1. I didn’t use a fork for a few weeks. Ate everything with a spoon without thinking.
2. Trading food. When I got out, I asked my girlfriend to trade me her chicken wings for my macaroni. Pure habit. I really could’ve just went to the kitchen and got more chicken.
3. When my dad got out of prison (10+ years) we nicknamed him Martha Stewart because he was such a clean freak. His home looks like an Ikea catalog, he has glass containers for his shoes, he wakes up early to iron/wash/scrub everything. When I lived with him for a year, I was grounded so many times over leaving water drops in the sink.
4. Not wearing shoes in the shower. Eating with forks and knives. Having salt and pepper for food. Not always having to watch your back. Being able to get food when you want it, and just get up and leave to go for a drive or something.
5. Not me personally but I know a guy that said after he got out he just wanted McDonald’s. When he got there he spent 20 minutes staring at the menu trying to decide what to order because he wasn’t used to having choices.
6. Staring at sharp things. Like theres no desire to use them inappropriately but you are just kinda shocked they’re there and available for use. You might be surprised what qualifies as a sharp object. I remember whenever someone tried to hand me a knife or something to cut veggies I’d be afraid to touch it. Glass was the biggest thing though, just mirrors in all the bathrooms. Real ones. I could smash that shit and have a big jagged weapon, I can’t believe this Italian restaurant has such a dangerous thing in their bathroom. Stopping thinking of objects as weapons is hard.
7. One of my foster sons came to us from juvie. Every meal his arm was around his plate and he woofed down his food. My mastiff couldn’t keep up. He always ate back to the wall hunched. Took my wife and I a month to show him no one would take his food and we had plenty more. Funny part is he went in the Marines and did 8 years got out honorable and is now working in corrections.
8. I still like having a stash of ramen packs somewhere even if I’m not going to eat them.
9. I don’t smoke, but every time someone offered me a cig I would pocket it. On the inside thats a bartering chip, took me about a month or two to break.
10. I eat fast.
I don’t sit with my back to the door in public.
I always scan crowds constantly.
I question WHY people are nice to me.
I carry extra clothes, water, and various other things in my car in case I need it. (Not a hoarder but harder to get rid of stuff)
I don’t like being away from home overnight.
11. Hoard feminine hygiene products. We were super limited on the number of pads or tampons they gave us. They didn’t give any to the women in holding cells. There was dried and fresh menstrual blood on the floor and concrete benches, and a drain in the middle of the rooms like they intended to hose down the room, but if they did it was not often enough.
12. Constantly looking over my shoulder. By far the hardest conditioning to break, which I haven’t and doubt I ever will, is the constant pessimism and cautious optimism. You see, when you’re waiting to work your way through court, get a deal, and get sentenced, you will have your dates changed 50 times, hope for certain things only to be disappointed, and any time you are told something hopeful it doesn’t work out.
As a result, I never get excited for something until it actually happens. When my wife told me we were pregnant (I already knew from her symptoms that she was but still, you never know for sure till you take the test), I was obviously happy, but because I’m always cautiously optimistic and rarely show emotion, I couldn’t feel comfortable or excited until I knew that my developing daughter was healthy. Even then, it didn’t really hit me till she was born.
You can apply this to anything especially big events. Getting engaged, planning the wedding, buying a house, ANYTHING. I still hear from my wife how i wasn’t crazy surprised or excited to be having a kid. I was, I actually was the half of the relationship who was dead set on a kid when my wife supposedly could’ve gone either way.
You just can’t get your hopes up or look forward to anything until it is here or has happened. I’ve been home over 7 years now and with my wife for 6.5. She’s truly the catalyst that motivated me to truly change my life and to not give any more of my life to the system, but she’ll never know how happy she makes me because she misinterprets my cautious optimism/realism for pessimism or indifference.
13. Taking as long as you want in the shower. For the longest time after I got out, I took less than 5 minute showers.
14. Doing laps. In prison, every time you get time on the yard, you do laps. Seriously, almost every single person does it too. When you get out, it’s hard to break that habit.
15. Taking a shit with my underwear up to my thighs to hide my junk. It took a long time to go back to pants around the ankles.
16. Making prison commissary-only food. Everyone around me thinks it is gross as hell to throw summer sausages, pickles, cheese, doritos, cheetos, and such into my ramen noodles, but good lord, I can’t stop, and I have been out for five years.
17. My ex would sleep a certain way all the time. To me it seemed like he was sleeping as if he was in a coffin, his arms crossed and wouldn’t move the entire night for a couple months. He eventually broke that habit.
18. The hardest thing has been to talk without using the words fuck, fucking or asshole in every sentence.
19. Realizing I can unlock my own door to go outside. Took me a while to realize that my roommates didn’t have to unlock it to let me out.
20. Isolation. I used to be a social butterfly but after spending so much time keeping to myself I don’t know how to socialize anymore.
21. I was only locked up for four months in total, all things considered I got off easy. Hardest habit to break was just doing something without telling someone else. Hard to remember that there’s no authority figure once you’re out.
22. I was released at the end of November after 3 years, and my biggest adjustment is grocery shopping. In prison/jail you typically can only go to the canteen once a week. And it isn’t like just walking into your local grocery store, you have to write all your items down in advance, so if you forget something, you have to wait another week to get it, or if you’re lucky, buy the item off another inmate. So it is still weird adjusting to being able to go and get groceries, hygiene items, etc. whenever I need them.
23. Definitely sleeping habits. Still haven’t broke them. Haven’t slept a full night in over a decade. Any noise and my eyes are open and I’m wide awake. I can hear really well. A raccoon comes nightly to eat scraps and cat food and I can hear him crunching outside on the porch from bed on the opposite side of the house (roughly 60feet away). Wide awake.
24. An ex-con who works for me always ask to use the restroom. I have politely informed him that there is no need to do that, he’s an adult and can use the restroom whenever he pleases, but he keeps asking and apologizing saying that it’s hard to break the habit. He even told me it’s hard to pee whenever he hasn’t gotten permission, out of fear he shouldn’t be going in the first place.
To get around this now he tells me “I’m going to the bathroom, you might want someone to cover my station” so I think we found a happy medium.
25. Lots of institutions are cold. And most inmate wear doesn’t have any pockets.
So every once in a while, I find myself still using my “jail pockets”.
It’s just sticking your hands into your pants to keep your hands warm.
26. The hardest thing when you come out is the lack of structure. I have so much anxiety because my whole day is not scheduled out.
27. Hardest habit to break was the desire to play cards, chess, and other trinket games no one wants to play with you on the outside. I’d go to friends houses and I’d say, “let’s play Spades,” and they’d look at me like I was crazy. I would play these games daily for hours… so I had a strong habit of wanting to do so. Everyone else was play video games, watching TV, going out, partying, etc. I just wanted to play Spades man.
28. Hiding my phone when someone walks in to the room, been out two months and I’m still like that.
29. I did 8 years. You have to wear an ID tag clipped to your left collar or upper left part of your shirt whenever you are out of your cell. It took a couple months out before I stopped checking for the ID tag on my shirt. Then about 5 years later, out of the blue, I subconsciously checked my chest for my ID tag when I left my house.
30. Realizing that I could jerk off to real porn instead of tattoos of naked women on inmates.
31. It took me a while not to get nervous when I hear keys. In prison the only people with keys are C.O.’s so if you heard keys coming that was a heads up.
32. After 4.5 yrs. First time seeing a touch screen drink dispenser at Wendy’s. It took me a while to figure it out, by the time I looked back 5 people were waiting behind me looking at me like I was stupid.
33. I actually found the habits I developed in prison were good, (brushing after each meal, working out, yoga, meditation) and were harder to maintain once I was back into my daily life…
34. I’m not an ex con, but I messed around with one for about 3 years… I promise I’m being 100% serious when I say this..after he did 1 year he came out and had new sexual preferences…. He was the first person’s ass I ate and he begged me constantly to do anal. He was also really into me giving him head in the shower. Prior to be locked up he wasn’t into those things. He also kept his room ridiculously cold and kept 1 blanket.
35. I’ve been out since 01, and I still can’t stop claiming my personal space. I’ve gotten better about it in the sense that I’m not aggressive about it right off the bat. Now I just tell people I need them to give me some space, and I tell them where is good.
36. Flushing the toilet every 5 seconds when I’m on it. Not that it’s a completely bad habit to “courtesy flush” but it is a huge waste of water. In jail, if you shit and someone caught a whiff of it, they would tell you to “throw some water on that shit”
37. Smoking. I picked it up there and haven’t kicked the habit yet.
38. Realizing I could just get up and go somewhere. That I could make plans tomorrow from a thousand different choices.
Hard to break the habit of checking everyone who enters your vicinity. It feels like you’ve gotta mark everyone off as a non threat.
39. Not being able to goto the free infirmary when sick or hurt.
40. My partner was locked up for six year in various state prisons. He still gets wide eyed when he hears someone call someone else “bitch” or “punk” even as a joke. His instinct to fight someone over the littlest things still hasn’t worn off. He’s really working on it though.
41. In 26 months the only habits I kept were the positive ones, hygiene and exercise.. The only thing I wish I had kept doing is reading, I read about 350 novels in 26mos including the 5 released game of thrones books 4 times. My hardest habit to break after release was eating all the damn time just because I could, I gained a easy 40lbs in the first 9mos of being out, even when you make a big store you still never eat good.
42. Being a recluse. Prison is a garage of a bunch of people that don’t want a thing to do with each other. Unless you’ve lived a certain lifestyle, there’s no one there you’d associate with under normal circumstances. You avoid having any reason to associate with fellow prisoners or the guards. You try to find ways to keep yourself from going totally mad. If you’re very lucky, maybe you’ll find someone to chat with when walking the yard, or to play chess with. Other than that, you try to live in a private bubble. It’s very hard to shake that when back out in the real world.
43. I had to stop myself from knocking when getting up from a table. Explaining why this happens also really freaked my family out.
44. Pacing back and forth.
45. My friend once told me he got hooked on watching news channels and crappy daytime television, he said he also enjoyed listening to AM radio now, even though he knows specific podcasts exist that are more tailored to him. He killed himself 3 years ago after getting a 20 year sentence just 1 year after getting out.
46. I find myself hoarding toilet paper under my bed. Sometimes I do it without thinking and I’ll look under there and have 10 rolls of toilet paper.
47. Being paranoid always looks over my shoulder and never letting anyone stand behind me. Even people passing on the side of me I’m always turning my head to see what they’re doing.food I could be the last one to eat first one done and I still stand when I eat around people.
48. Not an ex con but my step dad has been in and out of prison for the majority of his life, he always said that whenever he gets out of prison you’re so use to to it being loud all the time that when he got home he couldn’t sleep because it was so quiet.
49. I spent 72 months in prison for a tragic car accident that I had caused. After I was released I kept telling my wife exactly what I was doing without her asking. She thought it was funny at first but after a few weeks of it she was starting to get bothered.
50. I made sure I never consolidated enjoyable things. If I had a snack- I ate it and concentrated on it. If there was something good on TV, I watched it. Now, I’ll snack while I watch a movie because there aren’t enough hours in the day- but on the inside I was trying to make hours and days go away.
I’ve got a good job now, and nice respectable friends, but I still react to confrontational situations more quickly, decisively and… efficiently than they do. I’m able to pull back at the last minute, but it’s pretty clear that violence is not a tool in their arsenal.