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Essay: "Winners and Losers"

by E.H. Jr. Dempsey
Difference Between Winners and Losers

The difference between a winner and a loser for me, as a prisoner, is evident in my personal reaction to certain situational factors that could result in both positive and negative consequences depending on my decision and the course of action I pursue to engage various aspects of my life.

I could sit in a dayroom with my fellow prisoners, play dominoes, gamble on sports, and engage in gang activity or other criminal elements of the incarcerated life. But the stirring of something internal- something I refer to as God, even the moral foundation my mother instilled in me as a boy, quietly whispers to my sense of direction, "this is not what you are supposed to me doing" and "find something positive to do." Follow your most inner voice; it is usually produces a good result. Even during my most alcohol and drug induced moments in life- no matter how obliterated I have been, that internal mechanism was still there. Only the pessimist devil on my other shoulder was telling me "ignore that voice, do what you want- don't worry about the torpedoes, we'll worry about that later." That voice is the reason I am still in prison after eleven and a half years paying for one mistake. Most of the time, the pessimist voice is the easy way out, probably being pleasure sooner, or some type of reward. But the payment method for the reward you receive is soul drenching. Ignore the urge to follow the pessimistic voice.

My life began in a whirlwind of confusion. My dad was an alcoholic, hell-raising, womanizer and child beater. This was the role model I had to look up to during my early, formative years as a child. Very tragic.

I could blame my misfortunes on a traumatic childhood, my father was killed in a violent accident, then I went on to lose my Grandmother, favorite Aunt, and have our home destroyed in a massive flood at the age of fourteen, all within ninety days of each other. The odds against me were stacked up before my life ever really began.

In prison, I would examine other criminal behavior patters- often hearing over and over again, "it's the white folks fault I'm here," or "it's a Jewish conspiracy," or "my ex old lady put me here," or "my family and friends sold me out"- all these excuses as to why someone came to prison. I seldom heard someone say "it's not them who threw the brick through that window- I did." My point is- accepting responsibility for my own actions was the first crucial step in rehabilitation.

The second step is plotting a course of action to correct your mistakes. For me, I had no viable trade skills I had to arm myself with a chance to succeed in life. I was a high school "kick out," an alcoholic and part time drug addict. I also had an anger management problem- among other character defects. Making the decision to be "sick and tired of being sick and tired" was the motivating factor for me to pursue a life change.

I began by receiving a G.E.D. - up at five o'clock in the morning working mathematical equations and reading essays with half-awake zombies, because, in prison, you do your school first so you can be free by noon to work a harsh labor job. Education is not free in prison. From a G.E.D., I went on to complete a six month vocation in plumbing. I remember the sense of pride I received by completing my first two genuine goals in life. These feelings inspired me to pursue my enlightened state even further. I decided to pursue a college education, receiving an Associates Degree in general studies. I even completed another college credit, six month course in HVAC (heating, ventilation, and air conditioning) to try and make myself as marketable as possible in today's rapidly changing society. I also realized, using the twelve step process in Alcoholics Anonymous, that my addictions were just a side effect of a much more serious core problem. For me, I had an emotional disorder that drove me to have numerous character defects. My problems were pinpointed all the way back to my traumatic childhood. I am not going to go into extreme detail only to say that these problems shaped my adult character defects. Once I realized the origin of my "stinking thinking" I effectively sought a treatment plant to correct it through discussion and fellowship in A.A. meetings. I also had a bad temper and voluntarily sought treatment through psychiatric services for anger management. These things have worked for me.

In closing, I will simply say that, for me, the difference between being a winner or a loser is like night and day. It is being an optimist or a pessimist- seeing a glass of water as half full or half empty. My perception of life was my obstacle to success. Self-realization is a very sobering experience that I encourage anyone to pursue anywhere in the world. Correct your mistakes, make yourself stronger, and face the future without a veil.

I feel that my future will be successful because I have learned how to utilize tools to build my way out of the holes in life we all (sometimes) fall into. Because of that, I feel in my heart that I am a winner. No one is born a loser- realize your purpose. We all have one just like ants in the hierarchy of their colony. We are designed to be successful.

-E.H. Dempsey Jr.