TEDxNorthAdams: Craig Stanland: How I Learned My Greatest Worth in Prison
Craig Stanland is a member of our White Collar Support Group that meets online on Zoom on Monday evenings, 7:00 pm ET, 6:00 pm CT, 5:00 pm MT, 4:00 pm PT. We celebrated our 200th consecutive weekly online meeting on Monday, April 13, 2020.
October 1st, 2013
You have one unheard voicemail.
“Mr. Stanland, this is special agent McTiernan with the FBI. We are at your residence and have a warrant for your arrest. You will need to call us and come home immediately, or we will issue an APB with the Federal Marshall’s for your arrest.”
This is how my journey began.
For just under a year, I committed fraud against one of the largest technology companies in the world. I discovered a loophole in their warranty policy and exploited it for my financial gain.
Read more below…
I was already by most standard definitions, successful. I owned a few homes, beautiful cars, expensive watches. I was a VIP at some of the best restaurants in Greenwich and Manhattan.
I was married to an incredible and amazing woman.
I did not need to do what I did.
But, I was not worthy of my amazing wife. I was not worthy of my success. I was not enough, and I was empty.
Unworthiness and emptiness transformed into greed.
I knew what I was doing was wrong; the voice inside told me not to do it. It begged and pleaded, and I ignored it, burying my head in the sand.
Drinking to excess and buying everything I could get my hands on in a desperate attempt to fill that void. I was too blind to see I was trying to fill a broken glass.
I plead guilty to one count of mail fraud, received a twenty-four-month sentence, three years of supervised release, and was ordered to pay restitution.
I lost everything: my homes, my career, my cars, my watches.
I lied to my wife and told her what I was doing was “OK.”
I broke trust in our marriage, and she left me.
Who I was as a person had become so inextricably tied to my things and my ability to purchase those things that without them, I had no idea who I was.
I had no identity other than being the man who blew up his life and the life of the woman he loves.
Any sense of self-worth, which was shaky to begin to, had vanished.
I was fortunate. I was assigned to Otisville Federal Prison Camp. My safety was never a concern, and all things considered, it was actually a pretty setting.
Picnic tables surrounded by nature and wildlife. The deer would almost eat out of my hands. The goose with the broken wing did eat out of my hands. My fellow inmates were some of the most interesting people I have ever had the pleasure of meeting.
But the mind is a prison we cannot escape.
Shame cast its long shadow over me, and soon, I was consumed. I couldn’t break free from its suffocating grip.
Shame for the hell I know my wife is experiencing. She was working fourteen-hour back-breaking days, just to keep a roof over her head and food in the fridge.
The pain I hear in her voice when we speak, it’s raw and visceral. It’s the most authentic expression of suffering from someone who’s been hurt more than they knew it was possible to hurt.
To often we are hurt the most by the people we love the most.
Shame for the arrogance I displayed with my family and friends. Shame for not listening to the voice in my heart.
That voice is gone, I ignored it for too long, and it has abandoned me.
Shame for who I had become. Shame for being blind to what truly matters to me. Shame for understanding too late that it’s not things. It’s not money or job titles.
Sometimes the most beautiful things in life are, at their core, simple.
Love. Family. Friends. Joy. Experiences. Creativity. Honesty. Integrity. Time. Freedom.
With every thought wrapped in shame, my monkey mind created the vision of what my suicide would look like.
I’m in a dark, dingy basement, pistol in my mouth, I pull the trigger, pieces of brain and skull plaster the wall behind me.
My mind played this image over and over on a perpetual loop for four months straight.
Every night, just after the ten o’clock count, as I rested my head on the pillow, I would pray. To anyone or anything who would listen,
“Why won’t it stop? Why won’t it stop? Please make it fucking stop……”
Begging and pleading. Each night the same prayer, and every morning the same disappointment when the light of a new day kissed my eyes.
Four months of unanswered prayers.
I smiled and pretended, everything was OK. I was afraid to share with anyone what I was feeling. Rumors were swirling around about what happens to inmates who speak of suicide. Solitary confinement, getting shipped out to a mental facility.
I bottled it up and kept it in. The tighter I closed the lid, the more the pain grew.
This was when I began planning how I would kill myself. This is the power of shame. This was my rock-bottom.
A well-timed, out of the blue, visit from my best friend of thirty years turned everything around in an instant.
Sean showed me I had worth, outside of what I had always believed made me worthy. I was not my property or possessions.
My value, my worth, was in being a friend, and nothing more.
It was from this day on that I began to rebuild and reinvent my life.
I guess my prayers were answered. Fortunately, not the way I was asking for.
It’s been six years of rebuilding and reinventing. Ups and downs. Disappointments and failures and massive successes.
My life is no longer tied to my things or my ability to purchase those things.
It is built on a foundation of:
I am enough. I am worthy. I love myself. I trust myself. I accept myself, truly, deeply, and unconditionally.
I live in a state of abundance and gratitude.
When we have a foundation rooted in these, we no longer need anything outside of ourselves to feel whole.
We are whole.
My term of supervised release ended on May 9th, 2019. About a month afterward, I was asked a question.
“If you had an opportunity to change your life, to do things differently, would you?”
I thought about it-the pain, the suffering, the shame, consumed by the vision of killing myself.
My response came from deep within, from the truest expression of myself,
“There is not enough money in the world for me to change a thing. I am exactly where I am meant to be, doing what I am meant to be doing. This has turned into the greatest gift I have ever received.”
My mission now is to help people whose lives have fallen apart rebuild and reinvent their lives.
I’m a Reinvention Architect. I help my clients start over so they can have the extraordinary life they’ve always wanted.
I offer a free Start Over Strategy Session. On this call, we’ll identify what an extraordinary life for you looks like and uncover challenges that are holding you back from reinventing your life.
You’ll leave this call with actionable next steps to start rebuilding and reinventing your extraordinary life now.
If you’re interested, schedule the call here.
I’d be honored if you watched my TEDx. If it resonates with you, can you please share it with someone you think may need to hear it?
A huge thank you to Jeff and the Progressive Prison Ministries for all the support pre and post-prison and for this opportunity to share.
To have a safe place in a time of uncertainty is a blessing.
Originally published at https://prisonist.org.