Steven Dybvad – Personal Journal – December 19, 2013, through January 31, 2014

by Steven Dybvad


Today was my first day on a new porter job. A couple of days ago I asked the duty assignment guard to switch my old job of cleaning the microwave area because it was becoming a pain to maneuver around the crowd of inmates trying to cook their food at the last minute when they’re all supposed to be locking down in their cell for count. So the guard agreed to change my job over to trash cart. All I have to do is push the trash cart down to the shipping dock once every morning and empty the trash bags in the dumpster. I enjoy this job much more, now that I don’t have to wait for inconsiderate people to get out of my way to complete; also I get to see a part of the prison that most inmates aren’t allowed to go near, the shipping dock, which is right by the gates to freedom.


I feel extra guilty about my drug addicted, criminal behaviors that led me to prison this time of year. I’ve robbed my children of a father and extra gifts for Christmas, I’ve robbed my parents of a son baring gifts of love and joy, I’ve taken away the happiness from my family and friends when they think about me and the reasons why I’m not there for the holidays. I often tell myself that I’m supposed to feel this way as a self-inflicted punishment for all the wrong I’ve done in life as a drug addict. I know that this is a very unhealthy state of mind for me; it’s just so hard to kick. As a result of the weather, I’ve been unable to run on the track, this only amplifies my depression. After making so many Christmas cards for people I felt extremely drained and worse off about my current position in life. Having to express my condolences to my cousin Aaron and my uncle Roger about losing their mother and wife and my favorite aunt just didn’t feel right to me, it wasn’t something I should have expressed on paper, or in a Christmas card, it was something I should have done in person, but I couldn’t because I’m in prison, I couldn’t even attend her funeral, this only makes me more sad. I just want the holidays to be over with and I hate that I even have to feel this way, like Scrooge.


I’m glad I finally have someone to talk to about serious issues and to hold me accountable for my actions, someone from inside these prison walls. Even though I have to be able to function in prison without the help of others, it’s important for me to seek out individuals with the same goals and aspirations as me and it’s a vital part of my recovery for the rest of my life. After I’m released from prison it will be my responsibility to find healthy, sober, successful people to be a part of my life. Kurt helped me to get out of this unhealthy holiday funk that I’ve been in lately, he reminded me of all the good that I’ve done with myself since my arrest and how far I’ve come with my recovery, too far to take any steps backward. Sometimes it’s so much better to hear it from someone else, even when I already know what the answer is myself


Today is Christmas Eve, a time for family to get together an enjoy each other’s company. One day I will get to experience these joyful holidays with my family again, and I will do everything to ensure that I never have to be away from my children or the rest of my family for Christmas ever again. I still have two more Christmas holidays away from my family, this is a hard pill for me to swallow sometimes, but at least I’m more than halfway home now. Merry Christmas everyone!


Merry Christmas! I was pleasantly surprised to see many people wishing each other a merry Christmas. Usually many inmates are generally grumpy, unapproachable men, mad at the world around them, but today I can definitely feel a touch of the holiday spirit, spreading joy throughout the compound.
My parents are driving with my daughter down to Disney World in Florida to meet up with the rest of the family for Christmas. I was able to have a video visit with them while they were driving down the road. They were driving through Tennessee at the time, which made it a little difficult to get a clear signal, so the visit kept cutting in and out and there was a delay on everything I said, but regardless it was very nice to see my family’s’ faces on Christmas Day.


I finally got a new picture ID to wear around prison every day. All inmates have to have a picture ID clipped to our clothes at all times for security reasons. This last year has been difficult for me to prove my identity every time a guard or staff member looks at my ID, whether it be going to the commissary, or just getting stopped walking somewhere, the staff had a hard time believing it’s me because I’ve lost 100 lbs. and grown longer hair since my last picture was taken, my picture looked nothing like me. Now, with my new photo ID I shouldn’t have any more problems with the guards not believing that I am in fact Steven Dybvad.


It’s finally the end of the year, 2013 is almost over. I’m so happy to start a new year, this means one year closer to going home. Often people out in the world, mostly adults don’t want to see time fly by, it just reminds us that we’re getting older, but here inside prison every inmate wants to see time fly by. For prisoners, we all want to go home, and another year gone means another year closer to home. After listening to Depak Chopra talk about living in the moment and not dwelling on the past or future to come, but when you really want to go home and be with your family and children it’s impossible not to think about the future. I just need to continue working on my life for success after my release, and often when I focus on being a better man, I think about a better life in the future, which I guess isn’t all that bad as long as I don’t get stuck thinking about what is to come and more about what I need to do right now.


My mother convinced me to download some daily affirmations from a man by the name of Depak Chopra. I’m so glad that I downloaded these affirmations because now I’m hooked; this man has some extremely interesting words of wisdom about life and the thought process. Depak talks about how powerful the mind can be, so powerful that it can overrun our bodies; he calls our bodies the battleground of our minds. This has been so true for my life, so many times I can relate to the damage that my mind has done to my body, over and over again I’ve allowed my mind to take control of everything, dragging my body through the mud. Depak simply gives awareness to utilizing the tools we already possess to take control of our lives. He’s also very spiritual, quoting scriptures and the power of having God in our life. By practicing some of these daily meditations, I feel that I can grow even more and be at peace with myself and the torment that I continue to put myself through as punishment for my past decisions. Depak says not to dwell on the past or the future, it only causes us to hold on to pain and also pleasure, exercising and strengthening addiction. Listening to this album gives me peace; I can’t wait to download more.


Today is yet another day, but still just like yesterday, nothing has changed, just doing time.
My family is still in Florida, and they will be for the rest of the year. This is great; I’m just hoping that they’re having a great time, enjoying each other’s company. I miss my family very much, I miss them every single day and it never gets any easier. I only hope and pray that it gets easier for my family…


Often I sit here in my cell and think to myself that today is exactly like yesterday, so what could I possibly write about in my blog. I often get frustrated because I literally spend entire day thinking about what I could write and still I come up with nothing. Today is one of those days, exactly like yesterday and still I draw a blank.


New Year’s Eve! I’m so happy to put another year behind me. Just like last year, I have a resolution to eat healthier and increase my daily fitness routine to the max. Since the cold weather has kept me from being able to run lately, I’ve been slacking, and there’s no doubt in my mind that it’s messing with my mental/emotional stability. I do not enjoy these old feelings of depression trying to take over me and I refuse to let it affect my life any worse than it already has. So until it gets warm enough to be allowed to run the track, I’ll be doing other things in my cell like running in place, jumping jacks, suicides which I believe is when you drop down and do a push up, then jump up in the air and repeat. This will be my focus until I can go back to doing what I love and miss which is running. It’s amazing to me how much physical health and fitness controls mental/emotional strength. I just want to have a better, more stable, more consistent year and I know that it all starts up here in my head.


Happy New Year!!! It’s finally 2014; another year of incarceration is behind me, a memory of the past that I will never have to relive again. Renewing goals and setting them higher will continue to be of the utmost importance to me, this year and every year after, for the rest of my life. I’m a true believer that constantly finding new ways to stimulate and refresh my goals and aspirations for a successful future are crucial, such as doing things like downloading Depak Chopra for healthy words of inspiration.


Today it was literally snowing inside of the cell block dormitory. Outside the wind and snow was blowing so hard that the snow blew in through the ventilation system and fell down from out of the vents in the ceiling. That’s not the only indoor weather issue we’ve had lately here in my unit, just a few days ago our heater broke, causing it to be cold for an entire day, then our water heater broke a few days ago, leaving us to having to take extremely cold showers. Unfortunately the water is still cold, showers are unbearable, we have to step under the frigid water to get wet, step out to lather up, and then rinse off as fast as humanly possible.
On a more positive note, I have stepped my new workout routine and I feel awesome, it’s amazing how much fitness really cleanses the mind, body, and soul.


I’m so awfully sore from over exerting my muscles yesterday during an intense workout. I tried to work out some of the soreness in my body by doing some stretches, even doing some more pushups, but nothing seemed to help, I can hardly even take off my coat, or go up and down the stairs. I usually enjoy the soreness, but today it feels more like pain, where as any other time the soreness feels good, as a reminder of how hard I worked to improve my health.


Today is a little better than yesterday, except now I’ve caught a cold that seems to be going around the unit. Looks like another day of taking it easy and hoping for a quick recovery.
On a good note, I had a video visit with my mother and father today that went real well. It sounds like a lot of things are in motion, with the rest of by book editing printed off and on the way here for me to finalize my editing. I also have more of Michael Santos’ books on the way here, along with the facilitators guide for running the class. I can’t wait to get this class up and running, not just to help others, but also to help myself as another phase of my recovery and development to a successful life and future.

From soreness to severe pain, my muscle feels torturous today. Last night I could hardly sleep a wink from uncomfortable pain, I feel as if I did more than just tear some muscles, I feel as though I’ve injured myself. For the rest of the day I’m going to rest on my rack and pray that I recover quickly.


At 40 degrees below zero with the wind-chill we are all locked in our cells. Everything is controlled movement until the weather gets better, even when going to the chow hall we have to move in a supervised group, one block at a time. Coming from a level 3 prison, this is something that I’m use to, as this was an everyday occurrence at Lebanon. Being locked down today is a reminder of the horrible place that I came from and a pleasant reminder of how hard I’ve worked to have the privilege of coming to a better prison, one where I’m not locked down for 22 hours of every single day, in filth, with endless mice and cockroaches, and I could just go on and on. So, at the end of the day, even with all of the pain, soreness, sickness, being locked down because of the weather, I have so much to be grateful for and even more to acknowledge my commitment to change for a good life ahead of me.


From sore, to injured, to sick, this has been a tough week for me. This is my third day with a cold ad I feel worse than ever. I can’t remember being this sick in the three years that I’ve been locked up. The only reason I’m sick in first place is because of all the other many inmates that are sick in here, passing it around to one another, it’s like a giant petree dish in here, with no escape. The unfortunate part of being sick in prison is having to endure the illness without taking medication. If I were to fill out a medical kite to see the doctor, it could take a few days to be seen, at which time I could be feeling better by then and still have to pay the five dollar fee for the appointment. Many times, even when being seen by the doctor, we won’t get a prescription for meds unless it’s a major illness because doctors are persuaded to save the state from too much spending; this is also a result of many inmates without illnesses taking advantage of the system. As for me, I feel so bad right now that I’m willing to take a chance and pay the fee in order to get better.
We’re all locked down again today because of the dangerously cold weather. Many inmates complain that the prison staff will use any old excuse to lock us down and not have to deal with us, I just think to myself that if they had come from a real prison like the one that I just came from, and then they wouldn’t be complaining about such a petty issue. I just continue to thank God that I’m in a better place.

Dear Mom,

You and me have such a bond that could never be broken, so don’t think for one second that a wedge can ever be placed between us, you are my rock, my guiding force, you give me strength to keep fighting for my life when I feel lost, I want Taylor, my son to feel the same about me someday.


I worked very hard to sweat out my fever and cold and it paid off. Here it is, on a store day, three days after getting sick with a cold, now I’m finally able to buy medicine and I don’t need it any more. Needless to say I will be purchasing cold medicine anyway, if God forbid I do get sick in here again, at least I know I’m prepared and able to start taking medicine immediately in order to quickly nip the cold in the bud.
My parents spent the better part of their weekend printing off the facilitator’s workbook for the Straight A program on the internet. I’m really looking forward to helping other inmates get started in this program that has given me a new direction and helped me to change my life in prison and my future after release. I’ve reached out to many directors in this prison who generally send me to another director, but I intend to keep trying until I can officially get this class active and available to any and all inmates that want a better future for themselves.


Even though I’m thrilled that we have a service that provides us with emails and video visits with my family, the system still has many flaws. Today was probably the fifth time I had to miss out on a video visit because the prehistoric computer system was down, keeping any of us from logging onto the system to do anything, from just checking our emails to downloading music, or having a video visit like the one that I had scheduled today with my parents. What makes it worse is that my parents have to prepay for every visit which costs ten dollars and is a big pain in the butt to get reimbursed for. The general consensus around the prison seems to be that because we’re inmates with no other alternative choices the Jpay company continues to take advantage of us, and our spending much like the oil companies, except everyone gets gas when they pay the price, we inmates only seem to get what we pay for half of the time. Often many of us send in complaints to the company and all they do in return is send us a well-articulated speech that consists of an apology, a hollow promise to fix the same continuous problem, and a thank you for our money and services. I have personally sent in a few complaints and all I get is another copy of the well-practiced apology letter that I’ve read so many times over.


I’m back to being sore from working my muscles through strict training, but this time it’s a good soreness like it should be. Today was even warm enough that they opened the yard up, so I convinced my friend Kurt into running the track with me, it felt great, I really missed being able to do this every day, it’s such a relaxing stress reliever, it seems to be a necessity for my body chemistry and family history of depression. Physical fitness seems to be the most natural form of healing for the mind, body, and soul.
After working out for the third time today I took a nice, long, hot shower, with my eyes closed, letting the hot water beat down on my sore muscles without having to worry about anybody watching me, this is a luxury that I didn’t have last year at Lebanon penitentiary, where men had to shower three and four at a time. Sometimes there were men having sex in the shower, so I would just have to skip taking a shower all together and take a bird bath in my sink, other times I had to worry about the wondering eyes of curious inmates, adding to the daily stress of that particular prison. Here at Madison we have single man showers, closed off from view with full length curtains. This is just one of many personal celebrations of my own growth and payment for hard work to do the right thing, stay out of trouble and on the track to a successful life.


Lately my porter job of running the trash cart to the dumpster each morning has been causing me problems by interrupting my daily morning routine of working out. Normally the trash run is called at a specific time each morning, but that hasn’t been the case for the last few weeks. I usually start my workout as soon as I come back from running the trash around 8am, but lately they haven’t been calling me to run trash until around 9:30am, that’s between one and two hours longer then I normally have to wait. Running the trash isn’t a simple task, I have to bundle up with warm clothing, so I can’t just workout in my gym clothes and go whenever they call me, I have to be ready to go when they call me in order to meet the rest of the trash runners with our escort that has to follow us because we go next to the gate where trucks come and go. I also workout with my headphones on for motivation and getting in a zone, so I can’t just put on my headphones and workout if I have to listen for them to call me. I can’t just quit or change jobs because I just convinced the guard to give me this new job, so I guess I’m just going to tough it out and hope that it gets better.


I’ve been waiting since last week on some packets of mail that my parents sent me, which contain the facilitators guide to the Straight-A-Guide program that I have been more than anticipating to help some interested inmates get started on. Well today the unit manager called me down to his office to bully and intimidate me by scaring me into thinking that I’m not allowed to have this paperwork that my parents spent a weekend printing out, organizing, and mailing out to me. This man tried to tell me that I would be considered as starting a gang if I continue to pursue a program that I’ve been excelling in for more than two years now. I know that if one of my mentors was faced with this same problem, they wouldn’t just give up without a fight and that’s exactly what I’m going to do, I’m going to fight for my right to improve the quality of my life, my future success upon release, and working to help other inmates to do the same for themselves. This unit manager tried to convince me into letting him dispose of my paperwork, or mail it home, I told him I would not let that happen if I had anything to say about it, he then told me that he would try to talk to higher officials that I have already tried to contact and also fill out some forms to see what he could do. I personally think he’s feeding me a load of bull, but if he thinks that I will just give up, or forget about this whole issue then he’s got another thing coming, my life revolves around this program that has helped me get a grip on the success of my current day to day life and future from here on out.


Our regular morning shift guard finally offered me a better porter job and of course I jumped at the opportunity. This is a job that better fits my personality and my personal quirks as well. Health and sanitation s the title of my new job, basically it consists of taking a chemical soaked rag and wiping down everything that inmates regularly touch from day to day, such as door handles, railings along the steps, book shelves, etc.. This new job better fits my daily routine in the sense that it won’t interfere with my exercising, or any other scheduled goals that I set for myself daily.


My new strict diet and workout routine has improved the quality of my day to day living and I must admit that I feel great! I’ve cut bread and potatoes out of my life completely and switched any sugary sweets with fruit and nuts. This is by far an easy task because the chow hall serves bread and potatoes with almost every single meal in order to keep us fed and full efficiently. However eating better does get better with every day that passes because every day I feel better than the day before. Aside from my diet, my workout routine is back in full force and it is also improving with every day that passes. Now I’m back up to a thousand crunches, 500 pushups, 500 squats, a thousand jump and jacks, other cardio, and finally running in place for at least an hour every single day. According to my days on the track when it was warm outside, an hours’ worth of running was an average of six miles, at a mile every ten minutes. I can already see my waist is tightening up nicely, and by the time it gets warm enough to go outside, I should be fit enough to take my shirt of and feel good about how I look. Not that it matters to me to look good around a bunch of other men, but feeling good about myself has always been important to me.


For a quite some time I’ve been contemplating cutting off my long hair, well my mother and son convinced me to do it while talking at my visit yesterday, so I told them that I was going to cut it all off as soon as I got back to my block. I did start to try and cut it as soon as I got back, but my hair was just so long that it made my clippers lock up, so I had to get my friend Kurt to sit down today with a pair of scissors and help me cut it off before I could shave it with the clippers. Finally it’s all off, and even though I do feel better, I also feel sick to my stomach to see how badly my hair is thinning on top; it’s a great deal thinner than it was before I left the county jail and decided to let it grow out. I truly believe that the stress from living in a prison as dangerous as Lebanon played a huge role in the rapid loss of my hair, just as it did to the bald spot on my face that still remains to this day. This is just another one of many reasons for me to continue the path of growth, improvement, and success for the rest of my life. My addiction to substances is the cause of so many of my bad decisions, making my sobriety forever my number one priority above all else.


I just had one of the best days in a very long time. I just got back from a wonderful three hour visit with my mother and son. I missed my family so much, all I could do was hug my son tight, kiss his checks and I never let go for the entire visit. We had a good time, we talked, we laughed, we ate snacks, we even took turns reading a book out loud to each other, and I enjoyed myself tremendously. Unfortunately I get visits less often here than I did when I was at Lebanon because this prison is close to an hour away from my family, whereas Lebanon was only about fifteen minutes away from home, but I knew this information before signing up to come to this prison, it was a sacrifice that I was more than willing to take in order to have a less stressful day to day life, in a better prison, further away from home. Although missing my family and seeing them less really makes me wish I was back closer to home.


I had an uncomfortably close call with another inmate today. After everyone in the unit attended a fifteen minute video on sexual harassment, we all had to stand in line to sign a paper acknowledging that we just watched the video, well of course some of the men chose not to wait in line, trying to decide just when they might get a chance to cut in. One of the inmates, already known for being a big bully who likes to pick his shots with the little guys decided to cut in front of me and take the pen from my hand in order to sign the paper. Being in front of a large group of my peers, I was left with no choice but to say some rotten cuss words, displaying my distaste for what this guy just did. He then said a few words in return, causing the guard on duty to tell us to break it up. We both walked off and later on the inmate confronted me again, asking if I was through, or if I wanted to fight about it in a cell, I then responded by pointing out his size, reminding him that he disrespected me by cutting in front of me in the line, something I would have surely ignored out on the streets, but in here , in front of all the men I have to live with every day would undoubtedly have led to someone else trying to take advantage of me, thus opening up the flood gates. I told this man that I wouldn’t fight him because it wasn’t worth it, but I also pointed out to him that I would like to see him act this way with someone his own size, instead of always picking on the smaller men. This man is getting ready to go home in a month, which is generally the most unpredictable of inmates, because they have nothing to lose, they steel, borrow without intending to repay, and they fight without any concern because they could spend the rest of their time in the hole without a care in the world because they know that they’ll be home soon. All of the men that I socialize with told me that I made a good choice and I responded accordingly and that I should stop letting it bother me because it’s over with. I just hate the fact that my future isn’t always in my own hands in prison, at any instant, in the blink of an eye another careless ignorant inmate could cause my world to come crashing down, my temporary home in my cell to be uprooted, and my entire daily scheduled life to be demolished. These are some of the sad facts of prison life that I will never adjust to, I will never miss after my release, and never forget for the rest of my life.


I’ve been doing tremendously well with adhering to my goal of eating healthy food and working out harder each and every day of my life. I continue to stay away from bread and potatoes in the chow hall, switching the main course for the vegetarian substitute, which is often soy. I also make healthy choices when purchasing items from the commissary, that means no more chips, no more sugary sweets, just fish, nuts, fruit cups, and granola bars. Unfortunately this is about the extent of healthy food from the commissary. I’m not sure why they won’t sell any kind of packaged vegetables, or fresh fruit, or other healthy items at the commissary, maybe it’s because it wouldn’t be a popularly sold item, but I do know that there is more men than just me that live and eat healthy each and every day and having a choice to purchase healthy food from the commissary should at least be an option.


I get so frustrated with this whole jpay system sometimes. For two whole days the computer was just fine, not once was it shut down off line, which is rare because it’s been shutting down far too often lately, so this morning I had a video visit scheduled for 9am and what do you know, the computer is off line again and it has been the entire day. I was really looking forward to seeing my parents on the computer screen, having a good conversation, and of course sharing the good news about possibly getting into a halfway house six months prior to my release date. Now unfortunately my family will more than likely find out through reading my blog, and I’ll also have to wait until next weekend before I get to talk with them again. I don’t understand why such a complex computer system should have any reason to shut down so often in this day and age of technology. Some of the guys say that it’s probably because of the bad weather because the system never shut down this often over the summer.


I discovered something amazing today. I just found out that I qualify for transitional control; this means that I could very possibly leave prison six months early by going to a halfway house. A halfway house still isn’t home, or complete freedom, but it does mean that I could get a job on the streets and even get a weekend pass to go home with my family, spend time with my children and be better prepared for my future after release. All this time I thought that I had no choice but to do my five year sentence in prison, this means that I could very possibly be spending Christmas of next year with my family. I’m so excited about this new information; I can’t wait to share the news with my family.


I continue to work extremely hard on my diet and fitness routine each and every single day, and it is surely paying off with noticeable tightening and toning of my torso, not to mention that I feel a great deal stronger and more energetic than ever. More importantly then my physical improvements, my mental/emotional stability has improved exponentially, I feel so much better each day, so much stress has been alleviated from my everyday life, I’ll never stop cruising down the path I’ve chosen for a better life.


Finally, after weeks of waiting, my guitar has arrived. Today I was called down to the package room to sign for my guitar, but unfortunately I’ll have to wait a few more days for it to be titled before they’ll let me have it. Like everything else of any value in prison, property must be titled in order to cut down on theft and/or trading and loaning. I’ve been extremely fortunate not to have anything stolen from me since coming to prison, even while at Lebanon I value and respect my property enough to take any and every necessary step to keeping and maintaining what little amount of things I’m allowed to possess in here. I just can’t wait to start learning and practicing an instrument that I’ve been wanting to learn for so many years.


I’ve spent about four hours today just on working out alone, I feel sore and exhausted, but I love it. Mentally I continue to feel stronger and stronger with each day that passes and I remain dedicated to a healthier lifestyle, and it’s not just working out, it’s also living healthier all together, by always watching what I eat, drinking lots of water, taking vitamins, etc. Now I have a good understanding and respect for why so many people are choosing to live a healthier life each day. My addiction to substances has taken so many years off of my life and now I can sense that I’m finally taking steps to add some years back on so that I can stick around for my children, their children, and if I’m lucky perhaps my grandchildren’s’ children.

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