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Downshifting

2022 was a weird year.


First, the breast cancer. Then the end of my marriage. I spent the first half of the year trying to reinvent? no. Rediscover myself.


Then tragedy struck.


My son had a severe mental health crisis. Drunk and suicidal, he called 911 for help. When the police finally showed up two hours later, they arrested him. The ATF came in to investigate the guns. He spent 25 days in Shelby County jail, doing 23-and-1s, otherwise known as "solitary confinement," before they allowed him to make bail and go into a mental health facility.


All of his weapons were legal, except one non-transferable piece that belonged to his dad. In January, he pled guilty to a federal firearms charge.


I spent so many months preparing myself for the fact that my son was probably going to do time in a federal prison. Trying to find acceptance. I researched prisons in my area that we could request, so that I could visit him. All the plans we could make for him to put this behind him and begin the next chapter of his life were just penciled in as we waited to see what would happen next.


I spent the second half of the year in a state of suspended animation.


The sentencing hearing was an intense rollercoaster of emotions. The prosecutor argued that this wasn't like he got pulled over and the cops found an illegal weapon in the car. There were extenuating circumstances. Something really horrible could have happened.


The judge interrupted her to ask, "This is what I'm having trouble with. If he made the 911 call at 2 a.m., hadn't he already abandoned any plans he may have had to do something really horrible?"


That was my first glimmer of hope.


She was a very fair judge - which we had heard about her. She had read everything our attorney submitted, referencing specifics in the hearing.


She listened to my statement. I stumbled over the word "irrevocably" when I talked about how my family's lives have been changed. I begged her to allow my son to continue his recovery work.


She listened to my son's statement. Then she addressed each of the sentencing guidelines: nature & characteristics of the offense; acceptance of responsibility; prior criminal history; cooperation with the government; punishment. She made note of items he said in his statement as they applied to the guidelines.


Then she got really quiet. For a very long time.


Our attorney has been doing this for 45 years and says that he can count on one hand the number of times the judge had not already decided on a sentence prior to entering the courtroom.


She gave it all very careful consideration.


She sentenced him to time served and three years supervised release.


(That's like probation, but it's imposed as a substitute for imprisonment, whereas probation is imposed in addition to imprisonment.)


I collapsed in tears.


No. Prison.


It's almost like my synapses don't know how to process it. It's like when you're in college, and you've just finished your last exam for the semester. And you don't know how to just sit, because you can't escape the feeling that there's a book you should be reading, notes you should be studying, a paper you should be writing. An inability to downshift.


The events of that night have dominated my life for eight months. I'm at a complete loss for where I was before it happened. For where I'm meant to be now.


I remember that I was grieving. Walking through the immense loss from my mastectomy and the end of my marriage. I don't think I go back there. I was working on writing my next chapter. I have to pick up that pen again.


There needs to be rest. And healing. My brain will need some time to form new connections outside the realms of grief and fear and sadness. I have to slow down. And downshift.

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