Success Stories – Robert

I’ve located another amazing transformation story for you today!
Read on Readers!

Introduction to Robert:

Robert Gallant grew up in a troubled environment, where he became a dysfunctional alcoholic at a young age. Under his drunken exterior hid a heart of gold and a sparkling brilliance, however, his life brought him through many tragic events, caused by a series of bad choices, including three years of homelessness. After a life-altering event that led to his incarceration for an extended period of time, he turned his life around, let his heart and his brilliance shine for all to see, and never looked back. His life of destructive addictions is no more. Through a dedication to self-improvement and education he has become an accomplished public speaker, author, mentor, and leader. He is ALB and ACB Certified from Toastmaster’s International, and is pursuing an ongoing education in Christian care and counseling. He recently completed the necessary classes to become a Certified Peer Specialist, volunteers as a Life Coach at a prison re-entry center, and just recently was asked to possibly join the National Alliance to End Homelessness! He currently lives as a happily married man, with an amazing family. His goal is to help others find the same success and peace he has gained.

The Interview:

Aza -. What charges/convictions have you faced, and how did they initially impact your life?

Robert – During my life, I have faced a multitude of criminal charges. They all had one thing in common – they stemmed from my addiction to alcohol. The various charges I have faced have had different degrees of impacts upon my existence, depending on where I was in life, and what I “had going for me.” There was also one common thread that ran through the impacts – every charge made me feel worthless, ashamed, and hopeless. It didn’t matter if it was something as minor as the many “drinking in public” charges I picked up when I was homeless, or the most serious one – 2nd degree murder. This last one forced me to face myself, and who I had become. This was not me. I was a boy, and then a man, with hopes and dreams – someone who cried at those commercials that play sad songs while they show you pictures of homeless puppies. I loved life, and everything it represented. This inner reflection was the beginning of healing.

Aza –  What was the factor in your earlier life that really drove you ‘into the bottle’ so to speak?
Robert – At first, I drank just to fit in. All my “friends” were doing it and I wanted to be accepted. It didn’t dawn on me later on in life that the REAL problem was that I wanted to be accepted – by anyone who would have me. My Dad abandoned my Mom and I when I was 11 years old. When I later reflected on my life while I was incarcerated, I learned that ever since my Dad left us, I had a deep longing for acceptance – for a family. That longing led me to become something, and someone, I wasn’t. I left behind my true self to search for wholeness at the bottom of a bottle, and the many people I falsely called “friends.”

Aza –  What was the changing point in your life, what was it that catalyzed your transformation?
Robert – The thing that catalyzed my transformation cannot be pinpointed to one exact moment. I can only give credit to God. I grew up as a “good little Catholic boy,” so I always knew OF God. I didn’t truly get to know Him until I became homeless. During my time as a vagabond, I met this one homeless man who didn’t drink or do any drugs. He was always happy and content. I wanted to learn his secret, so I started hanging around him. It turned out that his joy came from God. He spent every morning alone in prayer as he read the Bible. He was literally high on the life that only comes from God. I began to change as I hung around him more. I actually stopped drinking for a few months. It was so amazing! I found joy in reading the Bible, singing hymns, and just enjoying the world that God created for us. This peace unfortunately didn’t last. I eventually started drinking again, and ended up in prison for my involvement in my friend’s death. It was at that somber time that I realized two people died for my sins – Jesus Christ, and my friend. At that moment I made a promise that their blood would not be shed in vain. I confessed to my involvement, and left myself at the mercy of the court.

Aza –  What was the first step you took toward changing your life?

Robert – Confession. I had to admit to myself that I am absolutely nothing without God. With this basic admission, came the need to learn more about God. I ordered a Bible from the chaplain’s office, and read it cover to cover multiple times. I found like-minded people and began to fellowship. I also searched for any positive program I could take part in. I got my G.E.D., joined Toastmaster’s International, and began a very deep self-study into history, science, and other amazing topics. This time of small beginnings led to bigger and better things in my life. I eventually became president of my Toastmasters club. (This is a public speaking and leadership organization) I even became the president of an extensive rehabilitation center I was housed at for the last year of my sentence. I was voted into this office by my peers, and had the responsibility to govern and lead over 150 men that were housed there! Above all, I needed to find things about me that I could love, and that nobody could take away from me. I learned that I am an amazing public speaker. I have a deep love for God. I get up every day and do my best. Nobody can take these things away from me. I am no longer defined by other people’s acceptance of me. I am defined by how God, and myself see me.

Aza –  When did you realize that you had overcome your obstacles, or what let you know that you had really made a change in your life for the better?

Robert- Earlier this year my wife and I were going through a period of turmoil. We were experiencing so many crises at one time. My wife was hospitalized after she suffered a nervous breakdown stemming from trauma she suffered as a child, we were facing homelessness and bankruptcy, and I was waiting to find out if I got approved for medication to treat a potentially fatal disease I had contracted while I was an active addict. While my wife was hospitalized, my leadership and advocacy skills were given a chance to shine – and shine they did. Due to God’s unfailing mercy and love, He blessed me with the ability to navigate this huge storm. During the thick of the “battle”, a happy thought popped into my mind. Not once during this whole ordeal did the urge to drink come into my mind. I had been truly set free from my previous life. With a huge smile on my face, I said a prayer of thanksgiving to God. Fast forward to now – my wife is well on the road to recovery; I got approved for my medication, and am fully cured; we are happy home-owners; and we both have jobs we enjoy. Life is great, and God is good – all the time.

To learn more about Robert, please visit his website here: https://robertgallant.wordpress.com/
To check out Robert’s books, please visit his Amazon profile here: amazon.com/author/robertgallant
It is his utmost desire that you find much hope, inspiration, and growth from these works, and those to come.

I’d like to thank Robert again for his time, honesty, and openness. I also congratulate him for coming so far from such a painful life.

We each face huge challenges in our lives, but we can rise up and meet them, no matter our backgrounds. Keep moving forward!

Love and Peace
Aza

Our First Interview – Success Stories

Hey Readers! So, while I continue to put out more posts and constantly research, I’ve begun finding and meeting some awesome people.

And, guess what… They’re felons too, and have been able to find a pathway to overcome their personal struggles. And lots of us want to reach out to each other and help our brothers and sisters in the background struggle.

Here is my first interview with such an individual, let me introduce Lisa Forbes and her story:

  1. What was your first conviction, and what was the most influential factor in your life at that time?

I love this quote by Joyce Meyer:  “If you want to get over a problem, stop talking about it.  Your mind affects your mouth, and your mouth affects your mind.  It’s difficult to stop talking about a situation until you stop thinking about it.”

What is a matter of public record is a matter of public record.  But I don’t have to keep giving life to it by talking about it.  The world was created by words, and is maintained by words.

After 18 years, I have so re-defined myself that I have no interest in discussing the past.  I am, however, writing a memoir, and for two reasons.  The first is to put the past in perspective.  Secondly, I would love for all the details that it will include to give readers who have endured similar events the certainly that they are not alone, that other people can relate, and that they, too, can choose to not be permanently impacted by the past.

The most influential factor in my life at that time was having been traumatized sexually, religiously, and emotionally throughout my childhood and into adulthood.

 

  1. What was the catalyzing moment in your life that brought you to make positive changes and begin your current path?

When I realized that in my terrible marriage, I had recreated my childhood – right down to marrying a man who was the same age as my father.   Trauma had me stuck in a behavioral loop.  I repeatedly entered relationships with people who treated me as I had always been treated at home.  I had to accept the fact that some part of me needed to feel worthy of a better life.  I had to choose to believe that God loves me.  I had to stop punishing myself.  I had to stop feeling guilty because I had been declared guilty.  I had to forgive myself and move on.  Acceptance of that led me to understanding the impact of trauma, and the extent to which being in a traumatized state was preventing me from changing.  I want to emphasize that these realizations came about as a result of a lot of reading and studying and praying for help.  I was able to research these things and then reach out for help.  I realize that a lot of people aren’t in that position.  And that is the gap where I would like to stand – to do that for those people who aren’t able to do close that gap without a little help.

 

  1. What has or will define your success as a restored recruiter?

Restored recruiter is a term that no longer applies to me, and I need to update my social media accounts.  At one time I had a vision of working with restored citizens to help them enter the job market on the level at which they were actually qualified, rather than assuming that all they could get were low-paying, entry-level jobs.  Many restored citizens have taken every class and gotten every degree they could get while they were inside.  They are more educated than some people who have never been on the inside, and they are quite capable of doing something besides being grateful for a minimum-wage job.  Many restored citizens have street skills that are easily transferrable to the business world.  I envisioned focusing on highly skilled but under-employed restored citizens and connecting them to the workforce.  However, I realized that trauma often underlies the reasons why people can get jobs but not keep them, or get housing but not keep it.  Therefore, my focus has shifted to trauma resolution.  It is well known now that trauma can affect one’s beliefs about the future, leading to loss of hope, limited expectations about life, fear that life will end abruptly or early, or anticipation that normal life events won’t occur (e.g., access to education, ability to have a significant and committed relationship, good opportunities for work).  We see this in many large sectors of the population, but we don’t connect it to trauma.  So we do things like have job fairs and government programs.  Then we wonder why we keep seeing the same people in the same situations over and over again, many of them for years.  Without resolving the underlying trauma, ultimately their lives will not change.  Working with restored citizens to resolve their trauma is now my primary focus.

 

  1. Any hints or tips for the Readers?

 

It’s not popular, but my advice is to recognize that no permanent change comes by way of other people.  Permanent change starts on the inside and then becomes manifest outside.  If trauma is not acknowledged and resolved, the person is not healed and whole even if they happen to have a job and a place to live.

 

  1. Any additional information you’d like to share with us today?

My goal is to help people become whole.  I can share the specific techniques that I use to do that with anyone who is personally interested.  If anyone is interested, they should contact you and request further information regarding my specific work in this area.

 

And so concludes our first interview. Huge thanks to Lisa for sharing her story and offering a helping hand to those who desire it.

Please feel free to contact me at azarathias alternatives at zoho dot com (gotta make it harder on spammers, it’s working so far!) to learn more about how to contact Lisa for her services.

I hope you enjoyed it, and found some hope in your own future success!

Peace and Love

-Aza

Catching Up

Hello my glorious Readers!

After a couple weeks of non-stop work, I finally finagled a day off this week. I’ve picked up a couple extra jobs (surprisingly in the same business) and as the business is currently short-staffed… well, I’ve barely had time to even look at my poor, now – forlorn laptop.

I’m even about a week behind on the new edits for the book, ‘Finding Freedom’. I landed a small publishing deal with a U.S. based publishing company. It’s something totally new for me, but I can’t wait to reap the rewards of being able to reach more people with the helpful information I’ve compiled.

We are also waiting on responses from a couple of my new connections (thank you social media) so I can begin sharing more success stories of fellow felons. I’m so grateful for all of the support from my cohorts in #FelonsAreHumans (Facebook Group – check it out if you haven’t found it yet). When you do, give a shout-out to Jolene for creating the group that has been so helpful to so many people.

Everyone I’ve met recently has been so excited and helpful, and I love finding additional pathways for us to improve our lives after our convictions. For example, something new that I hope to apply to the lovely Felony Rehabilitation Program is Neuro-Linguistic Programming. It’s basically a mind-hack that can help push us to be our best selves. I still have a lot of research to do in this area though, but I’m very excited to have been introduced to this concept as a viable addition to the program. Big thanks to Leslie for that!

That’s all I have for you guys currently, but don’t forget to check out some of the older posts, and please check out my personal version of “Finding Freedom” – which is now FREE on Smashwords!!!

Much Love and Best Wishes!

Aza

 

 

 

Feeling Hopeless? (Spreading Success)

Hey Readers! It’s been a busy, crazy couple of weeks for me and mine. Late deep cleaning of the house, multiple new room-mates – including a beautiful doggy, and new installments at my day job. It’s been an adjustment, but we’re muddling through.

Speaking of adjustments, one thing that I recall from my early years of felon-hood – is that feeling of hopelessness. Well, hopelessness and a lot of anger, but we’ll focus on the sad and lost bit today.

I’m here today to let you know that even with a felony record, you can still have a good, normal life. I’ve been expanding my network recently, and I’ve met a few really awesome people that have overcome their conviction based obstacles. I’ve also met some people that were still very upset with the limitations they perceived as a felon. I want to help reduce the stress that comes with this ‘social brand’ ( the whole – we might as well have a giant red F on our shirts – kind of idea).

For instance, I joined Reddit recently and am participating in the /ExCons, /Felons, and /exConvicts subreddits. One recent post was entirely focused on the negative aspects of having a felony.

And it really felt like a punch to the gut…. and then… I realized, wait… I’ve DONE half the things on this ‘felons can’t do it’ list. And I posted in response to let the poster know what I had accomplished in spite of my felony background. I might not have done all the things on their list of frustrations, but I couldn’t just sit there and let this person make more people frustrated with their post.

Now, this is not to say that there are no limitations in our lives, especially early on after our conviction, but that only lasts for a short time. And honestly, it’s a good period for reflection and learning about yourself and how to hone in on your strengths so that you can dazzle employers and landlords with the fact that you’ve improved yourself.

So, the best way I’ve figured to help lift up some of you that might be feeling hopeless, is to give examples of those who have overcome the obstacles we felons face.

My best friend was convicted as a manufacturer 12 years ago, she now owns her own home, has three beautiful kids, and is in medical coding. She’s also been totally clean for a decade – huge kudos to her!

A friend was convicted of multiple felony fraud charges 4 years ago, he now makes 12 grand a month selling cars.

A relative has multiple assault charges, and has been able to become a well paid hygienist.

I’ve met numerous new acquaintances recently who have just finished their associates and bachelors degrees, who have just paid off their homes, and who have earned their rights to their children back as well.  On top of all this, I also just read about a felon that became a judge (public office is NOT off limits for most of us!).

Now, while our situations are all different, I have to say that it would seem we are NOT as hopeless and limited as we sometimes feel. I’m not saying the path to success for my friends, family, and new acquaintances was easy in any way.

What I am saying – is that success is possible – however you define it for yourself – IT CAN HAPPEN.

Turn away from hopelessness, find the light within yourself, and find the thing that fuels you to become better than your background.

That’s all for today guys, thank you so much for stopping by! Don’t forget to check out some older posts while you’re here, and feel free to comment or even send a message if you need some individualized guidance. I’m here to help and I love each and every one of you for being strong enough to find your path to freedom.

Peace and Love – Aza

Why I work Part time

Hey Reader! I’m back again.

Recently, my employer asked me why I’ve stayed with the job I have, even after graduating college.

I pondered this a bit, and my response was based on this: Flexibility.

While the income is pretty good, it doesn’t really quite cut it for my lifestyle, and I’m always asking for more hours as long as he needs the work done. However, I value the flexibility to work on my own projects and spend time with my family more than I value the extra income I could be making if I moved to a full time position with another company.

I’ve had a lot of full time jobs over the years, but I hated that I was always exhausted and grumpy from being at work literally all day. Typically with people that hated their jobs too, and reinforced how crappy our days were every single day. (It doesn’t help you to like your job when your co-workers hate theirs even more than you) I found that I needed to change jobs more often, simply to keep myself from slipping into that hateful mindset of ‘this is all I have, I have to do it’. But changing jobs is more difficult for felons. I got tired of going through so many interviews just to find a new position.

Then I found my current job. It’s part time and I can change my schedule to fit my needs for the most part. There are some days that I can’t change, but it’s flexible enough to let me work around it. In any other job, I ‘d have a rigid schedule that would work me to the bone and would not allow me to do anything toward my own goals.

With the part time job I have now, (almost a year now), I have been able to write over 80 thousand words for the books that I’ve been working on. I have been able to build freelance jobs online that I’m passionate about. And I have more time with my family which lets me be a better parent instead of a tired, cranky, inattentive one that is falling asleep in her spot on the couch and too worried about some deadline that could get her fired.

That’s all for today, I hope you enjoyed it. More to come soon, as I’m still working on two books that I hope will be released by the end of the year.

If you’re a struggling felon, check out my first book: Finding Freedom here:  https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/735122

 

Finding Freedom (Pre-Release)

Hey Readers! I’ve got my first book on pre-release at Smashwords!

I’m excited and nervous, and all sorts of amped up about this!

The book, Finding Freedom, is a sort of guide book for felons on how to find their path to freedom again. It’s based largely on my own experiences and on a lot of research that I’ve done over the last decade or so while trying to forge my own path back to society.

I’ve also included basic outlines of laws from state to state in the United States, which will be most helpful to those who have stayed out of trouble for at least three to five years and have only a few convictions on their records.

And guess what! You guys get a private coupon code to use so you can pre-order the book for only $1.00 (USD) !

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Just find the book at your favorite ebook retailer, and when you’re in the checkout, enter the code above to get your copy for just one buck. It expires with the pre-order period, so act fast to get it at this great price!

I’ll be back soon with more updates!

Love and peace,

Aza

Staying in a Positive Mindset

Hey Reader! In light of recent conversations, I thought it would be a good idea to bring up how important it is to maintain a positive mindset.

Sure, we’re in some tight spots because of our pasts, and we’re all facing different and very difficult situations, but we are – in fact – surviving, if not thriving.

One of the biggest parts of realizing that ‘thriving’ feeling, or that sense of ‘Hey, things aren’t actually half bad!’, is your mindset. You can be living in your car on food stamps or the food pantry and still living on those noodles that you ‘cook’ in a cleaned out peanut butter jar and some hot water from the tea area of the closest gas station. Guess what, you still have some sort of shelter and some sort of food. It isn’t optimal, but it’s available.

Now, I know that sounds sort of rough, but I grew up in a home where my mother was disabled with a neurological disease from the time she was 18, and she always reminded herself (and me) that things could always be worse. While she was learning to deal with her cane, she reminded herself that she could be using a walker. Once she progressed to the walker, she reminded herself that she could be in a wheelchair. Now, her situation is one of those that only really gets worse over time (she’s still going strong, in case you’re wondering – she’ll be 68 this fall and is still in her own home). In our cases, at least in the felony sense of them, things can only really get better. You know what I mean?

Over time, more options will become available to us when it comes to jobs and housing, especially when we finally recognize that we don’t want to keep adding charges to our records. You simply have to learn to be patient and resourceful, and using a positive mindset is the best way to do that.

This is especially important during the ever stressful time of probation and parole periods. It’s rough when you basically lose control over your life and have to change so much about yourself. It’s a natural response to something that is basically unnatural for us, but we have to remember that the very fact that we are dealing with this situation is a giant clue shouting that we need to change our lifestyle in order to get anywhere in our life. The people that we have as our probation and parole officers are often there to help us, even if  they might be on a power trip of some sort (I’ve met some, but it seems that the majority really are nice people intent on guiding us to some sort of successful life). And it’s important to remember that they have bad days too. We’re all human. Try to be understanding of the protocols they and you need to follow, those guidelines are typically there for a good reason, you simply need to focus on using this time to improve yourself and learn about the resources they can provide you with to get you back on track.

That’s all for now guys, I’m so glad to have you and I hope it’s been helpful so far. Til next time, and take care to stay positive and rise above!

-Aza

Part Two Work Flexibility

Welcome back reader, here is Part Two of being Flexible with Work

Here are some more pointers that I have used successfully, and some more of my experiences in the workforce as a felon.

I also attempt to be very up front with companies even if they don’t run background checks. At every single interview, I will bring up the fact that I am a felon, what my conviction was, and what I’ve done since my conviction. Now, half the time, it bites me in the arse. I won’t lie about that either. A good portion of people that were ready to hire me on the spot, immediately withdrew their hand or waved me off impatiently as if I had wasted their time. (No consideration of the expenses I’d made toward fuel for travelling to the interview, my own time, and the often suffocating feeling of defeat they dealt me, mind you.) However, it’s also won over a number of hiring managers, and they’ve been willing to put their arse on the line for me. This technique, a disposition toward being open and honest, has by far given me the most job opportunities. And thanks to the steadily shifting job market, I have had repeated opportunities to test and re-test this method.

As for the jobs that I have held, they include the first post-conviction mystery job (ha, thought I was going to tell didn’t you?), waitressing, bar-tending, and then an intensive dive into the automotive industry. My most stable positions have been in the automotive industry by far, as I personally have the knack for it (all three, [yes, three] parents were aviators and both fathers were mechanics with histories of being mechanics in their heritage). I’ve also found that call centers and transcribing jobs are generally willing to work with felons (thanks to very strict rules within the call centers, so be prepared if that is a strong option for you).

I also highly recommend attempting to get your work history built up through temporary labor agencies. They are not the greatest jobs by far, but they will provide an income, and more importantly an avenue to better jobs to come. The more experience that you can get in a number of jobs, the more you can give to the next job that you really want. Some of the places will require a very intense dedication, as some places get clogged with substance abusers who will start a line at the door at 4 am (when the door doesn’t open until 6 am, just to get the jump on the day’s list of needed workers. And even if you do get in line early, you may not be asked to take a job for over a week, and still have to come into the agency each morning. Other labor agencies will add you to a larger compiled list of possible employees, and once they get to a job that you might be matched with, they will call you. This is a safer investment of time, but may take much longer to find work that works with you.

Now, since the last fluctuation in the automotive job market locally and my first ever lay-off from a job, I’ve been super busy finding a million different ways to free-lance and to be independent of the normal work schedule. Now, Craigslist is a fair option here as well to find and advertise any services you might want to offer, but beware of scammers! (I was hit by one myself, and ended up with a loss of nearly 3k. that I have to pay off)

Between Fiverr gigs (I offer homemade runes, writing research, and psychology based discussion/tutoring), UpWork jobs (typing is a must here as most of it is writing about various things), numerous independent services I offer locally (cleaning, light automotive maintenance, yardwork) , and a part-time driving and stocking job, I can get by on the bills while I further my education in psychology. And along with another special certificate that will be discussed soon (because it’s great for every felon to find their professional niche in their new life) I will be able to gain access to jobs that will pay at least 30 grand a year and can push it even higher depending on how much I put into my work.

I may not have made it to that ultimate tipping point where I know I will be successful, at least in providing for my family the way I want, but I know that I’m working on it. And I have the experiences and the dedication that will push me to that point. I know I won’t give up, and you shouldn’t either.

Getting Bonded (Insured at Work)

Hey there Reader, thanks for coming back! We’re going to cover another topic today, one which can really help you sell yourself to the various employers that might be on the fence for hiring you.

It’s called the Federal Bonding Program, and it won’t cost you or your employer a single cent and it lasts for six whole months.

This particular pro-tip isn’t just for felons, it can be used by those who have substance abuse issues, those who are on various forms of welfare, those with poor credit (for those pesky jobs that evaluate every aspect of your personal life), those with little to no work history and those who were discharged from the military without the honorable discharge.

The great thing about this is how easy it is to get started. You can use this link (http://bonds4jobs.com/our-services/job-seekers) to get more information about how to get started or to grab information to take with you to your next interview.

In line with this program, I’ve also heard that many factory jobs receive tax incentives for hiring felons, so if you have a healthy enough body for that kind of work, you may have much better luck finding employment through one of your local factories.