By: Meagan Esler
If you’ve been reading my articles for a while, you may remember that my oldest son has drug addiction issues-http://diabeteshealth.com/read/2011/07/10/7206/a-brand-new-bottle-of-my-insulin-went-missing/. We have tried everything to keep him on the right path. Sadly, his path ended him in prison. While I’m devastated on one hand, I’m grateful on the other. He is safer there than on the street because he is not on drugs.
With the exception of my mother and sister, I haven’t told anyone. I feel so ashamed that he is in prison. I feel like a bad mom for him to end up there. Social media always makes everyone’s lives look perfect. I’m here to admit, mine isn’t. My son is going to turn 23 in prison in late August. He’s in there for a while.
After such a long time of sending letters back and forth, his father and I decided we needed to go for a surprise visit to see him. The words I love you seem to lose something important when just on paper. A few weeks before the visit, we got a letter that he had gotten into some trouble. He was in segregation for fighting back against another inmate and would likely be moved to a higher security prison. There is no tolerance for fighting in prison, even if you are defending yourself. We worried we wouldn’t be able to see him. We found that he was unable to have visits without a glass partition, but we could still see him. No matter how disappointed we may be, we needed to be there for him.
The day came and we made the two hour drive to the prison. We stopped for breakfast as we departed and I took my daily shots of insulin. When we got there, I knew I couldn’t bring much of anything inside. I knew to leave my purse in the car. I only brought my wallet, some candy for possible low blood sugars, and my car keys up to the guard’s building.
It was cold that day so I wore layers. I had on jeans, a coat, and a zip-up hooded top with a tank top underneath. I was told that I was improperly dressed and as the male guard stated “Personally, I wouldn’t allow you in there”. The problem was that they didn’t allow zippered shirts, or tank tops. They worried about women unzipping or removing their clothing in the prison and getting the inmates riled up. I verbally assured them along with a look of horror on my face that this would not be happening. This was my son for goodness sakes. My husband mentioned to them that we were pretty conservative people, not wanting to cause trouble, and certainly not at all into riling up inmates. Thankfully the female guard disagreed with the male guard’s disapproval and allowed me to stay. For the record, I kept my coat on through the entire visit.
The next problem to arise was everything else I had on me. With the exception of my I.D. and one car key, we were not allowed to bring anything else. This included the candy I had brought for lows. My blood sugar meter was back in the car, a bit of a walk away, as were my syringes and vial of insulin. Thankfully it was cold enough outside that the insulin would be okay in there. They don’t let you bring sharp objects into prison so these items were not things I could bring with me. I worried that with the wait time, the walking, and the hour long visit, my blood sugars would plummet. I went to the little locker they gave us for our wallets and the rest of the car keys and pulled the candy out. The male guard inquired as to what I was doing and between taffy candy chews, I mentioned my insulin dependent Type One diabetes. The last place on earth I wanted to end up on the floor was in their prison. I ate a few candies and went on to be pat down searched by the female guard.
After we were approved and stripped of life-saving glucose, and my top was zipped to the tippy top, we were walked to the gate of the prison. As another male guard inside the gate approached, the female guard leaned in and told me that if I felt myself in trouble and needed sugar, to alert the guard on the other side of the gate and he would take care of me. I cannot tell you how relieved I was to hear this. Up until that point I had felt like I was going to prison myself. I felt like my life was in someone else’s uncaring hands and that I had no control. That’s a terrifying feeling. I am a bit of a control freak, though, I imagine that anyone that depended on supplies to live would have similar worries. To know that they would help me if the candy I inhaled in the guard tower didn’t hold me over until the end meant the world to me.
Seeing our son there made everything worth it. I began blowing kisses and motioning hugs through glass at the boy who seemed so little all the sudden. While he attempted to do the same, we found he was chained and couldn’t move his hands far enough to do it. Regardless, we had a good visit. We made him laugh, we choked back tears, and we shared apologies for everything that had ever happened along the way that hurt each other. I hated to leave, despite the dreary, unclean, scary place filled with inmates sitting at tables behind us. I hated to leave him. I know that the words “I’m sorry” that he spoke don’t work with the justice system for drug charges, but it sure did wonders for me.