A Message of Hope | Mike Gardipee

Today, I feel hope. After 13 years of incarceration, I’m being released. The night before a few friends from my recovery program cooked me my last prison rice bowl: cheese rice, hot beef log, hot pepper mix, and a variety of spices and oils.

We sat around the table, shared some laughs and said our goodbyes. I cherish the moment and realized what a gift it is. Here I am in prison, sharing my love and encouragement with a bunch of guys. I never thought in a million years that would happen. 

Later, when I call my daughter for the last time from prison, I tell her how blessed and thankful I am for God bringing these men into my life. Every one of them has helped me become the man I am today.

A Message of Hope | Mike Gardipee

She says she is grateful to be picking me up in the morning and that she has a surprise for me. She doesn’t say what it is, only that it’s something I want more than anything in the world.

With release in less than 13 hours and the anticipation of my surprise, I can’t sleep. The call finally comes over the loudspeaker, “Mainline is open for chow, Durand unit to mainline.”

My brothers in recovery come by and I embrace every one of them, wanting nothing more than to take them with me. Somehow in the cold, dark, loneliness of prison, we offered each other warmth, light, and friendship. I smile and think, “God is good.”

A Message of Hope | Mike Gardipee

I walk through control, I turn the corner, and I see her. I see all of them. My daughter and all 11 of my children are waiting for me. My heart beats like a tribal drum. My legs shake and before I can say a word my children run to me. I embrace them all with tears of joy.

My eyes open and I see the box springs on the bunk above me. It felt real but it was a dream. I sit up, my bare feet touch the cold floor and reality kicks in. I still have two long years to do in prison

My heart feels heavy with sadness and longing. The truth is that I haven’t even met some of my children and others resent me for the choices I made. I chose addiction and prison over them.

These dreams that God provides for me from time to time continue to fill my heart with hope. It strengthens my faith and encourages me to progress in my recovery so I can be the father my children deserve.

I work daily to open more doors of opportunity upon my release. I am working toward an Associate’s Degree in Business, but what I truly want is to be a chemical dependency counselor. It is another dream that I can pay forward the second chance that was granted to me.

I turn 46 at the end of July and who knows how many working years I have left? With no savings for retirement, I need a solid plan. When I pled guilty to drug charges, I forfeited my right to social security, so I must stay healthy for my children and for my future. My family has suffered enough, the last thing I want is to be a burden.

As a recovering alcoholic and addict, I know that recidivism is just one wrong decision away. I respect my addiction and understand and feel the harm it has caused me and everyone around me.

Recidivism isn’t the only thing on my mind. I will eventually have to face my past and the pacts I made in my old life. The street has rules much as society does. When those rules are broken, there are consequences. If I release back to my hometown, I may not have a choice, on whether or not I have to face those consequences. Just as I fought my way into the gang life. I must fight my way out with the understanding that I’ve harmed many people who may take their revenge.

For now, I choose God and family above all else. I choose love over hate.

I want to be a good man and father. The only way for this to happen is for me to keep my eye on God, and follow His path. As my faith grows I know God will provide all that I need as long as I stay true to Him and myself.

Psalms 23: “The Lord is my shepherd. I shall not want.”

God is good.

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