For what seems like the umpteenth time in the last two years, our family is undergoing a major transition. A little less than 2 weeks ago, Mike was transferred from his previous DOC facility seven hours away from home in the Florida panhandle to a community custody rehab facility that is a 40 minute drive away in Daytona Beach.
We’d known this move was coming for quite some time, as it was something that was approved by DOC back in October. The wait was excruciating as we expected it to happen much much faster than it eventually did. We lived in a state of constant suspense about when it would happen for over 5 months, since inmates aren’t allowed to know when they are moving for security reasons. By the time it finally happened we’d been waiting in such a state of high expectation for so long that it seemed hard to believe that it finally was real!
Bridget had not seen her Daddy since Halloween due to a combination of her health making long-distance travel difficult for her and the environment at the previous facility being not appropriate for her to visit in due to her autism and age. She can now visit every weekend and is so happy that she gets to go play games and read books with Daddy every Sunday! Last weekend, on our second visit as a family, she jumped out of her chair and ran across the visiting room yelling “Daddy!” when he came through the door. And Mike, for his part, takes absolute joy in getting completely trounced at Angelina Matching Game – and pretends not to notice her blatant cheating. (Her autistic quirks make her insistent that certain pairs be kept together, so she will steal them from us if we get one that she thinks should be with one she already has.) Bridget also insists on eating her lunch when Daddy eats his, even though his is brought to the visiting room and served at 10:30 or so in the morning. Watching them together is a beautiful thing.
So for the foreseeable future, I’ll be setting my alarm earlier on the weekend than I do during the week, to get to the center right at opening time and make the most of every minute we can have together.
More frequent visitation is not the only benefit of Mike’s new location. This rehab program is one-of-a-kind in Florida DOC, very difficult to get into and the best substance abuse treatment that DOC has to offer. The facility is privately-run under contract to DOC by a local mental health company. We believe that being there is the best possible way for Mike to complete the rest of his sentence while receiving help for the issues that brought him to DOC in the first place. The program is designed so that Mike should complete 9 months of rehab and then transition into doing work release for the remaining 10 months of his sentence while housed at the same facility, assuming bed space allows.
This transition is a giant step forward for all of us, the first positive progress we’ve had since the day that this personal hell started almost 2 years ago. (Wow, is it hard to believe it has been that long since all of this started…) Mike is now in a much more humane setting than his previous location. Community custody means no fence, more comfortable living conditions, and less security hassle for Bridget and I when we visit. In a few weeks when his orientation period is complete, Mike will be wearing street clothes for most of his day (unfortunately, not for visitation, so Bridget and I will continue to see him only in his DOC blues). He’s being treated like a person, and being given the tools he needs to fix his life and move forward in a positive manner.
This sure isn’t over by a long haul…we aren’t even halfway through his sentence yet. But it sure feels today like we’ve made major progress in the right direction for the first time since the day this started. Thanks to everyone whose expressed their support as we have fought our way through this battle. It means more than you’ll ever know.