Ron spent over 25 years behind bars.
Now he is committed to sharing the freedom he knows with others: a freedom he discovered behind bars, and now he is able to keep others from going through his same experience.
It's all about choices.
IT ’S NOT EASY for someone to say they can change, but our actions always speak louder than words.
I spent a lifetime saying I would change, only to fall back into the same tragic situations as before – drugs, stealing from family, drinking, sex. You name it, I was doing it. If it was immoral, I had my hands in it!
A series of bad choices led me into a life of crime. Some would say bad parenting caused my problems; some would say my circle of friends, luck, chance or people, places or things. However, I would say it’s all about choices – so much so that after spending 25+ years in and out of prison, I was finally challenged to write my book, called Choices. The decisions you make and their consequences every single day determine who you become. Every choice has a consequence – good or bad – and whether you choose to make good choices or bad choices, your life will be the result of those consequences.
I survived those years through programs – outreach organizations, mentoring, family, friends and men’s ministry. In the beginning, I was left to my own devices and did what I needed to do to survive. That meant “when in Rome, do as the Romans do!” I jockeyed for position behind those walls, in my cell, the yard and mess hall. I fabricated stories and exaggerated my own story to make myself sound better, seem tougher and look “badder” on the outside than the other inmates, while on the inside I was scared out of my mind. I was ashamed of my drug use, of the weeks at a time before I was in prison when I did not eat, sleep or even bathe because of my addictions and running on the streets. This is not the sort of thing you discuss over lunch with people you just met. Had it not been for those programs, one in particular that opened the door for inmates to receive books from other institutions and libraries throughout the state, I would not be writing this story today.
The program worked like this: inmates could use a computer to sign out a book from outside the facility. They would have the book for two weeks – just like a library – and then return it to circulation and sign out something different. When I finally decided to let my old self die and work on something bigger, I decided I wanted to research seminars, speaking and helping others. I wanted to be a better man.
The book I checked out was How to Run Seminars and Workshops by Rob Jolles. It has had a major impact on my life. Rob’s words were like the drugs I was used to on the streets – I couldn’t get enough of them! I needed my daily fix of Rob Jolles. When I finished that book, I was elated with thoughts of what my life could be if I did something similar to what Rob was doing. I wrote him a letter to tell him how his words impacted me. It was the beginning of a friendship that even though it is still in its infancy stage will likely last a lifetime! Rob has been by my side, mentoring and encouraging me. In fact, my book would not have been written if it were not for Rob Jolles telling me, “Planning to write is not writing, thinking about writing is not writing. Talking about writing is not writing. Researching and outlining to write is not writing. None of that is writing; writing is writing.”
My testimony became clear as I wrote my book. First and foremost, I found salvation in the Lord Jesus Christ, and recommitted my life to him. As I wrote about my past and reflected on everything that happened, I began to see Ron James for who he really had been. Ouch! What a dose of reality it was to read about the kind of person I had been. I saw how I mistreated people, lied, stole, and destroyed everything good in my life.
When the book was finished, it was over 1,800 pages and I had the daunting task of reducing it to one-quarter of the original content. The process of re-reading everything and realizing that those words were about me and what I had been doing made me come to terms with who I had been. I did not want to be that person any longer. The more I read, the more I decided that I needed to make a conscious choice to live more like the King and less like me.
I was released from prison on May 14, 2012. You may wonder what has become of Ron James. Has he fallen back to his old ways like he did every time before and gotten caught up in drugs once again? Well, I hate to disappoint you, but the real story of my life is just beginning! My life since that day can best be summed up by the song “Changed” by Rascal Flatts:
I came up out of the water
Raise my hands up to the Father
Gave it all to Him that day
Felt a new wind kiss my face
Walked away, eyes wide open
Could finally see where I was goin’
It didn’t matter where I been
I’m not the same man I was then.
I got off track, I made mistakes
Back slid my way into that place where souls get lost
Lines get crossed
And the pain won’t go away
I hit my knees, now here I stand
There I was, now here I am
Here I am
Since 2006, I have not had an alcoholic drink and I have not sought or chased after drugs of any sort. I have not been arrested or detained by an intake officer, prison guard or police officer. As a published author I've been invited all over the United States as a keynote, inspirational, motivational speaker. I have experienced the joy of honestly and legally obtaining and paying for my home and a new car. I am involved with Toastmasters International, and I have been a featured speaker at many events, won several competitions and was elected club president. I have a wonderful wife by my side who knows my story, accepts me for who I am today, and wants to be with me for the rest of her life! We enjoy our blended family with 4 children, and 3 grandchildren.
How did that complete change happen? The answer is: choices – good, conscious, moral choices – and a relationship with Jesus Christ who has forgiven my sins as far as the east is from the west. I want to live like a king, the King, every day of my life. There are countless bad choices to be made every day, just as there are countless good choices. The choices you make today will determine your tomorrow. So make your next move your best move; in this case, make your next choice your best choice.