Matt’s Story

2-27-18

I know it has been some time since I last wrote, and I apologize. I can’t begin to say how vital your support has been in the forms of letters and well-wishes, so I do want to make sure that I continue to share back. I guess I should start by explaining why I felt I needed to take a break. I had read the things I had been writing and I didn’t quite like the voice that I had at the time. It became clear to me that I still had things I needed to experience and grow from in order to find my true voice. I realized I needed to just put my head down, grit my teeth and persevere on my own path before really being able to embody the person I want to be. Retreating and withdrawing from things had always been my MO in the past when things felt tough, but it was not that- this was about growth.

This past year has been a time of deep sadness but also immeasurable joy, like I have never felt before. My grandfather passed away on October 11th, 2016 and my grandmother followed him on February 13th, 2017. I was able to attend a viewing for each of them, which I was extremely grateful for. I remember standing in front of my grandfather’s body while in chains and thinking that I was so ashamed, that I had let him down. It was in the months following his passing that I feared I had not really changed. I felt myself wanting so badly to let myself be destroyed by the pain I was feeling, which is how I “dealt” with things before. My grandmother was also very ill in those months after, and we knew that she would follow my grandfather before long. She suffered from dementia, so phone calls from me more often confused her than not. However, the weekend before she passed we had a conversation where she was almost entirely lucid. I will forever be grateful for that conversation. When she passed and I had the opportunity to say goodbye in person, I no longer felt shame but instead felt an overwhelming feeling of warmth throughout my body.  It was then that I realized that taking time to really reflect on and face my own issues had helped me to become a different man. I would not selfishly give in to my own hurt because I was able to see that doing so takes me away from the people that I love and causes them grief. The pain of losing my grandparents further reinforced the fact that I never want to inflict those feelings of loss on anyone else ever again.

So I’ve been staying positive and continue to work on myself mentally, emotionally, and physically. I keep taking classes and pursuing my degree like my grandfather always wanted for me. I’m proud to say that I earned my Associates Degree in Social Sciences from Ohio University towards the end of 2017. This is not the end of my educational path, but it is a step to get to where I want to be in the Psychology field. It has not been easy, but not a moment goes by where I don’t cherish every breath that I am blessed to take. The night that I took away Vince’s life nearly four and a half years ago I forfeited my life along with his. It was only by an unfair chance that I received mine back while stealing his. In every moment I remember that, while my chest rises and falls, and my heart beats, his does not. His family and friends feel that every day. So in every struggle I have, I realize that it is a privilege to struggle, and I had damn well better endure it. I will end for now with this. We are all facing our own battles every single day, and in those battles you will struggle and there will be times when you feel like giving up. Those times are the most important moments to discover who you truly are. During those times, hold on dearly to the reason why you keep on going. That next second that you keep on going when you don’t want to is all the proof you need to know that you can overcome it…because you just did a moment ago. As I mentioned at the beginning of this post, this year hasn’t been all struggles. My family has also had plenty of highs that I’m excited to share with you in my next post. I’ll also be sharing an exciting idea I have around helping others reap the benefits that I now know working towards a degree can bring. I realize that the gift of education is the greatest opportunity that can be given to someone and I want to pass on that opportunity to both offenders and victims of destructive decisions to enhance their lives and give them the chance to establish a productive path forward. I’ll need help with ideas on how to accomplish this goal and I’m excited to work together on it!- Matthew

Update

I don’t know when the last time I wrote was, but it could easily be close to a year. I’ve been incarcerated for over two years now. That’s something that I never thought would be a part of my life but this life is like clockwork to me now. I am now a progam aide for the rehab/recovery program here at PCI, and I keep moving forward by helping others move forward too. I am in college both here at the prison through Sinclair CC and through correspondence courses at Ohio U. I have completed about 25 hours so far an am working on another 21 this semester, so I’ve been staying busy. I play music in my free time, and I also follow a strict workout plan everyday. I have never been so disciplined in my entire life.

After awhile in here I started to notice that I began feeling numb a lot. I really am making the best of everything but doing 6 1/2 years in this place requires more than just strength. Some of the smallest things are really what gets to me. It is hard to let people care about me when I know that there is still so much time left before I get out and they will just leave before then anyway. There are people who consistently try to reach out to me but I know that once I engage them, the clock starts ticking on when they will not care anymore. It’s just the way it is in here.

I think about Vince a lot, and I’ve figured out that I will never forgive myself for what I did to him. I am still grappling with it, but it is like trying to hold onto lightning. I can’t rationalize the thought of doing what I did and still being able to be a good person. I can’t seem to make those feelings mesh together so I avoid that too and keep it in the back of my thoughts. I know I am going to have to confront it all at some point, but whenever I try I am already broken before I get anywhere. I don’t know what the next step is but I do know that I will be able to handle it when I need to. That’s one thing that prison had taught me, I am much stronger than I thought I was and I can handle anything that is put in front of me. I still have work to do but I am proud of myself. After I get my degree I will focus on dealing with these emotional and abandonment issues that I have, as well as figuring out how to deal with guilt. That’s my plan for now at least, continue to build myself.

Thank you

Hey everybody, we’re gearing up to do another safe-ride event and I am very happy that we are able to do positive things like this and that it has been so effective so far. My hope is that one day we are available to be out there every weekend, if you give someone the ability to do the right thing then they will usually live up to that and getting home safe is certainly something worth fighting for. I just wanted to thank everyone who has given their support to Save Your Victim and what we are trying to do. With your support my wonderful family can keep doing what they are doing.

-Matthew

Poem

Night is when they come for me/ When I close my eyes and my body is still/ My mind is weak/ The dark shades the shadow as they come for me/ They wait for the night/ I don’t notice/ They wait for the absence of light/ I want to forget/ They tell me this hurts too much/ I can feel myself slipping/ They tell me that I don’t have to fight anymore/ I can feel myself sinking/ They tell me I’ll never be good again/ I can feel myself drowning/ They choke me from the inside/ But I thought I had beaten this feeling/ They tell me I know nothing/ I can feel myself losing/ They call me murderer/ I can feel myself turning/ They tell me I belong with them/ An impact/ A whirlwind/ What’s that smell/ Everything’s upside down/ I’m choking/ It hurts/ What’s that smell/ My eyes don’t work/ Someone else/ Does he hurt like me/ I don’t want to know/ His life is gone/ I stole it/ For what/ There was no reason/ What a waste/ Forgive me/ You know you haven’t dealt with this/ Because it hurts too much/ Because you’re a coward/ Forgive me/ Everything they say is true/ I want to forget/ You’ll never forget/ This hurts too much/ You’ll never forget/ They come for me in the night– Matthew Cordle

 

 

Second Chances: Sarah

I’m having an emotional night. And what better time to write then huh? Tonight I finished up some filming for a driver education program I have been helping with. The filming is being done at PNN which is Prison News Network at Marion prison. It is run by inmates. Most of them have very long, if not life sentences. Most have also already served quite a bit of time. From the moment I did my first filming session I felt very comfortable working with the inmates. They were all very respectful and professional. I treated them just like any other person and you could tell they immediately appreciated that. You can also tell this group of guys are extremly close and dedicated to their work. They tend to stay away from the rest of the prison and spend as many hours working as they can. They all have different jobs, most of them have learned or taught themselves a skill….such as editing, graphics, voiceovers etc. I was very impressed by the whole system. I had no idea anything like this even existed within a prison. Before my brother went to prison, in all honesty I didn’t think twice about prisons or the people in it. I didn’t care and just assumed most belonged there. My eyes have obviously been forced open. The more I see and get to know, the more shocked I am at how naive I was. Tonight, I was actually sad leaving this group of guys that I have worked with the past few months. I will miss talking with them, getting to know them. The real truth is, I will probably never see any of them again. But one sticks out. He has done bad things. He has a life sentence. When I first met him I didn’t know that so I never judged him. He is now in his sixties and been in prison over half his life. He is also sick. Very sick and will most likely die in prison. Over this time I have come to know him and genuinely like him. We joke and give each other “crap”. We surprisngly have similar sarcastic personalities but live in two completely different worlds. Tonight when I saw him I knew he wasn’t doing very well. Later I heard he probably doesn’t have long left. As I was leaving he said goodbye and thanked me for being his friend.  I don’t know what he “deserves” in this life, I don’t know what is fair “punishment” for his crimes and I am glad I don’t have to be the judge of that. I am thankful I met him as he changed my mind. I struggle with the things he has done many years ago, but my sister commented that it’s okay to focus on the good parts of people.  I do believe in second chances, I believe people change. If we don’t believe than what is the point? What is the point of prisons, rehabs, programs, etc. No matter how long he has been in prison and what he has done to better himself, most likely he will be remembered for the crimes he committed. I worry about that fate for my brother as well. We have to give those who have done wrong a second chance. We have to forgive the past and allow them to become a new person, a better person.

New Year 2015: Matthew

New Year’s – For obvious reasons this year has been an extremely difficult time in my life, I’ve spent the whole year incarcerated and have missed out on the things that makes life so precious. I’ve lost people close to me and will continue to lose more as the years go on. I don’t think of holidays at all, because it is painful both knowing that I took away someone’s holdays with their family forever and I’ve taken myself away from my loved ones for a long time. The New Year is especially important to me though, it signifies me closer to getting out of this place, which becomes every prisoner’s ultimate goal, but it also makes me think of the promises I have made and if I am working towards being better as I leave here. My resolution for 2015 is to simply be better, to be more. I was a horrible son to my parents, a horrible sibling to my sisters, a horrible friend to my friends, and I was a horrible man to my girlfriend who I lost and miss more than anything which really caused me to reflect a lot. I’m not hard on myself for this because I have needed to adjust and adapt to this tough situation that I put myself in and I’ve been working out the bumps along the way and the people that really want to be in my life and love me have understood that and stood by my side unfailingly. This year I want to be better for them, I want to be there in whatever way I can as far as loving, supporting, and caring for them since I cannot be there physically for them. I want to be a constant in their lives where they know they can talk to me and not be judged but always find love and caring there, because that’s when I’m at my best. I want to continue to increase and better myself so I can be the best man I can be for the one’s I love and bring them as much happiness as they have given me. That’s my resolution for 2015. As always, everyone remember to celebrate the New Year in a safe way with the people that really matter.

Moving Forward: Matthew

ODYS (Ohio Department of Youth Services) aka juvi sent a couple of people to check out the OASIS program here at Pickaway Correctional to get a general idea of how we operate and if they can incorporate what we do into their program. The program director here picked a few of us to represent the program and answer any questions that they had and anything like that. I’ve been on a few panels like this before for officials from other corrections facilities and I really am glad to be able to offer up anything I can to help others who are struggling. But it’s been extremely difficult lately to go on acting like I am doing well and to act like a ‘role model’ to people like these prison officials and the people who write and support me. The truth is that I am feeling so many negative emotions that I feel as if I’m going to burst at the seams, I’ve felt this way before and the last time I got so drunk and after a night out, drinking and doing stupid things was my way out,  I wanted so badly to feel something else. So there it is, no hiding it anymore. I used to be afraid of what people would think of me , but there’s no shortage on things that people can judge me for these days, I know who I am now. What I meant to talk about was how I feel so angry, and with every day in here I get sicker and sicker. With each holiday or birthday that passes, with each person that I lose, it gets harder to be in here, not easier like I had originally thought. It’s like the longer I’m doing positive things and staying sober and trying to be a good person, the more appealing it looks to go back to what I was. I chose to never deal with anything and now I remember why, feelings can be good, but they can hurt too. This little voice is constantly asking me, “why are we suffering unnecessarily, we could be feeling nothing right now, we could be passing these years by without remembering a goddamn thing, this very feeling is why we chose not to participate in this world.” …….But then I remember, and I dig deep, and I clench my teeth, and I keep moving forward, because I promised.- Matthew Cordle

Visiting: Sarah

I get asked a lot about my brother. Mostly about how he is doing. And honestly it changes on a daily basis. I go to visit as often as I can, typically every week.  I dread going to visit. Even a year later, I am still not used to it. I am also worried for the day that I do become used to it, I hope it never happens. You can tell for some people/families in the waiting area that they are used to it, that this is normal for them, that they’ve been here before. I try not to judge but I always feel out of place. Depending on the day it can be very busy. If so, then you wait until your number is called. I try not to talk to much to anyone because you never know who they are there to see. I was naive about that at first. But what if the person they are there to see doesnt get along with the person you are there to see….or many other things. Every time the same process, you check in with the visitors guard, show them your ID and who you are there to see, they stamp your hand and give you a key for a locker. You can only take in a vending machine card, visiting pass and your ID, everything else goes in a locker. Most of the guards are pretty friendly with me now as they know who I am. I try to be respectful and make it easy for them. You go through a metal detector. I try to look and dress as plain as possible. Trust me I am not trying to impress anyone there! Once through the metal detctor you then go through a set of doors and show your ID to another guard with your stamped hand. They will then open the second set of doors into the visiting area. Once in the visiting area you give your pass to the guard….and honestly Im not really sure where they take it then. But the pass indicates to them which inmate you are there to see. I have my favorite guard, he is an older guy, always gives me crap but in a joking way. He knows my brother, he knows everyone in my families name, he pays attention. Then you sit in an old chair and wait. There is a small plastic patio like table in between you chair and the inmates. I usually wait about 30 minutes. The guards blame my brother for being slow, and my brother blames the guards for not calling him. I can’t help but watch other people around me. It breaks my heart to see kids coming to visit their Dad’s. I always wonder how these guys all ended up here. Then I wonder…..how did I end up here? How am I visiting someone in prison? By the time my mind really starts to wander my brother comes out. We hug tight. I try to keep our visits fun, making jokes, laughing. Its the only time he really gets “away”. I get him food from the vending machine. He usually wants the same thing every time, chicken sandwich, ruffles chips and a coke. Every now and then a coffee. I used to try and stay all day, but its exhausting. So usually I just stay a few hours now. Leaving is the worst. My heart hurts as I walk back through the double doors and he walks back into prison. I almost always tear up as I walk to my car. No matter if we had a great visit or not…..leaving him there is painful.

Today I visited after being gone for 2 weeks. We were both excited to see each other. He was hungry right away. We chatted just about the week. Then we just started arguing about things. You can tell we were both just frustrated. I wasnt telling him what he wanted to hear and in turn he was treating me rudely. We sat in silence for a few minutes and then I said we should change the subject. He said he wasn’t mad at me just this whole situation. I started crying….which since he has been in prison I have never done in front of him. I couldn’t help it. I wanted to sob even harder but just hid my face in my hands. I wanted to run out of that place. But I didn’t. I picked my head up and realized he had tears in his eyes too. As hard as this is for me, it is that much harder on him. He can’t cry in there so I made a stupid joke. We both laughed and the rest of our visit was great. This is reality. This is our reality anyways. There are good days and bad days but the fact is no matter what I will stick by my brother, I will let him vent, I will understand when he is taking it out on me, I will be there to pick up both of our pieces. That is what family is all about. And right now that is all I can offer him.

 

 

Searching: Matthew

I’m constantly being tested all of the time. Life has a way of making us prove what we say we are. I’m doing my best to always make sure that my words match my actions because they never did in the past. I fall short a lot of the time and fall back on what I know when I get pressed but I am changing, I feel different. I can keep going when things get tough where in the past I would have cut and run. The difference is that I am finding out who I am and what I stand for. Now that I’m somewhat healthy it’s easy to see that the majority of people are lost like I was, they were just better at hiding it. I can feel Vince all of the time tugging at my heart and my mind when I start to fall, letting me go too far before I have clarity again. So many things we all do are self-destructive and we seek validation because we don’t feel good about ourselves. That emotional shroud can manifest itself into something very real if left unchecked, look at what I did. We live in a society of apathetic, conceited young people who are constantly overcompensating for a void, I am living proof of that. I read a packet called ‘King Baby’ and it was as if someone had written on paper everything that goes on in my head that I would never want anyone to know. More importantly I realized how afraid I really am of….well everything. The reason that I am changing now is because I am more afraid of hurting someone again. I commented before on ‘I’ve been looking my whole life, I just don’t know what the hell for.” What I’ve been searching for is myself, and the certainty of knowing who I am. We all go through that struggle and the key to it is actually facing what’s in front of us. I’ve questioned myself more in the past 18 months than I ever have, doing what I did forced me to, and I almost didn’t survive it but what I found was certainty in who I didn’t want to be, who I want to be, and most importantly who I am. -Matthew Cordle

Grandma

So my grandmother’s health is steadily declining and my sister explained to me that the doctor had a conversation with her about making some tough decisions. Honestly with such a long sentence I have entertained the possibility of not seeing my grandma again, but accepting something like that is impossible. Words can’t describe how much I love my grandma, she had always been my best friend and having her always think the world of me is what has kept me in this world. She is the most amazing person in the world, she is the kindest woman you will ever meet but she protects the people she loves like a lioness. She has endured more than most people have in ten lifetimes and she has endured it with more grace and love than anyone ever has. She has experienced so many negative things in her life but given out so much more positivity. She is my light and whatever happens that will never extinguish. I will see her again one way or the other, if it can’t be in person then it will be in our dreams. I think about how much she means to me and if I would ever be able to forgive someone if they took her from me in the same manner that I took Vince from the ones who loved him like some of them have forgiven me. That strength is the same strength that my grandma has, the strength of love, the strength of her heart. I love you grandma.– Matt Cordle