Like many of you reading this blog post, I've had my fair share of disasters in life, but what I've learned from the bad times was that no matter how awful things got, I could always reinvent myself. We can all reinvent ourselves, but whether it's for better or worse, only you can decide.
Gary resides in New York City, and I met him a couple of years ago when he appeared as a guest in my then literary show "The Lit Chick Show". Since that time, Gary and I have bumped into one another through the social media, and I decided to invite Gary for an interview on Sylvia Says. I believe if anyone can give us an example of facing adversity, overcoming obstacles and despair, and coming out on the other side with a smile and a lot to give, it is Gary Goldstein.
SM: Gary, thank you for being a guest on Sylvia Says. Do you think writing Jew in Jail was a cathartic experience for you?
GG: Thank you, Sylvia. Good to be here. As to your question--yes, writing Jew in Jail absolutely was a cathartic experience, especially since I wrote it AS I was serving my sentence!
SM: How was this experience cathartic?
GG: It allowed me to become very introspective and think about why I had become the way I was, as far as not having any self-esteem and self-confidence, and why I was resorting to alcohol, drugs and gambling in order to step out of my reality.
SM: Like many people who've been through trauma, whether it be from an accident, a death in the family, drug addiction, etc, can you describe a time when you felt the lowest you could ever be and how you pulled out of it?
GG: Yes, and this is a very good question. It was when I finally decided that I had enough of my "revolving door" lifestyle on the morning of October 31, 2007.
Even though I spent nearly six years behind bars, I did suffer one last relapse 18 months after coming home in 2004, because I had decided and justified that I "deserved" to get high as a result of everything I had been through and dealt with.
However, when I woke up on October 31, 2007, and realized that I felt like a rat in maze and was never going to amount to anything in life unless I finally cleaned up my act and got help for my addictions, I walked over to the Coney Island Hospital Chemical Dependency Outpatient Drug Treatment Program and voluntarily signed in.
Long story short, I remained six months longer than was necessary, and today serve as the alumni committee president.
In addition, this has led to my becoming a motivational & inspirational speaker, and I get to help other recovering addicts at drug programs, hospital detoxes, jails, schools, etc., and get tremendous satisfaction out of passing the message of hope onto those who need it.
GG: Just finally realizing and believing that I was born with greatness - like I tell others when I speak - and that my accomplishments, including college degrees, career in print and broadcast journalism, intelligence, wit, personality and life experience necessitated that I do my best to live up to my full potential.
That, plus the fact that I have a very loving and supportive family and friends who refused to get down on me, even when I was very much down on myself!
SM: How did it feel to be in jail?
GG: It felt degrading, embarrassing and humiliating. Of course, I obviously had nobody else to blame for it happening but myself.
However, after being stripped of my dignity, I slowly but surely began to dig out from the desperation my life had become, and started to work out, tutor other inmates in the school, go to the general and law libraries, lay in the sun out in the yard, and, of course, write "Jew in Jail!"
So, my point is that even under these horrible conditions of being behind bars, it is possible to overcome anything in life, and end up a better person.
GG: I want people to understand that, no matter who you are, where you come from, your economic status, or any other factor, addiction is a disease that can affect anyone, and does not discriminate.
Furthermore, I also want people to realize that, regardless of what kind of a tough time they might be going through, they are never alone as there are always people who have experienced the same thing themselves and are willing to help.
Simply put, never be ashamed to ask for help, and never be too proud to admit that you need help in life, because we are all human beings and make mistakes.
SM: If you could go back in time, what would you change about your life?
GG: This is another very good question, and I would say that I would just never take anything for granted, like I did when I was growing up.
I would also appreciate everything I had as a kid, including a great family, friends, education, career after graduation, and just basically know that I could have been whatever I wanted to be in life, as long as I maintained my self-esteem and self-confidence, which, sadly, wasn't the case.
SM: You entitled your book "Jew in Jail". Is this because of the faith you were born into and you were identifying with it, or because you suffered discrimination because of your faith?
GG: Both actually, although more of the second, as I was definitely subjected to a lot of discrimination while incarcerated.
SM: What is your next project?
GG: Aside from continuing to promote "Jew in Jail," and deliver motivational & inspirational speeches in order to help others, I am very interested in getting my own radio and/or television show so I can empower people to always be their best.
I truly believe that I can help so many people achieve their goals by instilling in them a sense of greatness, and letting them know and realize that nothing can stop them from succeeding in life as long as they remain diligent, hard working, and focused.
SM: I wish you well with your book, Gary, and once again, thank you for being a guest on my blog.
GG: My pleasure, and thank you.