White Collar Support Group 350th Meeting Reflection: “I Cannot Imagine Going Through this Journey Alone”, by Fellow Traveler Bill Livolsi
Bill Livolsi is a member of our White Collar Support Group that meets on Zoom on Monday evenings, and is Deputy Director of our ministry.
I can’t say that there has been any one particular Aha Moment in my journey. Instead I think it’s best explained as many small lessons learned over the course of the last 13 years – from the day the FBI visited our rural Oklahoma home. I’d like to share some of what I’ve learned through my participation in the White Collar Support Group that has helped me find my purpose for this chapter of my life.
My (then) spouse was arrested in December 2010. I was indicted three years later in Jan 2014. My life, and my family’s life, was in full turmoil. I was very fortunate to find Jeff and the ministry he founded with Lynn, shortly thereafter.
Like many of you, I was desperately looking for a silver bullet that would make this disaster go away; I just wanted life to go back to normal. The desire to somehow return life to a time before is not unique to me; but as we have all come to recognize, there is no silver bullet.
So the first lesson I learned was probably the harshest – the only true way out of the mess I helped create was to go through it.
During the conversations with Jeff over many months and years I came to understand that, despite my desire to return to it, there were elements and behaviors in the life I had been living that were toxic and dysfunctional. It turns out my old life wasn’t so normal, and over time I had allowed it to corrupt my values and erode my judgment. Lesson learned.
When the White Collar Support Group began in 2016 I gradually became a regular participant. Overwhelmed by the outpouring of support and compassion that was so freely given to me, I made the decision before I went to prison that I wanted to be ‘that person’ for others. And as much as I wanted to jump right into this role, it became clear that it’s just not that simple. Jeff once put it this way; when the flight crew is reviewing a potential evacuation we are instructed to put on our own oxygen mask first. So in this respect I understood that I had to first focus on, and do my best to understand, myself.
It would have been easy to delude myself with rationalizations on how and why I ended up on this road. But it has been here, with you; showing up regularly on Monday nights, sharing your experiences, and the wisdom you’ve gained, that gave me the courage to dig deeply into the reasons for my own journey. I learned here, with you, that I can prosper by surrounding myself with people in whom I could trust, associating with those who shared my values, and with those who would help me stay in my lane.
I learned that in order to rebuild the trust of my children, my family, and my community, I had to demonstrate transparency and accountability. What I found here, with you, are true examples of honesty, transparency and self reflection. You modeled all that for me and I am truly grateful! I learned that I could build upon your examples to create my future.
I reported to El Reno in March 2019 and by that time I knew I had found what I needed within our group. What scared me was leaving it behind for 24 months. I sincerely hoped to find other men who shared the same goals and the desire for understanding that I did. Fortunately that became a reality. We formed our own support system and we helped each other through our most trying times.
Lest anyone think life is all rainbows and unicorns today, to be clear, it’s not. And that’s ok. I still struggle with the consequences of my decisions that led to my conviction, but I cannot imagine having to go through this journey alone. Yes, I have had the support of my family (and they have been wonderful), but it has been your support, your guidance, your friendship, and our weekly gatherings that have helped me see this journey through to this point. I can call any one of you when faced with the challenges of life (and I have). I know you understand because you too are living it. You are my support and you are also with whom I celebrate my successes.
And in closing, just to let you know how important all of you all are to me – when my kids came and picked me up at El Reno on Wednesday April 29, 2020 I made 4 phone calls; my Mom in Pennsylvania, my PO, and two of my closest and dearest friends, Jeff and Jacquie.
I was excited to be back on our Zoom call the following Monday!
With Love And Affection,