Saturday, September 5, 2009

About Me and Where I’ve Been

Sixteen months ago to the day, I disappeared from Politics Plus. The site had to be shut down, because conservatives were complaining to Google that it was a SPAM site, and I could not be online to defend it. Here’s what happened. Twenty years ago I suffered an emotional breakdown and committed a crime for which I served nine years in prison and for which I will be on parole long enough that I shall probably not live long enough to be off it. In April last year, I failed a polygraph that I had violated my parole. I had not, but the polygraph is only accurate 75% of the time. To punish me, my parole officer confiscated my computer, and about three months later, she forbid me to access the Internet from anywhere else. Six months later she allowed me to retest with the state’s most reputable polygrapher, and I passed, contradicting the results of the one I had failed. My parole officer chose to ignore the second polygraph and destroyed my computer. I immediately started saving or a new one, knowing that someday the nightmare would end. I later learned that many of her clients had lost their computers. A month ago I got a new parole officer, and after two brief conversations, she restored my computer and Internet privileges.

I grew up in a thoroughly dysfunctional home in which I suffered extensive physical, emotional and sexual abuse. As a result, I did not develop the self esteem required to form healthy relationships. I was a rebel with no trust in or respect for authority. Nevertheless, I managed to accomplish quite a bit. As an activist against the war in Vietnam and or civil rights, I worked with several famous people and helped organize many of the key demonstrations of the mid 1960s. Because I followed the belief in nonviolence taught by Gandhi and King, I strongly opposed the takeover of the peace movement by advocates of violence, such as the weather faction in SDS. Sadly, my voice was in the minority. When I realized I could not prevent the change, I withdrew shortly after the demonstration at the Democratic Convention in Chicago in 1968. Political activism had been my anchor and I felt disillusioned and bitter.

I married the wrong woman, although I can not say that I had the social skills to make a marriage work. I had a religious conversion. I fell under the influence of a religious right church group. I followed, because I was desperate to belong. I attended a Bible College for three years, but had to withdraw to earn more money. I was successful in business. But I was miserable. I have too good a brain to maintain right wing views indefinitely, and I was struggling to believe my own sophisms. The marriage ended badly. She got caught with a deacon in the church. In the divorce, I lost everything except the bills. Again, I felt disillusioned and bitter.

I met a woman who liked the wild side of life. We became swingers, but soon enough, the novelty wore off. I remarried. We moved to Portland. We actually had a good relationship, until she suffered a sudden adult onset of bipolar disorder with schizophrenia. I retreated back to the religious right. After years I fighting to get her treatment against her will, she finally stabilized on lithium. However, she refused her meds, relapsed, and left. My life had been a codependent relationship with her. I felt so bitter, disillusioned and depressed, that I fell apart completely and ended up in a prison cell.

In prison, I had time to think. I admitted to myself that I was a mess and focused on myself instead of blaming others for my problems. I started rebuilding myself by voluntarily giving up all my attitudes and beliefs to discover who I really am. I attended college in prison and earned an AA with a 4.0 GPA. I took anger management and cognitive restructuring. Later I became a facilitator for that group. I joined the Gavel Club (Toastmasters), became an officer in that group, and learned enough to teach Speechcraft there. I joined 7th Step, a group dedicated to helping convicts change on the inside and transition to productive, law-abiding lives in their communities. I also became an officer in that group, and developed a program from scratch designed to teach prisoners how to seek, apply for, and find employment after release. I became the prison’s facilitator trainer, teaching other prisoners to facilitate whatever programs their groups offer. Over this long process I grew into an authentic human being with attitudes and beliefs rooted in who I am, and with genuine self-esteem.

After almost nine years, the parole board deemed that I had ceased to be a risk to society and released me. I found work and a place to live immediately. Over the course of the next seven years, my wage more than doubled. I became politically active again when the GOP stole the 2000 election or GW Bush. I became the bane of MSN communities and was kicked out of several or my posts opposing the Bush/GOP war for oil and profit. I had another relationship failure, but this time I had the skills and self esteem to bear the pain without falling apart. By the summer of 2004 the economy had become so GW Bushwhacked that my company had to cut back and fired me, using absence over a three week bout with pneumonia as an excuse. I found another job, but with only 2/3 the wage, 2/3 the hours, and no health insurance. Without medical care my health deteriorated, and I had to stop working in October 2006. I’ve been fighting for SSDI ever since. I blogged at Windows Live for a while, but had no traffic. I moved to Blogger in 2006 and Politics Plus became a successful blog until the events I related previously. I did volunteer work to help elect Jeff Merkely to the Senate and oust Gordon Smith. Currently I am a Director and the treasurer for 7th Step on the outside. I will be their webmaster as soon as I get the site back up. Through them, I volunteer at the prison one day a week. I also volunteer one afternoon a week helping a treatment provider with a therapy group. I have been free for over ten years now and have only committed one crime. I freely admit I am a serial jaywalker.

So that’s it. I would not have left, if I could have avoided it and wanted to provide you an explanation. Please feel free to come back often. I hope to provide the same quality of discussion you came to expect here before, or if you’re new, welcome. If you’d like to exchange links in a blog list, please include your blog’s URL in your comment.

Hugs to all!



Brother Tim said...

Welcome back, TomCat! I'm putting PP back on my blogroll. I look forward to seeing you.

Blog of Revelation

Peace and Grace,
Brother Tim

Randal Graves said...

It's good to have you back, and I hope your future is quite uneventful (except for the good stuff!)

L'ennui melodieux

TomCat said...

Thank you both or the good wishes. I'll be bye and have the blogroll up before the weekend is up. :-)

ivan said...

Holy cow.

You deserve a Nobel, man.

TomCat said...

Ivan, given your writing skills, you're the one who deserves that.

Dave Dubya said...

Delighted to see you again, TomCat! I hope you can stay healthy.

Holy crap! Polygraph-based justice and judgment?

Orwellian thoughtcrime is truly here.

TomCat said...

Hi Dave, and welcome. I hope I can too. When I finally win my fight for SSDI (my lawyer says my claim is rock solid) I'll get medicare.

As for the rest, the justice system is a strange place and can be most unreasonable. However, were it not for my own transgressions twenty years ago, they would have never gotten their hooks into me.


Mauigirl said...

So glad you are back! Thanks for letting us know! You were treated very unfairly and am so glad you got your internet rights back!

Annette said...

Mauigirl steered me your way.. glad you finally got your voice back.. I will be back to check you out often.. You are welcome to come check me.. I am fairly new to the world of blogging but I try to keep it straight..

Good luck.. let me know if I can do anything to help..

My Little Piece of the World

Fran said...

I was so glad to get your email yesterday and thrilled to see this here today.

Oh Tom - what a story. I get it, more than you might know.

What gifts your honesty and your approach to life are, what a gift you are.

Welcome back!

TomCat said...

Thanks Maui, I agree, but once again, I brought it on myself.

Thanks, Annette,and welcome. I just stopped by your place, became a follower, commented, and added you to my blog roll. Come back often.

Franele!! Now there's a face I missed. Thank you!! I just tried to visit and link to you, but found your blogs are no longer public. You have my email. Care to send me an invite?

TomCat said...

OOPS!! Forgot you mentioned the new blog in your email, Fran. You're on my blogroll, and I'll be right over. Sorry!!

candykissesm said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
candykissesm said...

Welcome Home, Tom!!! .. good to see you back ... I know I never dropped in much, but you are often dancing thru my mind ... Big hugs...


TomCat said...

Kath! So wondderful to hear from you! How have you been?

candykissesm said...

Tom, things are great ... life is going well ...

other than all this .. how have things been for you?



TomCat said...

Well, for the last few days. Email me, OK? I may not answer until later in the day, as I'll be out, but would love to get back in touch.

gabrielle said...

Just noticed you surface at the walking man's blog. Followed the breadcrumbs And here you are!!!

So sorry to hear about your troubles. Glad to hear the recent fiasco has been resolved.

Thank you for your openness. Your story is extraordinary. Know that you are not alone in your life or your life experience.

Welcome back!!! You have been missed.

TomCat said...

Thank you Gabrielle. Your welcome and kindness are most appreciated, and welcome to you. Love your poetry!

Mentarch said...

Damndamndamn TC - I just found out you've been back!

And you were definitely treated unfairly and unjustly by that moronic parole officer (probably a "tough of crime" shithead).

(and now I understand the "computer" thingie - what a prick he/she was!)

I am *glad* you are back, my man!

I wish you THE VERY BEST for these here coming holidays and a very happy new year 2010 in advance.

Enjoy yourself and be safe - ya hear?

(and you'll be seeing me dropping by here often in 2010!)


TomCat said...

Mentarch, I'm thrilled to see you, old friend. I have thought of you several times, but I could not remember the name of APOV. :-(

I'm also glad to be back and wish you the same. You're back on the blogroll. :-)