Good Kid Gone Bad, or Never Good To Go Bad?
-Dan Callahan, MSW
I was born in 1960 into a blue-collar lower income family on Long Island twenty-five miles from New York City. My family had a strong sense of giving to the community. My dad is a volunteer fireman and has been for over fifty years.
Somehow I always seemed to find the trouble. My mom always said I was a good kid, but my dad well that was another story. He would say “good kid? He was never good to go bad!” I guess that was the struggle that I had to fight alone. At the age of 16 I was arrested for shoplifting. This began a string of criminal activity that became the beginning of the end.
In January 1978 a few months prior to my 18th birthday I was arrested for assault. The Vietnam War was fresh in every ones memory and recruitment into the Armed Forces was low. So as a bargaining chip in court I offered to join the Army. Maybe I could restore my status as a good kid!
In reality wherever you go, well there you are. It did not take long when my drinking and drugging picked up where I had left off. In fact I lasted a full 19 months and a couple more arrests before it was suggested I pack it in and head back home. I was unfit for Military service they said!
That was February 1980 by March 1980; armed robbery had become my source of income. I would head out after the dinner rush hour and stick-up fast food establishments. During my second heist, I was apprehended. The idea that I needed to get help with my alcohol and drug challenges began to emerge. In all honesty, something inside of me believed I was good. I wanted help however I was primarily motivated to stay out of jail.
I was arraigned on robbery 2 a class B felony. At the time it carried an 8-1/3 to 25 years prison term. Due to the fact that a handgun was involved the shortest sentence I could receive was a one-year sentence. After all was said and done a plea bargain agreement would have me sentenced to one year in County jail or a State sentence of 1 to 3 years in State prison. The sentence would be determined based upon my pre-sentence probation report.
The chips were down and now it was time to show whether I was a good kid or a bad kid. I was instructed to stay away from the fellows I had been arrested with and I was prohibited from drinking alcohol or using any illegal substances. So as any reasonably minded young man would do, I attended the probation hearing with my friend that had been arrested with me. We each drank an 8-pack of Budweiser minis and held up a seafood establishment with a shotgun on the way to the appointment.
A week before my sentencing hearing I was arrested again for several armed robberies. I figured my dad was right, never good to go bad! Now I sat in jail facing 175 years in prison. To anyone else in these circumstances fear may be an appropriate feeling yet for me it was relief. I was stopped, jail would do for me what I could not do myself.
Fortunately, after all was said and done I received a 7 year and 9 year sentence that would run concurrently. If all went well I could be released in 3 years. I mustered up the courage to embrace the good kid. I started by getting my GED, I began to attend church, I attended the self-help 12-step groups, I received counseling, vocational courses and anything that would help me to become what I knew I was.
Then I was afforded the opportunity to attend evening college courses in the prison. I honestly did not believe that I was smart enough. However, a friend encouraged me to try. Try I did. I started getting “A’s” and enjoying the experience. When it was time for my parole hearing I was released on parole due to my efforts.
In reality it took me a few more years to truly accept that I could no longer drink alcohol like others could. But I did eventually surrender to that fact and began a journey that has lead to a Masters Degree from Fordham University.
My Journey has led me to build an extensive human service background. I have been significantly involved in recovery based human service, alcoholism and substance abuse services, forensic services, case management with individuals recovering from mental health issues and recovery based program development. I played a significant role in the growth and development of Hands Across Long Island, Inc. the largest and most prominent consumer run mental health agency in the United States. I was contracted to co-author a NYS training manual and program for mental health and correctional service professionals working with parolees with “serious and persistent mental illness”.
Through the years I have been fortunate enough to be supervised and mentored professionally by some extremely gifted folks. I was offered flexibility and latitude to attempt methods of engagement and recovery services that were regarded as outside the box of traditional treatment. It has been through that flexibility and experiences that the Freedom Recovery Program has been created for the facilitation of positive self directed recovery from alcoholism and drug addictions.