My name is Alan and I have accepted the judgment of the court that sentenced me to 60 months in a federal prison for one count of simple possession of child pornography. With two years of group therapy prior to my sentencing, I was also able to accept responsibility for my actions. And with the help of friends outside and inside (and Way Above) these walls, I am working on forgiving my self for these actions.
The devastation left behind with any crime can be like the trail behind a tornado. But with this kind of crime, the devastation carries a stigma that cannot be erased by just hard work or with time — even lots of time.
In my own case, the shame alone made me wish for death. I used to say I “lost” a job, a career, a wife, a stepdaughter, an adopted son, and five amazing grandkids. But the truth is, I didn’t lose them — I threw them all away on porn.
Since my arrest in March, 2009, I have only seen my wife once. We had to shout through a phone and glass, and she had a lot to shout about, including how she hoped I got seriously hurt while in prison. Not because of what I had done, but because of the pain and anger I had caused her.
My stepdaughter and adopted son refuse to have anything to do with me now, and, of course, I have had no contact with any of their children, including a grandson I helped raise. I’ve been their dad and “Popi” for 20 years now.
But these were the immediate victims of this tornado. There would be phone calls to my family — my father and his wife, my mother, my sister and brother, my two adult sons.
How does a man stand before his 26-year-old son and tell him how weak he is? Tell him of his breakdown in moral fiber? Speak of his descent into cybersex hell? Confess to downloading porn that included underage girls? Admit to cheating on his stepmother by having an online affair?
But I did it. I told him everything and I cried. Another humiliating thing to do in front of your child.
And my father. The man who taught me sports, coached my teams, put up with my teen angst, bragged about his son…the teacher. How do I sit down with my hero and tell him how vile I am? What a slave to internet porn I had become? How I let all good judgment fly out the window and threw away my life?
But, I did that too. And I cried again.
Mom would be the hardest. All those days suffering in bed with chicken pox and the mumps and measles. The skinned knees and broken hearts. How would I explain to her that I had become an objectifier of women by downloading filth? That I had done worse and allowed photos of underage teens to cross my monitor and I kept them? How I had shamed her and my sister and wives and daughter by turning my back on how I was raised and had become no better than the “perverts” we read about in the paper?
But this I also did. And I cried even harder.
And now all I have is time to think about the devastation I have wrought, the pain I have caused, and the suffering of my family.
My son is now 27 with a girlfriend and a newborn. His younger brother is living with him. They are on that cusp looking for guidance, and I’ve stolen that from them. Because of my selfish sin, my boys have lost a father and a grandfather to baby James.
To Ross and Trey, I am truly sorry, but those words cannot make up for the movies and meals and great conversation I have stolen from you. Branded for life on my inner mind will be my son’s face when he went with me to the federal marshal’s offices to turn myself in. The sadness in his blue eyes as they misted up and he gave me a great big bear hug — the last hug I have had. And he would tell me with pride in his voice, “I love you, Dad.”
I think about what 60 months means to someone like my dad. During the two years we waited while the state case was delayed and I got therapy — and the Feds took over — my father, near 80, had four major organs removed. He was left with a colostomy bag. He went from a strong 225-pounder who could still work in his yard to 150 pounds and getting winded walking to the mailbox and back. My dad, the Air Force lifer, the original “Goose” Tatum on the basketball court, needed me now. Needed weekend time around his house. Needed his oldest son to talk to, rebond with.
His health is still shaky over a year later. I don’t know what the next five years will hold. But I pray he will still be around when they let me out.
And I think of my mother, now 81, with early-onset Alzheimer’s. I think of her sitting in her home alone wondering how her first born is doing? Is he warm enough? Does he have enough to eat? Sometimes I wonder if she even remembers where I am. Or will she remember me at al when I get out.
I do not want to think of these things. But I do. I have the time — lots of it. And with it, I must do the positive things necessary, so that when I am freed, and I do return to them, I am not a shell of what they once called son, brother, Dad.
It has to start with me forgiving myself — and that’s been impossible so far. Unlike that tornado that left that path of destruction behind it, I can’t leave it behind. I must go back and repair what I can. And to do so, I have to continue to look within myself for understanding. And accept guidance and friendship when offered.
And I must keep on praying that He’ll stay by my side as I begin this, hopefully, short chapter of my life.