If you have a family member behind the wire, especially during a holiday, the journey can be stressful beyond words. I know from personal experience. The stress and strain of life with my wife incarcerated forced me to ultimately concede defeat. It took about a year, but weary and whipped, one day I finally reached out for fellowship and company from a “small group” in our church. I thought my head had a radiator clamp on it, constantly tightening. If you’re there, please read on.
So this is what I did to survive:
- I became very disciplined with my time management, because I couldn’t keep up with anything.
- I established a strict routine, be it daily, weekly or monthly and I stuck to it.
- I decided I absolutely had to keep my health, keep my job, not lose the house, keep the family dog alive and not fall down the basement stairs.
- I ultimately accepted help from others, hard for me to do.
- I kept family members accurately informed on how Patty was doing, especially her mother.
- I did a lot of yard work around the house; it was cheap, relaxing and could be started and stopped quickly. If my personal life was totally out of control at least the yard looked good.
- If I told Patty I was going to visit on a certain day or be available to accept a call; it always happened no matter what.
- I walked Chili our Malamute each and every night at 10:00 when I was home; cheap therapy.
- I always put up Christmas tree and sent out cards, nothing fancy.
- I resolved to back my wife, to protect her and fortify our marriage.
This is what I didn’t do:
- Have an affair.
- Escape into alcohol, drugs, gambling or porn.
- Did not give up on my wife’s future.
- Did not quit going to church.
- Did not stop trying to be a good father to my sons; I kept them in the loop.
- Did not become a highway fatality while driving a total of 25,000 miles to visit my wife.
- Did not totally share with Patty how exhausted I really was.
- Did not go to a doctor, dentist or optometrist for 3 years.
- Didn’t fall down the basement stairs; just the outside porch stairs during a blizzard.
- Didn’t realize for 18 months I was having a migraine on the days after I returned home from visiting Patty. It was decompression from the stress, transitioning from her world back to mine.
Conclusion: regular church and worship music kept my head together, it was emotional respite, more than I ever realized. Those attending our neighbor’s church small group were gracious and unconditional while I was weary and I’m sure I came across as guarded and very edgy. Times were heavy; I didn’t frankly care about local politics, church projects, my wife was in the slammer; I had bigger concerns. They were classy and forgiving; I remain grateful.
Bottom line: Jesus had my back; I didn’t know it. Church behind the wire was invaluable and inspiring to my wife, thus it was invaluable to me as well. It gave both of us strength.
Emotional pain can be tough, especially when you’re under siege and life is caving in on all sides. Church can be a safe place to seek refuge; I did and I never regretted it. God is good; took me a while to figure that one out. If you have a spouse behind the wire and have some good survival tips that help you get by; please share your wisdom.