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WTLS Interview

Moving forward with a purpose

By Michael Butler

"I've still got something to do because I'm still here, but I shouldn't be." The words of Bubba Stewart describe his philosophy on life and getting a second chance.

"I've actually been flatline dead twice, but I'm still kicking," said Stewart.

Stewart spent a good portion of his childhood in Tallassee. Like all of us, he has made mistakes. One that occured at the age of 14 stands out.

"I had been terrified of (drugs) my whole life because of what my parents told me," Stewart said. "The first time I drank was the first time I did drugs. I did it all in one night. It affected a lot of decisions that I made from that point forward, which eventually wound me up going to state prison as well as federal prison. I did about eight years total. I know the decision that I made that night led me in that direction.

"You get to a point after using those things for a while that you don't have the power of choice anymore. You do whatever it takes to do the next thing. I don't really know what direction I want to go with what God's calling me to do with my life, specifically. If I can prevent one from going through what I went through, then (it) will be worth it."

Stewart's did time at state corrections facilities at Kilby in Wetumpka and Ventress in Clayton. "The state level is a lot worse. The bunks are so close that you have to turn sideways to walk between them. You've got a person on each side of you and below you. You're surrounded by people and you're trying to sleep. You can imagine the snoring, the passing gas; it's a horrible way to live. You're covered up with people. There's never any alone time. You're with the worst that society has to offer."

At the federal level, Stewart was transferred from Florida to South Carolina and Maryland. The experience with fellow inmates was difficult, but Stewart said the sentiment was the same with prison personnel.

"The worst I've ever been talked to is by corrections officers. I've seen people beat down with sticks. That's who we feared most, not the criminals - the murderers, the rapists, you feared the 10-15 officers coming and beating your skull in.

"Prison is prison. You don't go home at night. You don't see your family. You learn a coping skill when your children cross your mind, your mother, your father, your sister, your brother, anybody you ever cared about it crosses your mind, you think about them for about three seconds and you force it out of your head."

Stewart was released in 2010. "You're almost scared to believe that you're actually free. I couldn't sleep for about three days. I just couldn't believe I was out. It was a horrible thing to go through. I would never wish it on anyone. It was a terrible nightmare but a necessary one for me.

"At the time I got arrested and was sentenced to prison, I was probably as close to death as I had ever been. I was addicted to things that were destroying me physically, emotionally, mentally and had no idea how to get off of it. It probably saved my life.

"It took about three to four years before I stopped having the dreams of using. Those demons will always be hanging around."

Stewart now has a new lease on life, as the saying goes.

"I met Denise in 2012. We've been together ever since," he said. "She's taught me more about love than I thought I could ever know. We just had a daughter. It's unfair to my first three daughters. I feel guilty sometimes. Daniella has begun to somehow transform me. I probably don't have a lot of time left on this earth. I want to do as right by Daniella and Denise as I possibly can. Both have been very instrumental in my change. Everyday that I have now is a good day."

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