DEAR ABBY: My life has always been scary. My parents divorced when I was 3. Dad always seemed to cause trouble for Mom, who struggled to provide for me and my older sister. She always struggled with alcohol and drugs.
I have spent a portion of my life incarcerated, starting when I was a teenager. I'm now 22 and doing time for selling drugs. I have never been able to find a decent job, although I have my GED and tried to attend a school for nursing, but I screwed it up. Selling drugs seemed to be the only way to make enough to support myself.
I'd like to find a decent job with opportunity, and be able to pay my bills and save a little. I'm tired of my crazy lifestyle and want to settle down. How can I go about finding a job? Keep in mind, I don't have a resume and although I have had many jobs, I never stayed very long, and I have a criminal record. — SERVING TIME IN PENNSYLVANIA
DEAR SERVING TIME: I admire that you have decided to change your life and walk the "straight and narrow" from now on. A place to start would be to talk to the prison chaplain. Some religious denominations have programs in place to help inmates and former inmates successfully transition back into society.
The oldest prison/re-entry group in the country is the Pennsylvania Prison Society. Their website is at prisonsociety.org. If they don't serve the community into which you will be released, they will know an organization that does. Their re-entry program helps former prisoners attain self-sufficiency through a four-day job readiness workshop, which teaches the skills necessary to find and keep a job. Pre-registration is recommended, and their phone number is 215-564-6005, ext. 117. Call Monday through Friday, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m.
DEAR ABBY: I had my first boyfriend when I was 16. The relationship lasted 13 years and we had a child together. Now that it's over I don't know what to do.
It has been nine months and it seems like my heartache is getting worse. I can't breathe. It feels like my heart has been ripped out of my chest and stepped on. It hurts even more because he started dating immediately after the breakup. I can't even talk to another man. I feel lost and have never been on a date with anyone but my ex.
I feel like I deprived myself of my youth. I cry every day. I can barely watch or see couples without getting depressed and breaking down. I need to see some type of light. Do you have any advice? — DEPRIVED OF MY YOUTH
DEAR DEPRIVED: Nine months is a long time to cry every day. You have been hit with what I call a "double-whammy." You are grieving for your lost relationship, and because this was your first and only one, you never learned how to handle a broken romance.
A counselor can help you through your grieving process and, in addition, help you to build the social skills you will need to move forward. Please don't put it off. Do this not only for yourself but also for your child so you can be the most effective parent you can be.
Dear Abby is written by Abigail Van Buren, also known as Jeanne Phillips, and was founded by her mother, Pauline Phillips. Write Dear Abby at www.DearAbby.com or P.O. Box 69440, Los Angeles, CA 90069.