Steven Dybvad – Personal Journal – December 3, 2013, through December 17, 2013

by Steven Dybvad


I’m starting to understand more clearly why I’ve been so down lately. Of course the holidays play a major role, but I also realize that I haven’t been able to jog recently, due to the cold, frigid temperatures the yard has been closed off to the inmates. The prison changed the guidelines for closing the yard from 25 degrees to 35 degrees. I need to acclimate a new winter routine in order to keep my head straight. I feel so powerless when I’m sad, out of control of my emotions. These feelings are very uncomfortable for me because they remind me of an old way of life that I no longer want to experience. Over these last couple of years, working hard to change my life and future, I’ve learned that I am the master of my emotions, by making daily decisions to increase quality of life; I automatically increase the quality of my thoughts and process of emotions. This is a part of my life that I can never forfeit in order to function on a level of success. Even when I’m doing well, things like the holidays away from my family are going to get me down, but if I’m working hard to constantly improve my life, the sad parts of my life won’t be as difficult to recover from.



I’ve been working very hard to help another inmate in here to get started with the Michael Santos foundation and working in the Straight A Guide. It’s been a difficult task for me to get him the information he needs and to get connected with the program. This has been a little frustrating for me because I desperately want to help this man get started on working towards a better life with a promising future. Every day Kurt continues to express a genuine interest in the program, I just feel that this should be an easier task for me as helping others to success is a part of my own growth and recovery and all that I’ve been able to do for Kurt so far is tell him about the program and show him some of my own personal work. Unfortunately in order to leave Lebanon and transfer over here to Madison I had to abandon all of my books and workbooks, because we had to stuff all of our personal belongings into a tiny little box and all that I could fit in it was my clothing, hygiene, and some important paperwork. I’m waiting on my mentor, Justin Paperny to send me more books and info. But it just can’t seem to get here soon enough.


My friend Kurt continues to impress me with his dedication to changing his future, starting from inside of these prison walls. Today Kurt came up to my cell with a bunch of printouts from the web site for the Michael Santos foundation and all of the information about the straight A guide program. I can see his excitement for wanting to change and I can hear it in his voice, it reminds me so much of how I first felt when I started this program and it brings all those great feelings back to the surface, that’s why I want to help him so badly and continue to help more men like Kurt who want to help their selves. Having someone like Kurt to talk to about improving the quality of our lives is an essential part of my own recovery. Accountability is a lesson straight from the Straight A Guide, I need more people then myself, mentors and loved ones from the outside to hold me accountable for my life, and it’s my responsibility to seek out worthy peers. I have no doubt that God caused us to cross paths in order to help each other.


I often have to remind myself that as a drug addict I tend to obsess over things easily, like waiting to hear back from a friend or family member at home, or even wait on things like information on programs to start classes. In here my obsession increases tenfold because of the abundant amount of time to think about things, day after day in a cell, whereas outside these prison walls life goes on and people tend to function at such a high passed speed that things just don’t seem as important at the time, and for that matter individuals probably don’t even have the time to respond as expediently as I would expect, as I can see every hour on clock of every day as it moves by slowly, obsessing about things that I would like to accomplish and do it sooner then I’m able to, or even have the resources to get them done. This is a combination of my compulsiveness and imprisonment, one that I must learn to control better and think more clearly about before getting frustrated about something I have no control over in the first place


I had great video visit with my mother and father today. Lucky for me, I went to plug in my iPad just minutes before my scheduled visit, unaware that I had a visit scheduled for today. It was enjoyable to see my mother and father siting in the finally finished new addition to their beautiful home. As my mother sat in front of the window, she turned the laptop outside for me to see dad shoveling the driveway, something so ordinary to see makes me feel so close to home, I’m so thankful for this new technology added to the state prisons, being able to see my family in their natural habitat is so very comforting, but of course it doesn’t beet being able to give my loved ones a big hug and kiss, then again I can’t watch my talented daughter play the piano and sing for me from inside of a visitation room.


The snow just continues to fall, it’s a beautiful site to see, to walk through it to get to the chow hall is exhilarating, it makes me feel alive at a time when things tend to feel so farce and un-real. I welcome the change in weather; in here another season for many inmates means that we’re another big step closer to home. Often when winter or summer comes I here other men saying that they just have so many more winters left before they get to go home, as for me, I only have two more winters left to go after this one, that may seem like a lot, but for me it’s more than half way home. Bring on the New Year!


Finally, for the first time in the entirety of my imprisonment I was able to start attending my first of many classes that I’ve signed up for. Today I started a class called victim awareness, basically it’s a course of exercising situations where we all take a look at various situations when laws are broken and people are victimized, then we try to communicate wrong decisions, how others were hurt, whether it be physically, or emotionally and then try to discuss the necessary consequences of said actions, openly and honestly. Unfortunately it seems to me that many of the inmates in the class are only attending for the incentives instead of wanting to improve their quality of life or make any changes for the better. A lot of the men were just joking and laughing about everything, making loud outbursts and creating ridiculous answers to class questions, just to get a rise out of the other inmates. I can see that I’m going to have to do a lot of tongue biting, fortunately my buddy Kurt is in the class with me, so we sit next to each other and make the best of it.


Yesterday was extremely stressful for me. Taking pictures was no walk in the park, it was a madhouse. After getting all the guys together to walk down to the gym, we saw that the place was packed with inmates waiting to take pictures. There was no organization, the guards weren’t enforcing any kind of line to wait, men were scattered about, some were doing pushups and pull-ups to get a muscle blow, others were oiling their skin for the photos, people were grouped up acting crazy, and I felt completely out of place. The guys and I that came with me to take the photos just wanted to get it over with, only to find out after an hour and a half of standing around that we would have to wait another day and come back. All I can think about is just getting this over with; I’m to the point where I don’t even care about the photos anymore. I will never do this again.


Today is picture day. Every once in a while this prison holds a fund raiser that includes personal pictures for the inmates, to take alone and send home to family and also to take with other inmates together. My publisher and mentor, Justin Paperny suggested that I get pictures taken with other inmates to add to my book. I thought that this was a great idea, so I purchased the maximum amount of photos to take with some of the men I’ve gotten to know. During my stay here at Madison I’ve come to know some very interesting men with some very interesting life stories from inside and outside of these prison walls. Upon getting to know these individuals, I’ve asked them one by one for their permission to write about them, possibly putting them in my book, or on my blog, surprisingly almost all of them said yes. So I had my father type up a personal release form, giving me permission to write about them and one by one they all signed the forms. In the process I’ve taken notes about their life, their crime, and for some their many decades spent behind bars for their crime without the possibility of ever being free. I look forward to telling their stories.


Finally, we were able to get pictures taken care of today. I held off as long as I could before gathering all of the guys together and heading down to the gym in an attempt to avoid all the madness that I quickly discovered with yesterdays’ picture pile up in the gymnasium. Unfortunately I wasn’t able to get photos with all of the men I planned for. Kurt, who I am very excited to help progress his way through the Straight A Guide program with me was at a visit with his family at the same time that photos were being taken. It would have been nice to add another positive, hardworking, driven for success type of inmate to my book or blog. The other man, James Radar wasn’t able to take a picture with me because the flash from the camera would cause him to have a seizure. James has a very interesting story of life from inside and outside of prison that I look forward to writing about as soon as we finish going over detailed specifics of his story which he has already given me signed permission to write about. At the end of the day I was still able to get some good photos of other interesting inmates that have also given me signed permission to write about


A dear friend and neighbor of mine just lost his wife and two children in a horrible fire. A couple of days ago I saw a tragic fire on the news take the lives of a mother and two boys in Kettering. Of course this news took my breath away because my son, Taylor has a brother and lives with his mother on the very edge of Kettering. The news never reveals names and specifics right away for lack of information, so my mind and heart was racing. This morning I saw an interview of the man who lost his wife and two boys and I realized it was my neighbor; he was so upset that he could barely even talk. I knew this couple very well, we all use to hang out often, our children use to play together and now they’re gone. Life is so precious; we never know when our last day on earth is going to be. I’ve taken life for granted for far too long, and now I couldn’t be more afraid of losing another loved one from inside this prison. If I was to die today there would be nothing good to say about me, no legacy to leave behind, just bad memories. Every day I work to secure a better future, and I pray that God gives me yet another chance to create better memories for my children an my loved ones.

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