"I wasn't scared to die. I always knew it was a possibility..."

I am Dre.

08.19.2014

[continued]

[...] Carried their self the right way, in my eyes. They took care of their families, dressed nice, they seemed like they knew what they wanted & always went and got it. So I tried to copy that, and that’s how I became. I never talked that much, and I was always serious & never smiled much or joked around that much.

BEING LIKE THAT TAUGHT ME HOW TO READ PEOPLE & NOT BE TAKEN ADVANTAGE OF. AND IT ALSO TAUGHT ME THAT YOU CAN DO ANYTHING AS LONG AS YOUR FOCUSED AND WORK HARD. but living that way made me lose SIGHT OF THE ONE THING I REALLY LOVED (BASKETBALL).

I smile all the time now, but I feel weak-minded & vulnerable cause I don’t have the same focus mentally. I feel peaceful now though & happy.

The kids I went to school with weren’t doing anything that I was into. I remember being around them & remembering some of the things I used to say & do & they would think it was different or didn’t understand, but as years passed, I see them using the same slang & doing some of the same things I was doing as a kid.

I was actually diagnosed as being anti-social when I was younger. And I was also diagnosed with something else, but I don’t remember. But the prosecutor used me being diagnosed against me at my sentencing hearing. I remember meeting with the psychologist a couple of times when I was a kid. But I never paid any attention to it. I didn’t know what it meant.

And thanks for explaining the difference between a psychiatrist & psychologist. You have to be real smart to be either one of them. That’s pretty cool though. Do you meet with clients & they tell you about their problems & stuff? And do you have the chair that they lay down on? Or do you just meet with them & ask questions?

I think going through some of the things & experiences that I went through made me strong mentally. I say that because, some situations are so stressful or complicated & hard to deal with, but you know that you have to find a way to fix the situation or make it right, all you have to do is stay focused & try your best. Sometimes some things can’t be fixed, but I believe that you can fix any problem or find a way to make the situation better. So after going through so many messed up situations & staying poised & focused with out breaking down, it taught me how to be strong mentally. Does that make sense?

SOMETIMES I MAY BE GOING THROUGH SOMETHING, AND I’LL JUST TELL MYSELF THAT I'VE BEEN THROUGH WORSe, AND I FIND A WAY TO FIX IT. I NEVER KNOW IF I CAN SOLVE A PROBLEM, BUT I KNOW IF I TRY THEN I HAVE A CHANCE, VERSUS IF I DON’T. THAT’S HOW I FEEL ABOUT THE SITUATION I’M IN NOW.

The residential program was called “[name removed].” Now it’s, “[name removed.]” But its in a nice area called “[location removed].” I was sent there when I was 10 or 11. I forgot. I ended up staying there for about 14-16 months. I was sent there because I kept catching cases. The court ordered that my brother & I be separated & not live together. That’s why I lived with my mom & he lived with my gma. It was rough when the judge sent me to the residential program. I didn’t like being away from family & not living in my own home.

BEING IN THE JUVENILE WAS ONE THING, BUT IT WAS DIFFERENT. LIVING IN THE RESIDENTIAL WAS REALLY HARD AT FIRST CAUSE I WAS SO UNCOMFORTABLE LIVING WITH & BEING TOLD WHAT TO DO BY TOTAL STRANGERs, IN AN AREA I WASN'T FAMILIAR WITH, AND NEVER BEEN BEFORE.

In the juvenile, I was well taken care of because alot of my family, specifically my brother had been there alot before me. Once I was sent to the residential, my brother was sent to the juvenile DOC. They arranged for us to get a phone call once a month.

The counselor that I used to work with, still keeps in touch with me to this day. I actually just got her letter a couple of days ago. She reached out to me once I got convicted, and has been writing on a reg. every since.

The first couple of weeks at [name removed] (the residential program) were hard. I didn't know anyone, and I didn't want to get to know anyone. I just wanted to find a way out. And once I found out that the program usually takes years until your discharged, I couldn't believe it. I was in denial. I kept telling myself that I would be done in only 6 months, but 6 months passed & I was still there. The counselor that discharged me knew how bad I wanted to go home, and she did everything she could & made it happen after replacing the original counselor. The counselor that discharged me knew that I wasn't ready to be discharged, but she knew I wanted out, so she did what she could so that I was happy. She was real cool & genuine & always there when I was going through something.

I LOVED THAT PLACE, BUT I DIDN'T REALIZE HOW MUCH I REALLY LOVED & NEEDED THAT PROGRAM UNTIL I'VE BEEN HERE FOR SOME MONTHS.being here has given me the opportunity to really sit and look back at everything, and also to figure out who i am.

Even though I loved being at [name removed], my main focus was still to get back to the south side of [location removed]. I don’t know why. I just kept trying to manipulate the program so I could go home. And to be honest, once I was at the residential for a few months, I didn't miss being at home that much. I only missed the streets. I can’t explain why. Its like I was hypnotized or something. At that age, I couldn't even come up with a legit reason for why I loved the streets so much. It was enticing & exciting to me. I also loved the life I was living at [name removed]. Going to school, doing out door activities & just doing things & having experiences that I probably would've never had if I didn't go there. But for some reason I couldn't leave the thoughts about the streets alone. And I still wanted to be discharged. Maybe cause the thought of being in a “group home” was always weird to me.  I was always scared that the kids at school would find out.

I lived in a house with 7 other kids. At first I thought the other kids were weird. We all had our problems, but I was more mature than the majority of them, and their problems were different than mine. But as time went on, we all became really close. Sometimes I wonder how some of those guys turned out.

There was one kid that I related to real good. He was from [location removed], and pretty much lived the same lifestyle that I did, if not worse. He & I became best friends the whole time I was there.

I was in an alternative school before I came to [name removed], but in time, I worked my way into the public school called [name removed]. I was only going for the 2nd semester, and I was only going for half the day. I had to transition into full-time, but I ended up being discharged that summer.

I started going to [school name removed] at 11:30 AM. I didn’t really fit in with the kids that much, but I did have some friends. I was also cool with all of the girls.

ALL OF THE KIDS & TEACHERS KNEW THAT I WAS DIFFERENT FROM everyone, AND I CARRIED MYSELF ALOT DIFFERENT. ALL OF MY TEACHERS LOVED ME. I NEVER REALLY SAID MUCH & I NEVER GAVE THEM ANY PROBLEMS.

The school I was at before coming to [name removed], the students would fight the teachers, and do all types of crazy stuff. But these kids seemed innocent & respectful, and all they cared about were their grades & sports. Another thing that bothered me was that I couldn’t hang out with anyone after school, and if I wanted to call them, I had to give their number to my counselor & she would have to talk to them first & approve the number for future calls. Good thing my counselor was super cool & young & down to earth. And the girls that I had on my list knew about my situation. I kept in touch with alot of them once I left, but never made time for them cause they were like 45 mins plus, away. And cause I was busy making new friends in my old neighborhood.

BEING AT [NAME REMOVED] THOUGH, IT HELPED ME MATURE IN ALOT OF WAYS. IT INTRODUCED ME TO A COMPLETELY NEW LIFE OF NORMAL. I LEARNED HOW TO BE A LEADER & NOT A FOLLOWER, AND I LEARNED THAT THERES SO MUCH MORE TO LIFE THAN THE STREETS, OR WHAT GOES ON IN MY NEIGHBORHOOD.

I learned how to manage money & be responsible. I also learned not to judge people because they’re different. My lifestyle & my way of thinking completely changed. I really only cared about being able to go to school and hang out with friends, being able to go outside & play ball & waking up the next day & doing it all over again. The problem was that I lived in a group home & I missed having freedom. Every time I would go home on a visit, I would go back to my old way of thinking. Then I’ll return back to [location removed] & wouldn't want to be around anyone for a while. Eventually I was back to normal, but this happened every time I went on a visit.

While at [name removed], I went to Bulls games alot, baseball games & also to the Chicago Bears training camp. Being at [name removed] was probably the best 16 months of my life. I just hated that I didn't have any freedom, and I was living in a group home. If my mom would've moved out to [location removed], that would've been great.

I ENDED up GETTING DISCHARGED & THE FIRST DAY HOME, I DIDN’T EVEN SEE MY MOM OR ANYONE ELSE. MY MOM LIVED IN [LOCATION REMOVED], AND I ENDED UP GETTING DROPPED OFF IN THE HEART OF MY OLD NEIGHBORHOOD. AND IT WAS IN THE SUMMER. I WAS ACCEPTED LIKE I NEVER LEFT, AND THAT’S THE DAY I WAS INTRODUCED TO SELLING CRACK.

I made my first serve (that’s what they call when you make a sale) and I was addicted. From this point on, I wanted to be involved as much as I could & learn everything I could about the streets. Selling drugs was so exciting that first time that I just knew everything else in the streets had to be just as fun.

So I became just like any other kid running around the neighborhood during the summer. During the school year, I would go to school in [location removed], and if I had a way to & from [location removed], I would go & come back later that night so I could go to school. And I would spend my weekends there too.

I WAS 12 YRS OLD AT THIS POINT. THIS IS WHEN THINGS STARTED TO CHANGE PRETTY QUICK. I LOST MY VIRGINITY TO ONE OF MY SISTER’S FRIENDS, AND AFTER THAT I HAD EXPERIENCES WITH WOMEN THAT WERE A YEAR OLDER THAN ME UP TO WOMEN IN THEIR LATE 20’S & EVENTUALLY SOME THAT WERE IN THEIR EARLY 30’S.

Most women never asked my age because of the older guys I was with & because of the way I carried myself. But I’m pretty sure they knew I was young, just not that young. And most of the time I lied and said 17.

At 13 I looked alot older cause I was using drugs alot. I never used drugs to feel accepted or like I belonged. I did think using drugs was cool, and I wanted to try. I had already been smoking weed alot since I was 8 yrs old, but I didn’t start drinking & using other drugs until I was 13. I never liked getting drunk. I didn’t like the feeling, and I didn’t like feeling out of control. I would only drink a little to the point where I felt a buzz. I also got addicted to ecstasy pills. I used them on a reg. usually at night. I knew I had a problem but I didn’t care.

Once I turned 14, I quit smoking weed & using ecstasy. I just stopped. It got old and I missed the feeling of being sober & focused. And every since then I never used drugs again, except maybe I would hit a blunt once or twice on New Years Eve or something like that. I never stopped drinking, but I only did that every now & then. And I never drank alot when I did. I never did it during the week. Some weekends I did, and some weekends I didn’t. But I never used drugs to fit in. Once I stopped smoking & using ecstasy, guys that I used to hang around smoked weed & drank all the time & never pressured me to do it.

I think music & movies also kept my mind on doing negative things. That’s why I don’t listen to any of the music now that I used to. I listen to all kinds of music now.

I think your right when you said that, seeing alot of violence made me feel like I needed to protect myself. Because just seeing what guys were capable of doing for any little thing made me feel like I needed to protect myself.

BECAUSE I KNEW I HAD ENEMIES & I’VE BEEN SHOT AT BEFORE & THAT EXPERIENCE ALONE SHOOK ME TO THE POINT WHERE I DIDN’T EVEN WANNA BE APART OF THAT LIFESTYLE ANYMORE. SO I ALWAYS TOLD MYSELF THAT I WOULD NEVER LET ANYONE DO TO ME, WHAT I’VE SEEN HAPPEN TO OTHERS. AND I SEEN HOW IT HURTS & BREAKS A FAMILY APART, AND I DIDN’T WANT TO LET SOMEONE TAKE ME AWAY FROM MINE.

At some point things got so dangerous, I wasn’t scared to die. I always knew it was a possibility, I just wanted to make sure I did everything I could to make sure it didn’t happen. Seeming older than I was made that possible for me. It all became normal to me. I never felt like my age. I ended up getting locked up. It also put me in more danger cause I was living the life of a grown man, and I was in the streets with grown men & not kids my age. I had problems with grown men & never really with kids my age, besides fights. So I think it was important that I felt like I was older than what I were, because if I hadn’t, I probably would’ve gotten taken advantage of or really hurt or killed. But if I wasn’t in the streets at all, I would never have to worry about that. But if I hadn’t, I wouldn’t be the person I am today. All the things that are good, I should say. All the negative things I want to leave in my past. I just hope I get a chance to start over.

And yeah, it was traumatic. But at the time it didn’t seem like it. It all seemed normal. I was always stressed though. Having to carry a gun, watching your back everywhere you go, sometimes not knowing who your enemies are & not being able to trust anyone and also never really having peace because you never feel safe.

TO THIS DAY, I FEAR THAT IF I COME HOME, SOMETHING CAN HAPPEN TO ME. THE GUYS IN THE STREETS OUT THERE ARE ONLY GETTING WORST. I WAS WATCHING THE NEWS A FEW MONTHS AGO, AND A GUY I KNEW HAD GOTTEN SHOT 14 TIMES LEAVIN HIS HOUSE.

We weren’t close but I knew him. And I want to come home if I win on my appeal & my 2nd trial & start over & go to college & get that experience and play ball. But people out there don’t know or care about that. They only remember me as the guy I was before I left & got locked up. Even though theres alot of guys supporting me that would understand & encourage me to do the right thing, there are guys out there that I don’t even know that would try & make a name for their self by doing something to me because I’m well known in my old neighborhood because of my relationships with everyone & also because of my case.

The best thing for me would be to move away, or stay & be really careful & focused. I don’t want to run away, but I don’t want to have to go back to any of the ways that I used to have just to protect myself or my family. It stresses me out just thinking about it. I’ll be all good though. I won’t let anything get in the way of my dreams and goals if I’m blessed to have my conviction overturned, and if I receive a new trial & win.

I appreciate the words of encouragement, and yeah, writing does help alot. I’ve been writing this letter for 2 days now. Writing these letters are like therapy to me. I’ve always been the type to hold everything in & kinda mask my emotions. I really hope you reach out to [name removed] as soon as possible, and respond to me as soon as you speak to him. I’m sending this letter in 2 separate envelopes cause its so many pages. I expect them both to make it, but these people be trippin here. And yeah, that’s a good idea to send me a 2nd copy if you don’t hear from me. But I promise I’ll respond to all of them. If I chose to not write, I will let you know, but I plan on responding to all of your letters. If I don’t respond, its cause I haven’t received anything.

Yeah, I miss my family alot. But my appeal is pending a decision & if I win, I’ll be able to see them every week. So that makes me feel better. My sister cant even come because she has a felony. She has to write the warden & wait for approval, but she hasn't done that yet, so its like what ever. I’m almost 8 hrs away & my family don’t have a good enough car to travel that far, you know? One of my female friends drove out 2 times, but only to be turned around because the prison was on lockdown both days & they weren't allowing visits. So its all bad.

I WOULD LOVE TO GET A VISIT & GIVE HUGS TO THE ONES I LOVE, BUT ITS ALL SO COMPLICATED BECAUSE OF THE DISTANCE. I LOST EVERYONE ELSE THAT I WAS CLOSE TO DUE TO HOW FAR AWAY I AM, HOW LONG THE MAIL TAKES & ESPECIALLY THE AMOUNT OF TIME I WAS SENTENCED TO & ALSO MY CHARGES.

But I’m getting ready to catch the USA basketball game. They’re playing the Dominican Rep. I gotta catch my boy D-Rose in action. Have you ever seen him play? If not, your missing out. Are you a basketball fan? Your Toronto Raptors aren't bad, and you guys have good fans out in Canada.

I hope everything is all good on your end. I look forward to hearing from you. Take care. Until next time.

Dre.