Pain into Something Beautiful

by George Presley

How have I turned pain into something beautiful, something that holds value to society? Something that connects us to one another?

No dipping your toe into the water to see how cold it may be, nor wading in a little at a time… just jump right into the deep end, huh?

Alright then: I guess the easiest way for me to explain how I have turned pain into something beautiful would be for me to be able to hold up a “before and after” version of me. Not the physical me, although I have been molding that as well, but the inner me… the me that came into prison as a very ugly human being and now holds very little of that same resemblance!

There was so much turmoil boiling inside of me when I first came into prison that I couldn’t even recognize the person that I had become and didn’t really even know who I was, what/how I felt. I guess the worst part is that I didn’t even care.

Truth be told, I believed that I searched every day for the blinding numbness that would hide me from myself, so that I didn’t have to deal with all the pain and heartache and pure bitterness that dwelled inside of me. Sadly, I had become very good at hiding all of this from everyone around me. I couldn’t hide it from
myself though, and eventually I had a choice to make: stand there and face myself or lose myself completely. That choice came on August 3rd of 2001.

On that day my transformation was to begin. I had made the decision a couple of days earlier, to pump myself up I guess, and so at five minutes until midnight on August 2nd, I smoked my last cigarette and put it out right before the clock struck twelve, brushed my teeth and went to bed. When I woke the next morning, I began the process of creating the best sculpture, the greatest thing of beauty, that I could have ever imagined. A much more beautiful version of me.

On that very morning, I quit smoking, quit drinking, quit the usage of all drugs, and even quit watching wrestling (stop laughing). Wrestling was taking up six hours of my week every week that I could be devoting to other things that would improve my life. Thanks to God, I quit all of it cold turkey and never once faltered. As difficult as quitting all of that at once was, it was nothing compared to the challenge of facing myself and starting the process of change… real change in me.

Somewhere in there over the next few years, the good Lord slapped me in the back of the head hard enough to finally cause me to pay attention to His presence in my life. Looking back, I realize that He had always been there and when I finally did, my brush strokes became much more effective in creating the masterpiece that I’ve been working on for years. His first lesson for me was to teach me forgiveness, and in doing so I was able to forgive my greatest transgressor—myself. After that, my vision cleared and my “transformation” took on a smooth, easy, progression that has filled my life with an abundance of enlightenment and slowly but surely the changes in me became much more evident and profound.

Today, I am still a work in progress, but I stand with my shoulders held back, head held high, and without allowing pride to be a bad thing. I am very proud of this new me that the Lord has given me with the strength to create.

All the pain and heartache are gone from my life. My heart is filled with joy and optimism even in this place of darkness, and my tomorrows look to me to be filled with so much promise. Woo hoo!

Now, it’s just a matter of giving back. One of the greatest changes in me came from realizing that life itself is not about me at all… it’s about other people and my own interactions with them. After all, what is the value of anything if we can’t share it with others?

On that note, I am going to bring this to a close, but thank you for allowing me to share this with you.

An enthusiastic participant in the Art of Soulmaking program, George Presley has been in prison more than thirty years. He is professionally trained in peer recovery and devotes much of his time to supporting others.

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