Letters To My Son In Prison: A Father’s Spiritual Path Through Unthinkable Tragedy, with Ken Guidroz

Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Hopestream for parenting kids through drug use and addiction
Letters To My Son In Prison: A Father’s Spiritual Path Through Unthinkable Tragedy, with Ken Guidroz
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ABOUT THE EPISODE:

Ken Guidroz’s son hit a Los Angeles bicyclist while high on heroin, killing the man before his body hit the ground. Ken’s son fled the scene but turned himself in less than 24 hours later.

What followed this tragic accident was a long period of pain and loss not only for the widow of the deceased but for Ken’s entire family, as his son was sentenced to years in prison. Ken had given much of his life to God, making sacrifices to serve nearly a decade as leader of congregations and raise his three sons in the best way he knew how. With an innocent man dead, one son in prison, and the other two making bad decisions, where was God now?

In this episode, Ken and I discuss how a long period of brokenness and loss began to transform into forgiveness and healing, culminating in his memoir, Letters to My Son in Prison: How a father and son found forgiveness for an unforgivable crime. In this conversation, we discuss the art of blending quiet intuition with the voice of God, how Ken pulled through a crisis of both faith and confidence and a “near-hallucinogenic” experience of catharsis in his darkest hour.

EPISODE RESOURCES:

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Ken:
 0:02This is not a verse, but what I would say is, shit happens. There is a verse, though, that says, The race is not to the swift, nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happen to us all. And you know what? Time and chance do happen to us all. And, you know, as linear as we want to make, if I do X, I’m going to get Y. Well, I mean, come on. I’m 64. That just does not happen. It just doesn’t. There’s tons in life we can control, but, Sometimes, craziness just happens.
Brenda:
 0:43You’re listening to HopeStream. If you’re parenting a young person who misuses substances, is in a treatment program, or finding their way to recovery, you’re in the right place. This is your private space to learn from experts and gain encouragement and support from me, Brenda Zane, your host and follow mom to a child who struggled. This podcast is just one of the resources we offer for parents. You’re So after the episode, head over to our website at hopestreamcommunity. org. I’m so glad you’re here. Take a deep breath, exhale, and know that you have found your people. And now let’s get into today’s show. Hey, my friend, we’re back and wow, do I have a fascinating and emotional episode to share with you today. I know a lot of us think about what the worst case scenario would be when our kids are misusing substances. And usually that’s an overdose or a long term disability due to drugs or alcohol. What you’ll hear today is the real life worst case scenario that Ken Guidra’s and his wife Joyce lived through. And which he writes about so beautifully in his book, Letters to My Son in Prison, How a Father and Son Found Forgiveness for an Unforgivable Crime. In his day job, Ken designed specialty retirement plans for companies. And he wrote the go to book on the subject in 2010 called Beyond the 401k. He previously served in the ministry leading the Santa Clarita Church of Christ from 1999 to 2004. Ken and his wife Joyce have three boys and just passed the 40 year mark in their marriage. The entire family all live in the LA area. And today, after years of pain and healing, they all meet most Sunday afternoons for pickleball, barbecue and jacuzzi. When Ken’s book was published and as he began sharing his family story, people started telling him about their own quote unquote son in prison. For them, it might’ve been the devastating loss of a child, a bitter divorce, an embarrassing bankruptcy. And Or a miscarriage they were having a hard time getting over. Whatever it was, it thrilled them to hear Ken talk about recovering from loss. Ken often finds himself with people who are pouring out their hearts to him, hoping that he can show them how one man kicked, clawed, and scratched his way out of dejection to find God again. His wife again, and his sons hang on. This is an incredible conversation. I can’t wait for you to hear, take a listen to me and Ken Ghidra’s author of letters to my son in prison, and I will see you on the other side. Ken, welcome to hope stream. So excited to be talking with you today. I love it when people reach out and contact me and say, Hey, I have something that these folks need to hear and it’s so true. You do. So thanks for reaching out and joining me.
Ken:
 4:07Absolutely. You’re welcome. And I’m delighted to be here.
Brenda:
 4:09Yes. It’s, it’s going to be a great conversation. I love talking with other parents. I love talking with professionals, you know, the doctors and the psychologists and the psychiatrists and the therapists and all the folks that I get to speak with. But parents are my favorite because I feel like we have this like, I see you, I know you,
Ken:
 4:29I get that,
Brenda:
 4:30you know so it’s really cool to have these conversations and you have a book letters to my son in prison and just the name alone like makes me dying to read it. So it’s on my, I use the library app, you know, so I can like listen, but I don’t, is it recorded yet? Do you have a recording? I
Ken:
 4:49actually narrated it and my son narrated his Yeah, he did. He narrated, he, he wrote me near the end of his time in prison, a letter called two men and it contrasted his life with my life, his morning with my morning. And it just, it just, yeah, it went back and forth beautifully. It just gave
Brenda:
 5:06me chills. No, I know. It gave me chills
Ken:
 5:09when I read it. It’s just beautifully written. He’s a good writer. He’s a good thinker. Now of course, now that he’s not a complete knucklehead but it was one of those letters you get as a dad that you, you, I don’t know, you, you, you don’t deserve it. And very few men get it in their lifetime. And, and I got it and I was like, I read it and I just thought this is epic anyway. So he narrated that. So yeah, it was narrating. It was, it was incredibly emotional. It was, it was, it was fabulous. So I loved it.
Brenda:
 5:41Oh, wow. Well, I kind of don’t know where to start. I, I kind of want to go back and start when you first started noticing that things went off the rails, but I also want to make sure that we have enough time to get to all this stuff in the book and where you all have ended up, but maybe for some context, you can. Put us in a time machine and just go back to when your family started noticing that something was not. Right. With the son of yours,
Ken:
 6:08you know, we were a family, my wife and I, you know, really tried hard to raise our three sons. I think we did a decent job and it was relatively straightforward for 13 years, other close in age. So 13, or, you know, and, uh, Uh, I was asked to go back in the ministry. I had been a pastor out of college for 10 years and then left for 10 years. And then, you know, in this home in our hometown, Santa Clarita, California, I was asked to go back in the ministry. We needed someone to lead this church are kind of our local about 50 of us. And, and that nod came to me. And so I, I agreed. And I, I didn’t really realize the impact and the pressure that this would place on my family and my sons being the preacher’s kid, you know, and it was great for a year or so. It, it was fabulous. In fact, it was kind of almost Elevating, but then things started to squirrel out of control and my oldest son started to push away. And my middle son, Lucas, who the book is about also kind of joined him. They, they’re decent at basketball. They made the high school team, you know what I mean? And, and all that stuff starts to, they, you know, they get popular. And so now there’s all these new influences that, you know, a year or two ago weren’t even there. And, and things start to really get weird tense and, and that results in them. Prodigalizing, you know, just, just going the other way. And of course, then, you know, I’m the pastor and they do that. Yeah, it’s, it becomes exceedingly uncomfortable for them and for me. So I. I resigned the ministry, but that didn’t solve everything. That just took some pressure off, which was nice. But, you know, so high school was challenging, but not out of this world challenging because when you have sports and I can, as a father can kind of hold that over their head, right? You can’t be a, a complete loser. I’d be on the varsity team, right? Right. But my middle son in particular, Lucas. Uh, as he went into college, uh, you know, he just graduated from, you know, alcohol and weed, you know, to the much stronger stuff. And then that started to compound over the years. We started becoming more and more estranged. Uh, there was rehab, there was your typical stuff you’ve heard a hundred times, I’m sure, but all 20s. And then at 27, 28, he tragically, uh, when he was high on heroin and driving killed a man, he rear ended a man who was riding his bike and killed him instantly. The man was dead before he even hit the pavement. So, you know, that of course led to prison and, and so in a nutshell, that’s kind of our journey.
Brenda:
 8:58When I was doing the research for this and reading your material, I thought, I know what it’s like to have my son in jail for, you know, three days, four days, cause he did something stupid and got caught with drugs or DUI or whatever. This is on a completely different level. I mean, this is life altering in a split second for all of you, not just for him, but for all of you. What was that like to get that call? I’m assuming somebody called you. And said this has happened. I just, I’m trying to even imagine what that must have been like,
Ken:
 9:36Yeah. My, my youngest son. He was 25 at the time. He dropped him off at the prison and then showed up at our house. I’m sorry, at jail when Lucas turned himself in. Lucas actually fled the scene, which is another tragedy. And then, uh, turned himself in 18 hours later, something like that. And my youngest dropped him off and then showed up at our house and told us. So, yeah, I mean, it was harrowing. It was one of the worst mornings of my life. I you know, my wife and I sat there and heard the story and it was, it was mind numbing to think about. a woman losing her husband.
Brenda:
 10:10Yeah.
Ken:
 10:11Thankfully he had no kids. But a widow was made and, and so there was that almost hatred for him at the moment, you know, just, just disdain for my son, you know, because he killed a man. It’s like, okay, it’s one thing to, you know, To do this on your own. It’s another thing to take a life. And, and that just brings it to a whole new level. So as a dad, you’re struggling with those kinds of feelings in addition to wanting to care for your son. And I’ll be honest, it was at least a week to 10 days before I had any feeling of warmth towards my son at all. And even that was de minimis, but still, so, you know, it was horrible. I went in, you know, I went in the garage and had a moment of. Catharsis and crying and and wailing that I’ve never had and prayer for her that the widow Valerie is her name and prayer for the man who died. Rod is his name. Yeah, so it was, it was, it was really the culmination of 10 years, really 12 years of, of abuse of substances and, and struggles. With not just Lucas, but even my other two sons too, to a much lesser degree. But, you know, after having all those years of feeling like we were, I wasn’t sitting there, you know, being arrogant about my family, but feeling like, wow, we, I think we’ve done okay to then have an equal length of time feeling like we are, we’re like the worst family. I mean, we’re talking not one out of three sons, not two, Out of three. And again, the other two were much lesser, but still three out of three that for a reasonable length of time were in opposition to us. And to me, you know what I mean? That it just felt so, so difficult to absorb. I mean, it was, I was flatlined emotionally.
Brenda:
 12:07That’s a great way to describe it. And I have to imagine that you’re thinking through all of this. And I know I read some of, I read the prologue and could really connect with the, those years and those conversations. Between you and your wife, where you’re saying, do we help, do we not, are we enabling if we do this? Are we not? And I think that’s so common. And I had it in my family and I hear it in so many of the families that I work with that there’s. This tension of, especially after years, you know, maybe not right up front, right? They’re 15 or whatever, but after years and years and years, you just get greats on you. And it causes that rift in a relationship where you’re like, are we going to make it like, first of all, is our kid going to make it right? Like, are they going to make it out with their life? What was, uh, Experience for you with, between you and your wife, because like you said, it wasn’t just one of your kids. Like you were really dealing with three boys who I know from experience having four, they’re a lot like they’re a lot. And how, how did you balance or not even balance? Cause I know there’s is, there really is no balance, but how did you navigate your marriage and prioritize that? Like, what was your strategy for trying to keep this off? Unite together.
Ken:
 13:40Well, I think you’re right. At first, it was easier that kind of the old united front, which by the way, I, I’m not much of a united front guy, but no, you know, it was whatever. United we’re together. But then as things start to unravel, She kind of goes to her corner. I go to mine. Our natural selves come out. We lean into our natural way of thinking, which mine is more solitary. Get a little harder line. Hers is to become more loving and what I would call enabling and she would call it just what it just. And so as that migration happens, as they’re going through their 20s, I start to trust myself a lot less. I, I, I did, I, I didn’t act on, on what I wanted to do. I didn’t walk in. I mean, there was one time I lost it on the video games, pulled a papal court out of the wall.
Brenda:
 14:33I’ve done that a few times,
Ken:
 14:36but by and large, I didn’t act on my impulses and I defaulted to Joyce. I was, I just said, you know, I. I have no idea what’s going on. Everything I thought would happen has not has been literally the opposite. Uh, and I just pulled into work, right? I just pulled into myself. I said to myself, screw them. They can do whatever they want to do. I don’t really care anymore. So that that and but yet there was conflict there. You know, there is that. feeling, you know, do we pay for rehab? Do we pay for detox? You know, I mean, a thousand conversations, but I, I just, I crawled into a shell, you know, some men will migrate to a more social and, you know, needing to have friends. I went the opposite way. I, I started pairing My relationships down to almost zero, it was testy. It was, it was tough. But, but I, I, you know, we’ve been married 41 years now and I think leaving room for differences, you know, in mine was crawling into my life and into my shell and she, you know, she let it be and I let her do what she needed to do. And it seemed to work. It seems to work today. You know, you have to have that, you have to have enough, enough holding you, you know, now we have pickleball. Now we have, you know, all these, we have plenty we have now, but, but still, I’m, I’m kind of still just, you know, I love to camp. I love to hike, you know, she isn’t into that. Right. So we still have, we still leave room, we leave oxygen for differences. And yet we have enough holding us. And I think we learned that through our son’s challenges.
Brenda:
 16:17Hmm. That’s
Ken:
 16:18really
Brenda:
 16:18beautiful. And I, it sounds like you, you’ve got to a place where if you go off camping and hiking, she’s not bitter about it or rolling her eyes. Like there he goes again, that you’re, you’re generous with each other in that, which I think is really important. And to do that while you have a kid or, or multiple kids in crisis is really hard to do. It’s hard, really, really hard. I think it does get easier. As they start to get back on their feet and you start to feel like you have some agency over what’s going on in your life. But when all hell is breaking loose in your family, it is really difficult to be able to look that other person. If you’re, if you’re fortunate to have a partner, right? There’s a lot of people doing this out a partner and that is, I just like hats off to all of you. Single parents listening, because. That is
Ken:
 17:07brutal. It’s brutal, Brenda, but it’s, it’s also nice because you can kind of do whatever you think you need to do. My sister was in those shoes and she would be grudged not having a husband. I was like, Diane, look, I get that. Yes. I hear you. But you can also just, you don’t have to sit here and negotiate and, you know, have a facilitator or, you know, a mediator, a mediator, like all the things I have to do to, to, to do something right. All the negotiations, you, you just do it.
Brenda:
 17:44It’s nice to have somebody to counterbalance some of those decisions. You know, it can get to a point where you’re in complete opposite camps. Well, I think we should do a, and I think we should do Z. And so finding some middle ground there is really difficult. And, and then you have to live with the outcome. And I always say there is no answer.
Ken:
 18:06I agree. It
Brenda:
 18:07looks so different for everybody.
Ken:
 18:09And I totally agree.
Brenda:
 18:11So for me to say, well, this is what we need, you know, this is the right way to do it is ridiculous. It’s like, well, this is a way to do it. So it looks like it’s got the best, you know, chance of succeeding. And then you just go with it. Did you find that too?
Ken:
 18:26I did. And I, I think that that ability to listen to your gut for your answer is a life skill that’s incomparable.
Brenda:
 18:36Yeah,
Ken:
 18:36it’s incomparable even back to the marriage thing, even listening to your gut with your spouse as I migrated to, you know, purchasing a camper van and then spending, you know, 34 days sometimes, you know, I do a lot of writing out my my van, you know, migrating from. From not having any, any camper van to, to what I do today, it took really listening to my gut, negotiating with my wife, working this out, having the discussions, right? And now, even as I look through our times of crisis, my willingness to, to think, okay, what, what long term is this going to look like? Like when Lucas is over this and these, and my sons are in their thirties married and living awesome lives, which I hoped for, which has happened, you know, thank God.
Brenda:
 19:24Yeah.
Ken:
 19:24You know, I want to end up with a marriage. So how, how can I end up with a marriage? Okay, I have to make this compromise. Heck that’s a pretty easy compromise. But yes, in terms of what you do, the ability to quiet the voices outside of you, even to quiet your own self criticism, your own doubts, and to, in my case, and maybe yours, you know, really listened for the Spirit of God, capital S Spirit. In other words, you know, and really coming to Over oftentimes days, weeks, months, sometimes coming to what you believe you should do. That’s an art. That is a freaking art
Brenda:
 20:07that
Ken:
 20:07is, I think, one of the most important arts of all. You know, is learning to really listen to our gut and to the spirit of God, you know, that combo is, is a beautiful thing. And I think going through the crises we did help me do that and getting me staying married for 41 years, help me do that and kind of rediscovering, you know, God outside of religion. Kind of helped me do that. So yeah, I think that’s a key life skill.
Brenda:
 20:44Hi, I’m taking a quick break to let you know some exciting news. There are now two private online communities for supporting you through this experience with your child or children. The stream community for those who identify as moms and the woods for guys who identify as dads. Of course, this includes step parents and anyone who is caring for a young person who struggles with substance use and mental health. The stream and the woods exists completely outside of all social media. So you never have to worry about confidentiality and they’re also ad free. So when you’re there, you’ll be able to focus on learning the latest evidence based approaches to helping people change their relationship with drugs and alcohol in both communities. We have a positive focus without triggering content or conversations. And we hope you learn to be an active participant in helping your child move towards healthier choices. You’ll also experience the relief of just being able to be real, connect with other parents who know fully what you’re going through and have battle tested mentors alongside. You can check out both the stream and the woods for free before committing. So there’s no risk. Go to Hope Stream community.org to get all the details and become a member. Okay. Let’s get back to the show. I like what you’re saying about taking that long view that you’re, you’re not just looking right in front of you. And there’s a difference, I think, between taking a long view and future tripping, because a lot of times people get into this future tripping and. forward facing rumination about, Oh my gosh, and this is going to happen. And then that’s going to happen. And, you know, we play a movie all the way to the end before we’ve even like sat through the, the opening credits. So the long view from a grounded and, and calm place. And like you said, you know, grounded in a faith potentially, or, or whatever people have. But I would love for you to talk a little bit about Your faith and I’m, I’m just imagining you as a pastor of this church and your kids are going off the rails. And I don’t know Santa Clarita, but I don’t feel like it’s a huge place. Like it’s not like LA it’s you’re, you’re in a place where I’m sure people know you when you go to the Starbucks down the street, people are like, Hey, Ken. So. How did this rattle or secure your faith or do both? Because I have to imagine that was a journey of its own that you went through.
Ken:
 23:25It was, and you know, there were several levels of, of humiliation, Mark Twain should have said this. I’ve been humbled in many different ways. And that’s, that’s my thing. You know, the, the church was great. My people, the people, my friends there, they were, they were great. They didn’t bash me. They didn’t put our nose in, in our family challenges. I left that church, but they were gracious. You know, I know some people have had tough experiences feeling like they were judged. We weren’t, we just left in the dark of night. I’m out of here. But my main. challenge was with God. I was like, God, why would, what in the world? Are you kidding me? I did all of this for you. And I don’t want to sound like I’m some, you know, martyr, but come on, I did. I left when I went back in the ministry, I had a great job. I had Hawaii as freaking sales territory, right? You know, I had dreams. I made good money. You know, and I gave that up. I was like, yeah, I’m, I’m leaving. I’m, I’m going to go back and lead this church. And, you know, so I had made my sacrifices and I tried, I’d been a Christian then for 20, 25 years. And, you know, I was like, okay, I’ve really tried to do this, right. I’ve tried to be earnest. I’ve tried to be sincere. This isn’t just for show. And then this happens. You, you, I mean, it’s one thing for one son to struggle.
Brenda:
 24:54Right. It’s like, okay, give me a break.
Ken:
 24:57Fair enough. We all have a prodigal parent. Yeah. You know, but it was, it was on a different level. And so, yeah, it, it rocked my faith. I mean, I got to the point where I could not open my Bible. I, I couldn’t even darken the door of a church. Are you freaking kidding me? I couldn’t pray. I was flatlined emotionally there as well. And I, there was no, I, I didn’t curse God. I never. swore at him. I never shook my fist and just said, you know, F you. I did some, maybe some parents have, some people have, I’m not even going to judge that. All I’m going to say is, is the way I’m wired, I just couldn’t do that. And so, but I did flatline. I did. It was nothing there. And so, you know, it was a crisis of faith in the literal sense. And so it was really a church in Hollywood, you know, far enough away from my home. They, they did the worship in the dark, like they turn the lights almost to complete darkness. Oh, wow. And. The, the band was in the dark. So we’re talking other than rope lights on the aisles. There’s no light in this auditorium. Five, 600 people. Yeah. And I just wept. I mean, I, I, I almost had a hallucinogenic experience. It was almost an LSD level, you know, catharsis of, of prey of singing and just, and it was, it was weird how that let me feel it was almost like the conduit to, to feel the. The depth of my disappointment with God, it almost took that out of body in the dark. No one can see me. No one knows me in this place. I’m just as anonymous as I can be. And yet my wife even stopped Joey stopped going with me. It was just me. I just drove to Hollywood. Oh, yeah, I was like, this has to be me and I just drove every week and just cathartic and. Kind of came to terms with God and and it was no epiphany like no scripture. No wisdom. No other than just I’m lost, you know, I’m just I mean, I wish I could say I had some insight. It was just I’m lost and and you still accept me and I, you know, you’re still God and I’m still me and all the trappings are gone. You know, any sense of, of, you know, well being, but you know, maybe that’s, that’s the great humbling. Maybe that’s, you know, that’s what God wanted is, you know, when you’re, you know, flat on your back, you know, so yeah, that’s, it ain’t sexy, but that’s kind of what happened.
Brenda:
 27:52Hey, that’s what happens. I’m curious what got you when it could, because you, you, like you said, you were so flatline from a spiritual standpoint, what got you to walk into that church? Like what? Brought you there.
Ken:
 28:07I heard there was a great band and that they sang in the dark.
Brenda:
 28:11You’re like sold like
Ken:
 28:13sold
Brenda:
 28:14there.
Ken:
 28:15I love that. I didn’t even meet anybody. I mean, I would just walk in. I walked in a little late. I even left during the sermon. I couldn’t hear a sermon. I was like, I know it was terrible. I’d see the preacher walking on the stage and I would just like, I’d sit on the aisle. I’d bow out. I’d go to my car and just write, journal, and then I’d come back. You set my alarm for 30 minutes, come back. I mean, it was that bad. But when I heard that I could do that and it was in Hollywood and, you know, I thought, well, I’ll check it out. So I checked it out once and I kind of dug it. It took a while, you know, to let myself go. Joyce was with me, right? So I felt awkward. She lasted three or four times. Finally, she said, I can’t go. And I was kind of inside going
Brenda:
 28:58now it’s just for me. Yes. I I’m so grateful that you shared that. Experience because what I see is a lot of people when they get into this scenario with their kids are thinking exactly like you. Like, wait a minute. I’ve sacrificed so much for my kids so much for my family. I’ve played by the rules. I have followed the script that I was given by my parents or my grandparents or my community or my culture or whatever it is. And how did this happen? Like I checked all of the boxes,
Ken:
 29:38right?
Brenda:
 29:38Why is this happening to me? What would you say to somebody who’s feeling that right now, who’s just like throwing up their hands and going, I’m out. You figure this out, kid. I’m out. I did all, I did what I was supposed to do.
Ken:
 29:55That’s a great question. This is not a verse, but what I would say is shit happens. Yes. There is a verse though, that says the race is not to the swift nor the battle to the strong, but time and chance happen to us all. And you know what time and chance do happen to us all. And. I know I should probably blame myself for a number of things. And by the way, there’s plenty, plenty of mistakes I’ve made that I, you know, I see, but you know what? It just happened. I, and, and shit does happen. And sometimes a lot of it happens, but time and chance, and, you know, as, as, as linear as we want to make, if I do X, I’m going to get Y. Well, I mean, come on, I’m 64. That just does not happen. It just doesn’t know. Sometimes it happens. Right? You do X and Y. Of course, there’s correlations all over the world, but many uncorrelations, many times we, we give a lot of inputs of, of, of here. Marriage is one. I mean, you know this. What is it? Is there a key to marriage? No. Are you kidding me? There’s no key to anything. I don’t, I sound so old. There is a time and chance do happen to us all. That doesn’t mean we shouldn’t, you know, work on the race. And, and try to become learned. I still do. I, I, I, I study life, uh, you know, every day. I love it. There’s tons of in life we can control, but sometimes craziness just happens the most promising, young, beautiful person gets cancer. It just happens, right? And this person dies at the most untimely manner. It just happens. And I’ve accepted that. And I. It doesn’t mean I don’t believe in God. It even doesn’t even mean I don’t pray anymore. I do pray. I pray as if everything I’m going to pray about Is going to come true yet. I know that’s absolutely not the case. Call that stupid, call it naive, call it whatever you want. It’s just how I’ve chosen to live my life. And to that parent, I would, that that’s what I would say is time and chance happened to us all
Brenda:
 32:16right. Well, and I see, you know, there’s, there’s both sides of the coin because there’s the families where there’s a lot of dysfunction, right? And a lot of trauma and damage. And sometimes those kids come out hugely resilient and go to Harvard. So I think we have to get over this idea that there is a formula and that this is a linear process and that we can in any way shape the outcome. I think we can stack the odds.
Ken:
 32:48Absolutely.
Brenda:
 32:49But I don’t think we can say a plus B equals C. So I’m just thinking what you went through when your son was in prison. What was happening with your, like, self esteem or your sense of guilt? Like, how are you internally processing that experience?
Ken:
 33:08I’m not sure what this says about me, but the guilt part was less, to be honest. I’m just tempted not be a guilty person. And I do beat up on myself, you know, I had tried and so I didn’t, yes, I made some mistakes and I outlined them in the book and there’s some very pivotal points where I made mistakes. So, I see that and I, my sons and I have talked about it at great length and they’re like, pop, stop, stop. We were knuckleheads. You did, you, okay, you made a mistake there, but just stop. So, I won’t bring it up anymore. Bye. I transitioned from hating my son or not. I don’t know. That’s the wrong word, but just, you know, being disgusted with my son too. Then of course, wanting to reach out, wanting to reconnect and wanting to see if maybe in this crazy, crazy way, this tragedy could be turned and, and to the family who was affected, of course, this tragedy. Is not, does not have a silver lining. Okay. And, and trust me in the book, I go to great lengths to pay homage to the man who died and the widow who is still out there today at this very moment, sitting there without a husband. So trust me, I have labored over that thought thousands of hours, you know, and so we start actually start writing each other. These gorgeous Open real letters beyond just the weather and how the family’s doing. But I, you know, I start pouring out my life to him. So, in L. A, you go to L. A county jail, that is a place called reception. So, he’s in L. A county for 6 months. He’s in a place called reception, which is where they’re waiting to find a prison to assign you to. There’s such an overcrowding problem. He’s in reception for 6 months. No phone, nothing but letters. So, during that 6 months, I start to double down. I start to open up my whole life to him. Right? Just really like weird stuff that if a dad would share with his son and so he starts opening up to me. So we start this kind of a cool new relationship that, you know, of course, he’s sober now and now I’m starting to see a son. I haven’t seen in 10 years. So, yeah, it was pretty, pretty amazing. The things he said to me, and I said to him, and then it migrates to a spiritual, we start reading these books together. So he starts reading, you know, really deep stuff, Dostoevsky. Dumas, uh, Vonnegut, Steinbeck. I mean, he just starts immersing himself and just changing his mind and becoming a young man I’d never even known. Then when he’s in prison, you know, eventually assigned to a prison, we start visiting and yeah, it was pretty epic. Just, you know, something I never would have imagined, but, but actually started to happen. And, and so, you know, his, his sticking point with faith was evolution. Feeling like God and evolution are incompatible. And so we end up, you know, going on this long journey with that down CS Lewis and other things. So it’s, it was pretty cool. What happened? The father and son, we became from the father and son. We weren’t. And it’s continued to this day. He’s he’s been out for what? 5 plus years. Mary’s got a really cute toeheaded son. And he and I are close and we speak honestly. You know, the other day he was, you know, kind of becoming. A bit of a knucklehead again, and just being a little bit arrogant with his mom. And, you know, I called him up. I was like, Lucas, come on, man, you’re, you’re losing some of your, your, your humility that you had when you got out. And he took it like a man. He’s like, dad, anytime, anytime you see me migrating from humility, you, you have an open door. I want you to tell me. You know, he edits my weekly essay, you know, so we’re, we’re as tight and I am with my other two sons as we could be as a father and son and, and I only say that because we were through the darkness. You know, most parents that are going through this, they hear me say that, or they hear someone say that and say, you know, they’re feeling as well. F you. That’s not my family. And I hate hearing about great families. Right, right. I get that. Yeah. Totally get that.
Brenda:
 37:22Yeah.
Ken:
 37:23But when you’ve been through the darkness and then there’s some light, you know, and this just happens to be my light, my light, it could be different and for different, right? I don’t want to, I don’t want to suppose anything on anybody. It just happens to be my world and I know how quickly it could change. I’m a grateful man.
Brenda:
 37:44It’s the power of letter writing, I think is one of the most underestimated, Forms of therapy, forms of reconnection with, with people like you found. It’s something that they use. I don’t know if your son ever went to wilderness therapy, but they use it in wilderness therapy for that exact reason, because it slows everything down. It lets you be very intentional about what you want to say. But I love that you. Were both able to share parts of your life that you probably never would’ve shared if you hadn’t had that almost forced form of a relationship. Right? Yeah. Like you didn’t have an option. So that was, that’s what happened. Is there a a letter or a excerpt of a letter that you would read to us that would be meaningful?
Ken:
 38:33How can I just tell it to you, because I don’t have the book in front of me, but I will tell you this, so you’ve been in for two and a half years and, and in California, if you got a 10 year sentence, so, but in California, you can, there’s things called milestone programs that if you apply yourself, if you go to college, if you get an AA degree, if you go to classes and church and AA programs, right, you can whittle your sentence down. So he got, he stayed for three years. So at about two and a half, he wrote me a letter and he had just finished Crime and Punishment by Dostoyevsky and he said, he said, Dad, this was, this was mind numbingly boring at times. But I’m so glad I pushed myself because I saw myself in Dostoyevsky, who was also sentenced to 10 years in a Siberian prison. The protagonist in that book was, and he had also killed a man. And he said, I saw myself in Raskolnikov, I believe his name was. And the way he came back to life, and he was born again. After. Really being dead to himself and I’ve got the book now on my chest. It’s late at night, all my cellmates are asleep, and I’m thinking about my life, and I’m seeing that maybe, just maybe, I’m going to have a new life and a second chance at life. And when I read that, I was just, I just wept. You know, because you, you hope for that. But then for your son to And in a way, not religiously, it was almost good to me. To feel it as a human was, was beautiful to me, you know, to see him, see his life and the mess he had become. And then to have that moment, that epiphany where he, he realized his good fortune, that he would have a chance to rebuild his life. That was, that was beautiful to read.
Brenda:
 40:46Wow. Well, that seems like a really good place to wrap this up and just, I’m so grateful that you told the story you’re, I know it’s going to help so many parents and even young people, maybe that are going to read it and recognize themselves in that story. And I just want to give you and your son a hug. Like, I wish we could, I wish I could reach through the screen. I’ll tell them. Yes, that’s, it’s just incredible. And thank you for being willing to share that, being vulnerable with your experience and with your family’s experience.
Ken:
 41:20You are very welcome. And it was, it was a pleasure to do it. I, I wished there was a program like yours when I was going through this. I cannot even describe to you how much I wish that because I couldn’t find anything. I couldn’t read anything. And that’s why I wrote this book was, you know, it’s one man’s journey and you know how it is. Everyone’s got their own variables that are different. Someone may not have my faith persuasion or they may not be married. You know what I mean? It’ll be different. But to read one person’s slog through the darkness, I don’t know. There’s something elevating about that. Something that you just say, God bless that person and doggone it. I’m going to do it. I’m going to, I’m going to be okay.
Brenda:
 42:02Yeah. Even if it’s just for today. Right. Even if it’s like, okay, man, I can get through today.
Ken:
 42:09Amen.
Brenda:
 42:09Yeah. Thank you. Ken. I really appreciate you being here.
Ken:
 42:13You’re very welcome. And thank you so much.
Brenda:
 42:16Okay. My friend. That’s a wrap for today. Don’t forget to download the new ebook, worried sick. It’s totally free and will shed so much light on positive tools and strategies you can use right now to start creating conditions for change in your home. And as always, you can find any resources mentioned during today’s show at brendazine. com forward slash podcast. That is where every episode is listed and you can search by keywords. Episode number or the guest name, plus we’ve created playlists for you, which make it easier to find episodes grouped by topic and those are at brendazine. com forward slash playlists. Please be extraordinarily good to yourself today. Take a deep breath. You have got this. You are not doing it alone and I will meet you right back here next week.

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