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

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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

 

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 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 be 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. I’ve been there too. 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 (it definitely survive mode), 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 eventually progressed to needing the walker, she reminded herself that she could be in a wheelchair. Now, her situation is one of those that only really get worse over time (she’s still going strong, in case you’re wondering – she’ll be 69 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 have to learn to be patient and resourceful, and using a positive mindset is one of the best ways to do that.

This is especially important during the extremely stressful time we often have during probation and parole periods. I know my own time with intense supervision wasn’t pleasant but after ten years, I realize that it was actually helpful.

I know it’s rough when you basically lose control over your life and have to change so much about yourself in a short period of time. I know it made me crazy angry to have to bend to another’s will – it’s sort of a natural response to intense control over your life, but we have to remember that the very fact that we are dealing with that supervision – is a giant clue shouting at us that we need to change our lifestyle in order to get anywhere in our life.

The people that we have (or have had) 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 that were like this, but it seems that the majority are actually nice people who are intent on guiding us to some sort of successful life after we’ve screwed up enough to end up in their office). And it’s important to remember that they have bad days too (you think customer service is a pain – try living a day in a PO’s life).

The important thing to remember is that we’re all human. Try to be understanding of the protocols they and you need to follow, those guidelines and requirements are typically there for a good reason, you simply need to focus on using this time (and their constant prodding) 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 the rest!

-Aza

Part Two Work Flexibility

Welcome back reader, let’s dig into part two of work flexibility.

I attempt to be very upfront with companies even if they don’t run background checks. (I know I mentioned this before, but I gotta repeat it)

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 directly 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 traveling 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 over the years, 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 for information – no phones, no papers, no writing utensils, etc ).

More recently, I just ended my two-year employment with a local blind vendor (these guys have programs in every state). It was a great job, but my car crapped out so I’m back to freelancing (see my Extra Work from Home post for more on that!)

I also highly recommend attempting to get your work history built up through temporary labor agencies when you have one available to you. 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 any sort of employment, the more you can give to the next job that you really want. Some of the day labor 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, you’ll have to come into the agency each morning until you get to know the dispatchers behind the desk.

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.

That’s all I can think of, for now. But keep checking back for more!

Love and Peace,
Aza

 

Getting Bonded (Insured at Work)

Hey there, thanks for coming back!

We’re going to cover another topic today, one which can really help you sell yourself (in the best way possible) to the various employers that might be on the fence for hiring you thanks to that pesky background check.

While it’s tempting to cover up your background, it’s better to come out up front about it (more on this later, I promise). There’s a good reason for this:

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.

That’s all I’ve got on Federal Bonding, but it’s definitely worth more investigation if you’re having issues with getting past the interviews for work.

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter me!)