“All Gas, No Brakes”…   by    Rory Andes

Imagine that your second earliest memory was your parents’ divorce. You’re five. What would that do to you? Imagine that the first is your dad executing a dog, your dog, that mauled your sister.

Violence and conflict seems like bad memories to start with.

Then, as a twelve year old, you take your first hit of methamphetamine with a woman who’s life is so broken, she just needs a friend. She’s your drug addicted mom. Now, add steady drug use to the previous violence and conflict equation. Hell, while we’re at it, let’s rip any stability away, too. That’s awfully young to start failing in major adult ways.

Lance, a Las Vegas native in his thirties, started life just like this. But he had a lot more room for violence and downfall as a boy. In sixth grade he was kicked out of school. At fourteen, he had stolen a car, stabbed a police officer and was sentenced to four years as a juvenile for attempted murder for it. By the time he was eighteen, the only thing he had going for him was his intelligence. It earned him his GED.

After his release from Nevada’s juvenile system, Lance bounced from family member to family member looking to find where he fit in. The one constant seemed to be drugs. At one point, he overdosed with an aunt. Having survived, he continued to run the razor’s edge of drug use and lawlessness. In 2000, he got a real chance to be what he never was, a dependable adult. His girlfriend was pregnant. But as had been the case, their need for drugs ruined the chance to be bigger. Child Protective Services became involved and his new daughter went off to foster care. After another year in jail, they made a break for Washington. He still had a hearing with Nevada CPS for the outcome of his daughter and as he walked into the court, reality hit and he encountered the first of his greatest revelations. His daughter was with a beautiful, functional family who had loved her in a way he couldn’t. Lance signed away his rights to her and, defeated and unwilling to fight alone, his girlfriend did too. He walked away from the child’s mother that day in the courthouse and went back to Washington.

After another year of drug use, drinking and robberies, Lance was couch surfing between crash pads and jail cells. Selling drugs made for quick money, right up until he stabbed a dealer. Lance was sentenced to 274 months for murder, but this end of the rope just opened up to “all gas, no brakes”.

He went to prison with nothing to lose. Assaults were the order of the day. After an assault on a corrections officer, Lance narrowly dodged earning his third strike. The officer still held faith that he might be a salvageable human and didn’t press charges, but there was more damage left to do. Lance joined a prison gang, was deep into drugs and tattoos and eventually found himself at the head of his gang. For eight years he was all gas, no brakes. More drugs, more assaults, more damage.

Then his friend was stabbed by his gang… a slight jolt. In another order, he was to kill his friend… full wake up. For the first time in a long time, his emotions awoken and it pinged on his moral compass.This life wasn’t working and these people didn’t care about him. Lance made a stand to care about something. He dropped out and gave a federal debrief, relinquishing what he knew, to include a cold case murder he was told about. He made himself a wanted man to the world of criminals.

It’s been seven years since he quit the nonsense he wrapped himself in, grew with his best efforts, and worked at his humanity. Lance doesn’t know exactly who he’ll become, but he certainly knows who he isn’t. He’s not a guy who has to commit violence to shield himself from his own fear and sense of acceptance. He’s put down the mask of his shame and owns his bad decisions. He’ll be out in a few years and is looking forward with hope. Perhaps one day the daughter he gave up will know him. He’s learning what being a good person means inside and how to just be better. He has hopes of moving into a social purpose world where he can contribute in meaningful ways.

One of the most powerful things I heard when talking to him was about his mom being clean these days and how he’s forgiven her. To him, the reality is that his mom didn’t know how to be a good parent and she was consumed in her shame. He accepts her and loves her and he’s loving himself a lot more today. While Lance lived “all gas, no brakes” for most of his life, he wants to try the joys of cruise control and to enjoy the scenic ride of life for the remainder…

by Rory Andes

Rough starts don’t need to lead to rough endings. Change happens….

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