickly, almost violently, and screaming my lungs out so hard that I could feel the scream. Since I couldn’t hear it, I had to make sure it was real. This happened several times, and I can remember looking at myself and my dad from above, as if I were not in my body. I remember the room we were in. My dad was sitting at the head of the hospital bed on my right hand side. Then I was in a tunnel in a cave and was crawling toward some kind of iridescent light with a little imp or gnome or troll or something, who was my guide. I got to the mouth of the cave and there was a huge cavern. In the cavern was a statue of a man, of me, a small stone statue, like about the size of a baseball trophy in little league. But then it started growing, like a Mario Brother after eating a mushroom, but 1000x the size, a symbol of great power and strength and virility. It was amazing and impressive, the opposite of that was happening to me at that moment in real life. The imp told me that I could be like the statue, powerful, strong, beautiful, graceful… all I had to do was drink a Dr. Pepper. This was odd because I had never been especially fond of Dr. Pepper. Anyway, I came back to myself, opened my eyes and asked my dad to get me a Dr Pepper. He asked the docs, and they refused me anything but ice chips. The imp persisted, as did I, until I was weeping because they would not give me what I wanted and felt like I needed. They took me to another hospital in an ambulance because the hospital I was at couldn’t help me. I thought I was being kidnapped and taken to California, for whatever reason – another allusion to Benny and Rebecca, who crashed their car in the Sierra Nevada mountains. During a lucid moment, one of the EMTs told me my potassium levels were so high that any soft drink would have killed me. The imp had been trying to kill me.

I turned 23 in the hospital. I was there for 27 days, and my son turned 1 two days before I got out. The pain was as close to unbearable as a person could imagine, if they can even imagine that. It felt like my feet were on fire yet encased in ice simultaneously. I begged the doctors to cut my feet off, but they knew it was the pain talking, and I am so thankful they did not listen to me. I’m not convinced they would have done it even if I needed it, however, because I did not have health insurance when this happened. I also used this pain as an excuse to manipulate doctors into loading me up with drugs that I could sell. I would sell my prescriptions and use the proceeds to buy heroin as an alternative pain medication. I couldn’t walk, let alone work, and disability wasn’t paying the bills and I had mouths and habits to feed. I was only getting half the normal disability benefits because of my lack of time in the workforce, but the judge determined I still had to come up with child support, so between my doctor’s visits and child support, and one of my prescriptions, there were zero dollars left! Heroin became my means of survival and my medication, as well as my best friend and worst enemy. It was the first thing I did each morning and the last thing I did each night every day. And to be without it was to be sick like the flu. People think that it wouldn’t be so hard to get through the withdrawals, as everyone has had the flu and gotten through it at some time or another, but if you had the flu and could stop it instantly and feel like a million bucks, invincible, as well as comforted like a warm blanket wrapped around you, and a sense of release, as if you just experienced an orgasm… it’s pretty hard to choose the flu.

I was not very good at selling drugs. I got arrested several times for possession of various amounts of drugs, then finally they caught me dealing while out on bond on several cases and on house arrest for another. Just after my 25th birthday and my son’ 3rd birthday, I turned myself in on a house arrest violation. I had 8 days left on house arrest, so I thought I’d be doing 4 days and getting out. 4 years later that finally happened.

I did really well in prison. I cleaned up. I did some searching spiritually, and I learned a lot about myself and the Nature of people. I learned how to size people up. I learned how to avoid conflict without joining any gangs and be able to stand on my own two feet alone no matter what. I also became institutionalized, or so I thought. I had put that thought into my own head and then society confirmed it with their reaction to me. It was strange. It was like walking around with a big secret that everyone already knew or something. Back in the day, if someone called you a bitch, whore, punk, or fag, they were saying they thought you fucked boys, I guess is the best way to put it. And in the prison hierarchy, that put you with the ladies. It also put you in the category of pacifist – pass me all of it, then. Therefore, in order to prove you were not cut of that cloth, if those words were hurled at you, a fist better be immediately hurled back or you were going to get the blues real quick and for the rest of your time – and since prison seems to have a revolving door, that reputation sticks ad infinitum. I haven’t been for awhile so I don’t know how it is these days, but it was a strange transition to see those kinds of words being thrown around on the streets with no consequences. So at the least, I was institutionalized to that extent.

When I first got out after four years, I wanted to see what it was that I had voluntarily sacrificed years of my life for, as well as my family, because my son’s mother left me while I was in prison for one of my best friends and too much had happened – there was no reconciliation in the cards. What was it that drove me to that level of self-sabotage? So I did heroin. And I hated it. What had I done!?! It was so impossibly ridiculous that I had destroyed everything I loved for that! Tragically comic, this empowered me and strengthened my resolve to leave that part of my life in the past.

With head held high and shoulders back, I walked confidently in the world. I was the picture of success in the making, a Phoenix in all of his fiery glory. I went to school and did well, made the dean’s list two semesters in a row, got a great internship as a photojournalist for an e-magazine about the Indianapolis music scene, and got into the second band of any notability that I have been a part of. I stayed off of drugs for the most part for the first year, but then, in the summer of 2006, heroin called to me, and I thought it would be okay to go see an old friend one more time. Problem is, one more time with heroin is never one more time. It’s like an unhealthy, toxic codependent relationship where one becomes master and the other slave, and the slave willfully submits to the master. I immediately fell back into active addiction. My parents tried to help and offered their support for me to go to rehab, so I made an appointment at Fairbanks. While I was talking to the intake person, my dealer texted me and told me he had the good stuff, so I figured out a way to excuse myself and get high one more time. When I made it back to Fairbanks, there was another person there and my parents were in the parking lot. I did not want them to see me getting high, so I brought the drugs into Fairbanks with me and asked to use the bathroom. I did a lot of heroin in the bathroom and threw all my paraphernalia in the trash can. They were banging on the door because they knew what I was up to. Apparently, locking oneself in the bathroom for 15 minutes is abnormal. When I came out of the bathroom, they asked me if I had any more drugs on me. I hesitated for a second, but then thought to myself, “Recovery has to be rigorously honest,” and I thought I was in a safe space, so I gave them my dope. I had done so much that I barely remember seeing people in uniforms. Next thing I remember, I was waking up in the hospital, shackled to the hospital bed. They took me back to the jail and it turns out I overdosed the day before at the jail – I had lost an entire day, and instead of checking into rehab, I was dressed in an orange jumpsuit and living in a concrete and metal hell.

Meanwhile, my parents were dying. I got out a month later, 45 minutes before my mom died. My dad died 4 days later. They both had cancer but my dad died of a brain hemorrhage. Broken heart if you ask me. He couldn’t live without her. I tried to stay good but I didn’t. I tried to go to church, sat in the back row where Dad and I used to sit, and when the choir was exiting, they walked past me and one of my Mom’s friends (she had been in the church choir for 30 years) looked at me with such sympathy that I just started leaking. I had to run out of there. I guess I was ashamed of my tears. I got home and my sister was having a cookie making party with some of her friends, and I had to go past them soaked in tears to get to my room where I just cried for what felt like hours… I didn’t want to feel. And I knew how to do that. I’m crying right now as I write this.

I started using crack to keep my focus on crack because I couldn’t deal with the fact that my parents were gone. My mom was the glue that held the family together, and when she left us, we all just drifted apart. All of a sudden I went from a guy with a family to a guy with no one. Friends that I had before I went to prison were now scared of me, it seemed. They kept me at arms’ length. But addict friends welcomed me back with open arms. Misery loves company. As a social creature, I had a choice to either isolate or succumb to the temptation and just surrender to the flow. The flow, at that time, was not in my best interests, but it was in my interests, so it was easy to get swept up in it. I had some life insurance money, so when my brother kicked me out of my life-long home, I bought a van and started living in it. I was buying so much crack that I decided I would buy wholesale and save some money. I bought an eighth of a kilo and got caught with it the next day.

I went back to jail. It took 2 years and a $15,000 lawyer to get me out of that. Luckily, I had a small inheritance that I could use for emergencies only before I turned 35, and this constituted as an emergency. Incidentally, I wish Dad would have said 40 because at 35, I blew it. But that’s later. This time I learned a lot about what crimes risked what punishment. I was trying to figure out how to survive as a convicted felon several times over and risk the least prison time. I did two years and got out for 6 months. I had come to terms with risking another 2-8 with a Strong Arm Bank Robbery – no weapons, just a note – but only if I couldn’t make it on my own. I was fairly certain it was going to be rough making it with the felony convictions I had stacked up to that point, but I tried to get by. I got a job as a bouncer, part time, then got a day job in a warehouse, so I was working between 70-80 hours a week. Done at 4am, back in at 8am. I was living in an extended stay hotel, and it was getting expensive, so I reached out to a childhood friend who is also an addict. That was a mistake that led me back to another one more time with heroin. This one led to me getting fired from both of my jobs after overdosing again and missing work – no call no show.

I was broke, I couldn’t get my inheritance until I was 35, and my disability check ($700/month) was all that I had to live on. I got dopesick and stranded in an abandoned house in the hood and decided it was time, when my friend got back with my car, to rob a bank. Luckily, he had run out of gas and by the time I got my car back, I also got my check. That held it off for a while, but before long, a guy started calling me, asking for rides. So I did, as a means to get drug money and not be dope sick. I was driving two guys around while they tried to sell strange stuff, like a stack of about 1,000 $5 Mexican Phone Cards. I didn’t know where they’d gotten them, but I assumed it was not honest. Next thing I knew, they had me drive them to a town about an hour north of Indianapolis where they broke into a Mexican restaurant in a strip mall, through the front door, at dusk. I didn’t have enough gas to get home if we drove where they wanted, and we had no money between the three of us. When we got to the point of no return, I said as much to which the response was, “Listen to what I’m tryin’ to tell you, Big Daddy, failure is not an option!” So I continued on in faith. The pop was incredibly loud when they pried the door open, and in two minutes they were in and out with a cash register! My heart was beating a thousand miles a minute, I was scared, excited, and adrenaline was pumping through my body! We got gas, drove home, and got high. That became an almost nightly event for the next three months until we got caught and sent to prison. I had gotten out of jail a monstrous 225 pounds, solid muscle, and 6 months later returned to jail 135 pounds, a shell of a man, with a staph infection and physically addicted to opiates again.

I was in for just over two years this time. I got released to work release the day after my 35th birthday (9.10.11). When I got out, I had a girl I’d been writing, and I moved in with her. I’d gotten my inheritance and thought I could make the money work for me. Problem is, the only business I had ever ran was selling drugs. So I just went through the money like it was nothing. I was still using drugs, but not heroin. I stayed out late one night and got pulled over for having a crappy car in Hamilton County, and I didn’t stop fast enough for them. They charged me with vehicular fleeing, a felony, and it violated my parole. I was only free for 8 months and I had been doing the right thing and I still went back to prison.

I was so mad when they gave me all of my parole back up time. All the other parole violators with misdemeanor violations were released. I wanted to kill everyone. I was inviting every challenge as if I wished somebody would try me. I started hanging out with the Saxon Knights, a prison gang, and was prospecting (trying out) to become one of them. Fortunately, a guy I had been locked up with before who didn’t like me ended up at the camp, a Saxon Knight, and he blocked me from being accepted into their fold. Meanwhile, I got moved to the Therapeutic Community dorm (think, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest).

I was still in the mindset of joining the gang, but then I had a couple of key encounters – I introduced myself to an SK, a big, bald-headed white guy (looked kind of similar to me) who was my age. He advised me to stand down and said the SKs active at the prison we were at were not good guys and that I would lose all my time and it would be a bad deal. That confused me, but slightly woke me up. Then I met a friend from Noblesville, IN, in the dorm. Disclaimer: prison gangs are like fraternities for bad guys and they are almost 100% racially exclusive and divided. I don’t have a racist bone in my body – this was about politics.

Ever since the first time I went to jail in Hamilton County, I would always ask people if they knew my friend, X, because he was my best friend in college, and I knew if they knew him, then they probably knew a lot of my college crew and were good people, family by proxy. If they didn’t know X, I would ask them if they knew Y. Y was always in jail, a revolving door. Every time I’ve ever been to Hamilton County Jail, Y pops up. If they knew Y, then chances are, they were a crook.

My new friend knew X, and, in fact, actually went to IU when I did, used to come and watch my band play, and his best friend was X’s little brother! We became fast friends. He was in there for several DUIs and he thought he could buy his way out of trouble. It did not work that way for him, so he ended up in prison.

I remember looking at the bookshelf one day while talking to my friend. He knew that I had been considering joining the SKs and he also knew me just by the fact of our mutual friends – and he pretty much told me I had a choice, that I did not have to live that way and that my life did not have to continue being the skipping record that always skipped back to waking up in prison.

I decided to clean up my language – I was determined to get back to my roots. I grew up in Zionsville, an affluent suburb of Indianapolis, in a family with both parents there and well educated. I consciously started pronouncing the “g” when saying words ending in “ing”, I began saying “Yes” instead of “Yeah”… I was putting myself through Charm School as it were.

My friend turned me on to some GREAT paradigm shifting books. The first one I read and studied was called, Change Your Thinking, Change Your Life, by Brian Tracy. That book taught me SO MUCH and opened my eyes to the possibility of a real life! I had a paradigm shift. I realized that I controlled my destiny and that I was smart and capable enough to make my own, if only I could look at things differently.

I had been thinking really negatively! I was so mad at my ex-fiancée who left me stranded in prison, ghosted me. I still felt like a ghost. It’s not like the switch was immediate. I felt like I was a spirit, wandering through a graveyard, haunting the world, but trapped in my geographical prison, where I had been buried by society. Every time I tried to make a phone call or sent out a letter, I felt like I was putting a message in a bottle on a desert island and throwing it out to see, never knowing if anyone ever got my message – because no one ever wrote me back. The negativity consumed me. All I thought about from the moment I woke up until the moment I was able to fall back asleep (and escape the prison for a short while). Each first negative thought began like a match being lit in my head. The fire of the negativity attracted more negative thoughts, just like a flam attracts more things to consume in its unquenchable thirst for more to burn. So the initial negative thought energy would grow into a massive fireball in my head demanding its energy be spent. I couldn’t get over it. I just wanted her to feel pain like I did, to know and understand loss, what it feels like to lose everything one cares about.

Then I learned some tricks – thought substitution was the first one I remember. I trained myself to be aware of these thoughts before they raged out of control and switch them to positive thoughts. I started finding the good in the negative things. Even if the good was a lesson learned. It was difficult, but I had to grow, and to grow is painful sometimes. I read more books. One was As A Man Thinketh by James Allen. This book taught me that my thoughts turned into my actions, which became my habits, which created my circumstances, and determined my destiny. This is so powerful, if you really put it into practice. And I did. I realized that some things were out of my reach by rule of law and by my history, but I also knew that where there is a will, there’s a way. The other takeaway I took to heart from As A Man Thinketh is that I am 100% responsible for where I stand, no matter where it is. My thoughts, my choices, my actions, my decisions have led and will always lead me precisely to the spot I occupy at any given moment. And living with that in mind and putting it into practice is very powerful.

The next book I read was Think and Grow Rich by Napoleon Hill. This book taught me how to set goals and achieve them. This should be a must read in every educational curriculum across the world. It is a flaw in our academic system that it is not the staple it should be.

Through reading these books, my eyes were opened to a new paradigm of life, where once I was the victim, now I am the conqueror, risen from the depths of hell. The world is mine for whatever purpose I choose. I am equipped, mentally, to bite off whatever I feel like I can chew. “If you think you can or can’t, you’re right.” – Henry Ford.

After I got out of prison, I went to a halfway house. I asked my family for a little financial help to get on my feet and instead they sent me to rehab on my own dime. I was slightly rebellious for a time, lying about my AA/NA Meeting Attendance and even getting high, so I got kicked out of the first halfway house. When probation and parole told me I had to go back to another halfway house, I decided to go all in on recovery. Two AA or NA Meetings a day for months on end, sponsor, working the steps, and really achieving a spiritual connection with the God of my understanding. There was a time when I felt so connected with my God that it felt like a conduit was linked between us, constant communication and friendship. It hasn’t always been easy to keep this level of communication and relationship open to the spirit, but that is from a lack on my part more than anything. When I am meditating and in communion with the source, things happen the way they are supposed to. Plans come to fruition because they are in line with the source. When my thoughts don’t align with a greater good, my desires are not good so they are not blessed. But when I am sincere and my motives are good, when my heart is pure, my desires are in line with a greater good and a higher purpose and therefore my dreams manifest into my reality. I know this because I do this. I know that manifestation doesn’t have to come from good, but I don’t want to get involved in that because I know that what I want is good.

The world is in turmoil as I write this, it is in panic mode. We are in the midst of a pandemic, and I am considering buying a gun for the first time in my life, honestly, just to protect myself and those I love if this goes south. We have allowed ourselves to become so dependent on outside sources for everything in our lives. Like a business we run our households – we outsource the electricity to the electric company, the water to the water company, et cetera. We don’t provide anything for ourselves organically. We depend on grocery stores for food. Restaurants. Where would we be without that stuff? Not only that, but we vote with our forks and our wallets. We determine what products thrive and which products don’t. When we support products whose production strategies violate our values, we are unconsciously condoning that behavior and those tactics. It is critical that we educate ourselves and remain vigilantly cognizant of these things – otherwise we are saying it is okay for a company to manufacture their products using child labor or slave labor or paying their employees pennies per day…

Waking up, to me, is becoming aware in every way. Awareness of self was the first move, then awareness of the world. First I had to know myself, good and bad, before I could attempt to look at the world objectively, see past the fancy marketing and good guy slogans, see through the hypocrisy and rhetoric, break away from the indoctrination and brain-washing, a realization that truth is elusive and history is written by the victor. The world is owned by big banking and we have allowed that to shape our very existences. We are so reliant on others that we would surely perish if there were no others to rely on. No medicine. No grocery stores. No restaurants. No water service. How would we survive? Which plants are medicine? Which plants give sustenance and what kind of sustenance? How do you build a water catchment? How do you build shelter and just how luxurious/Spartan does my existence need to be? How did civilizations build houses without big saws and contemporary building materials? I have a friend that posted a meme that said, “How am I supposed to hunt? I don’t even know where Doritos live!” It’s funny because it’s true. I hope my story is relatable in whatever way it can be to whomever needs to read it, and that it might help open any eyes to any degree. If the net result is one millimeter of one eyelid being raised, then this is a success.

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