You are Worthy – Teachings from Lifers

Adam Martin | Letters | July 1, 2024

Welcome to the series we call, Teachings from Lifers.

In this series, we have asked some men and women who are serving life in prison to tell their stories and things they have learned along the way and help teach those things to people in our transitional houses. We have found that these letters are restoring hope on both sides of the walls and that there is no greater lesson learned than if it is taught by those who have lost the most. We have also opted to open it up to the public to read. So get comfortable, and take some time to read the letter as we reveal them. You will not want to miss this content.

-Adam Martin, Founder and CEO of F5 Project


Elsewhere there be monsters.” Centuries ago a German Mapmaker set out to create a “map of the world.” Having no personal knowledge of anything else beyond the bounds of his world at that time, he placed the Continent of Europe at the map’s center and wrote those words upon it. “Elsewhere there be monsters.” These words remind me of how we, as a people, tend to believe the worst about things we know nothing about. These words remind me of how harshly people can judge others and, worse still, how harshly we can judge ourselves when our knowledge is limited and the outer bounds of our potential remain untested and/or not yet known to us or others. There is an inherent danger in accepting those narratives that are placed upon us by others and/or our “inner critic.” When we–by which I mean all of us in some form of recovery–accept narratives, the maps of our world and thinking get altered in a way that is detrimental to the recovery process itself. For me it was accepting those narratives so fully that I believed the path to redemption and recovery were no longer open to me. It was said a mountain of broken relationships, crime, addiction and other failures stood at center of the map of MY known world. It did not matter that many of the things said about me were actually true. The problem was believing that I was ONLY the worst things I had ever done, thereby allowing the outer bounds of my map to remain unwritten and left to speculation. How do any of us find the path to redemption and recovery if our maps are broken and distorted? If we lack faith in our own potential for redemption and recovery, and believe ourselves to be only the worst things we have ever done, then why even try to be something or someone different? Today’s message to you is that you are worthy, I am here to remind you that  you are NOT only the worst things you have ever done. I write to tell you that you are unquestionably worthy of redemption, that recovery is possible, and that anyone can change the narratives placed on their maps.

I am writing you today after more than 22 years of confinement. Following my arrest for drug and gun crimes, I was sentenced to serve the rest of my life in prison-several times over. Hopelessness and despair set in almost immediately, but that is not the focus of today’s message. What I write about today is their ugly companion I call “narrative takeover.” Misery does love company, and so with my arrest, conviction, and sentencing there emerged a narrative so definitive that, well, I started to believe all of it myself. Without question. It happens like that-like falling asleep they say, first little by little then all at once. My drug addiction and criminality started out that way, too, so perhaps it was fitting that a narrative would likewise form around the story of my life. So it did. Courts issued opinions, news-people wrote and told stories, people told their versions of things, and then I began repeating those narratives to myself. It did not matter, as I said, that they more often than not got it right. The real harm in “narrative takeover” occurs when you take something SAID about you and make it into something you BELIEVE about yourself in a way that fixes the limits of your potential and worth.

You are worthy. The three hardest words for me to believe about myself. The three words that would weigh me down and then build walls between me and my path to redemption and recovery. The three words that stood in polar opposition to the narrative that deemed me a “monster.” To be sure, no one outside myself used that vile word to describe me, at least not that I recall. It was a word of my own making and choosing, the one I placed upon my map to describe BOTH the known and unknown areas of my potential. It was it was the name I believed that made it pointless for me to seek either redemption or recovery, I was serving life-without-parole and “had nothing else to lose.” I was “all in,” as they say, so why waste the time and effort pursuing something NOT available to me and/or that would change nothing for me even if it was. I had been rejected by mostly everyone-society, friends, loved ones, until I finally rejected myself.

It is strange, then, that I am here speaking to you all through this letter. I would like to be able to say that there was a switch thrown somewhere at some indiscernible time in my life, and that my travels along the path of redemption and recovery happened in a straight line-one that inevitably led directly to my sense of self-worth. My story does not unfold that way, and I expect yours does not either. If only that were the case. So why me? Why am I sending you this message of hope, redemption and recovery while expounding upon your worth and potential? I’m here because you are my Family, my People. Everyone in recovery is. Everyone who has sat where I am sitting now, or who has sat in places like the place where you are sitting now, has an experience similar in kind, if only different by degree. The other reason it is me speaking to you today is because I reached out to find a way to be in the service of others, to make amends for past harms, and to be someone who lifts people up instead of tearing them down. In other words, I am here on my path to redemption and recovery hoping to become part of yours. How I ended up here with you today is the result of a gradual effort to become a better version of myself, one that was not only made up of my past failures. As I said, there was no “switch thrown” that marked the realization of my worth and potential. I stumbled onto the path of recovery and redemption more than I used any map to locate and traverse it. Again, my map was clearly broken and distorted. Elsewhere there be monsters, and I believed myself to be one. I sold drugs and exploited people and their addiction for my own selfish ends. I neglected relationships, ones that remain broken to this day. I failed to be a Father to a Daughter and, having chosen criminality and addiction over seeking a relationship with her, that relationship remains broken today. The list of my past failures does not stop there. I don’t know how to fix all the things I have done, and I know simply saying “sorry” will never be enough for any of us.

So what do I do? I saw a sign on the wall one day. I read it and then slowly smiled. Such a simple thing, yet it followed me for days. What did the sign say? It said: “First Rule Of Holes: If you find yourself in one, stop digging!” I still smile when I think of that sign. I routinely share it with others when the time is right, and I share it with you now. So the first step in my recovery, my first step in the direction of redemption, was to “stop digging.” There is  power in that one small action. If I stopped digging, stopped breaking relationships and being my same old self, I stopped hurting myself and others. Just as importantly, that first step was essential to defying the narrative that was distorting the way I looked at my worth and potential. If I stopped digging, I would stop confirming all those narratives that never spoke on my potential to be someone or something better or different. The pause in destruction I had been causing gave me the moments of clarity I needed to see who I had the potential to become, it helped me understand I had the power to change the words on my map used to describe what existed for me beyond the failures of my past. It was there, when the fog of “narrative takeover” was lifted, that I seen my true worth wrapped up in my potential. From there it was just but one more step to start filling those holes of my past creation.

Today is a new day for me. I have been a Mentor to others struggling with addiction and/or suffering from mental health issues. I have taught and continue to teach reentry and recovery maintenance to others based on a curriculum that I myself designed and pushed to implement for the benefit of others–even as I have no outdate myself. I have served and continue to serve as an Inmate Suicide Companion. I am working on obtaining my Drug and Alcohol Treatment Specialist Diploma. I build relationships now instead of breaking them. I hope where I once despaired. I create instead of destroy. I stopped digging. I know now, in my heart, that I am NOT only the worst things I have ever done–and neither are you!

In closing, I challenge you to stop accepting narratives that steal from you a sense of your potential and self-worth. If you find yourself in a hole, I challenge you to stop digging, and give yourselves that chance to see your worth and potential once the fog of narrative takeover is lifted. When you see it, when you see your true worth and potential, I ask you to redraw your maps and write these words upon them: “You Are Worthy”. You most certainly are. Much love Fam’, take care, and God Bless.


  1. In what ways have things said about you kept you from believing in yourself and your potential for recovery and redemption? (Either things said by you about yourself or said by others)
  2. Are there things you have not forgiven yourself for that you return to when measuring your worth and potential?
  3. In what ways do you find yourself in a “hole” today, and what would it take for you to
    “stop digging”?
  4. What is one thing you can stop doing today that is harming yourself or others?
  5. What are new healthy goals you can set for yourself and begin working on today that will defy the narratives built around the failures of your past?

Your Brother In Recovery – MG, LWOP

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