Prison Diary of a Trauma Survivor

My incarcerated 26-year-old son Alex has given me permission to share excerpts from his letters. As a survivor of early childhood trauma, physical abuse and severe neglect, his words are brutally honest and sometimes raw. Overall, the content is deeply reflective – when taking time to read between the lines. I learn greater insight with each letter.

Although his diagnoses of PTSD and RAD remain a significant part of his history, they no longer define him exclusively.

Most importantly, Alex wants other kids from hard places to avoid his mistakes. He hopes their parents – whether biological or adoptive – never give up. And he understands that the challenges are real for both the child and the family.

To My Father & All the Silent Heroes

The Delayed Effect – Parenting Success Years Later

If new to Alex’s story, you can open this link to access a previous blog.


February 24, 2017

Thank you so much for the books!

I finished The Upside of Fear and it was enthralling. This man struggled with the exact same situations, questions and desires that I do right now. I don’t know if you read that book, but I swear it was one I could have written myself. He just strengthened my belief that I can do this.

I’ve also finished Tuesdays with Morrie. What a beautiful man! I cried like a complete baby when I finished the book. I’m talking ugly, full on, crunched up face sobbing. That little book, just a brief touch of Morrie, completely undid me. I just wanted to hold him onto him real tight and not let go. It actually surprised me how deeply that book affected me.

I just finished Oliver Twist and never knew that it was so interesting. It was extremely amusing, especially in the beginning. But the last 100 pages, that describe in detail the hardships of being an orphan, really disturbed me quite a bit – a very good book though…

I deeply regret that I have been a poor role model for my brothers, especially Travis. I agonize over many of my failures to make the right decisions for my family, whom I cherish with every fiber of my soul. This misery, along with the faith I have in love, is now the impetus that focuses me and drives me to shatter the chains of denial and self-aggrandizement that have trapped me for too long.


These are my new heroes. I still feel unrelenting loneliness and sometimes come close to depression, yet I make it through somehow. Thank God for that. This will be a long road and, at times, difficult – but I know that sacrifice and obedience are the only true keys to freedom. And I want to fly.

When prison officials finally allow me back into the general population (I’m not sure when that will be), I plan on getting the best job I can and saving money for a correspondence course, since Indiana prisons no longer offer college courses…

Meanwhile, I’m still working very hard on not being so rigid and nasty. I’m struggling with the tendency to become inflexible when I am challenged or annoyed. I become very sarcastic and make bitter, biting remarks. I absolutely hate this response and I always feel cheap and childish afterwards. Even if I internalize my thoughts, I feel disgusted with myself. I understand that it’s a part of my current personality and will take time and practice to change…

What do you think of the current state of government?  I want substance. Do you know I actually have no clue about your views? It’s like you got this big wall around you. The Great Wall of Craig! I noticed it some as a kid but recently realized that I know almost nothing about you. Perhaps I was too wrapped up in my own world to pay attention.

I mean I know your personality and some of your history but I don’t know your philosophy of life, your beliefs, your goals, nothing! That’s insanity. Did we have discussions about any of that stuff?

Love, Alex


March 15, 2017

I’ve been stuck in this little room 24 hours a day for 10 months now. I try to keep my mind occupied, but with no television, no money, extremely rare phone calls and no visits, it becomes quite difficult actually. I’ve written requests to be placed in the general population – but I’ve been refused.

Father, honestly, you should see how I am living. I know you might think I’m just complaining or exaggerating, but it is truly a miserable existence. I’m lucky in that I’ve always had an optimistic, upbeat outlook which formed through the hell of my abuse, although I never let people know in my younger days. I wanted them to pity me. And it worked…

I thought I was finally free of my anxiety attacks, but they have come back with a vengeance. I don’t understand how any human being can subject another to this kind of isolation. Oh, I’m surrounded by people, but I’m also surrounded by evil people that glory and exult in their depravity. Day and night, night and day. It’s just stupidity, malice, hatred, greed, racism, filth. FILTH, FILTH, FILTH! I’m in a sewer of humanity.

I’m sorry for the tone of this letter. I guess I’m tired. I feel impotent and forgotten.

Love, Alex


March 27, 2017

I hope I didn’t offend you with my comments about the so-called “Great Wall of Craig.” I meant it in a light-hearted manner.

I enjoyed your letter. Learning more about who you are makes me happy. When you’re open and honest with me like that, it really helps me connect with you. I now know you tried many times to share your thoughts when I younger, but I wasn’t exactly a willing participant in the conversation. Thank you for trying again. This time I listened to your words and absorbed their meaning.

I agree with you concerning phone calls. They are a luxury and it is much easier to present your thoughts in a letter. Writing is also less emotional and confrontational. Usually I sit down and pen a stream-of-conscience ramble that becomes my vehicle for catharsis. Here goes.

Love is defined by truth and truth is tempered by love. Truth without love is harsh and demanding. It easily becomes a weapon used to attack, intimidate, divide and then inflict pain and shame. Truth is, by its very nature, exclusive, discriminating and divisive. It excludes falsehoods, it discriminates against deception, and it divides right from wrong as starkly as light from darkness.

In fact, Jesus uses the same metaphor to describe truth and deception. Truth is anathema to lies, just as light banishes darkness. Light is greater than darkness, and truth is greater than fiction. Just as darkness flees from the light, deception cannot stand the truth

On the other hand, love without truth becomes indulgence, enabling and permissive. That’s the greatest deception of all. Love, by its very nature, is inclusive, gentle and forgiving. I say this because it appeals to human sensibility to be open and accepting. It appeals to our ego to be magnanimous. But when love overruns the boundaries of truth, it becomes “an anything goes” mentality in the name of tolerance, diversity and inclusiveness. That’s not “true” love…

When a person is suffering from mental illness, you don’t reinforce their delusions. You get them to intensive treatment and attempt to restore them to health….

No wonder drug addiction is destroying many lives in our nation.

Addicts search for meaning and an escape from a society where nothing makes sense anymore. I know better now. I was trying to control everything in my life and then drugs controlled me. My use spiraled out of control and landed me in prison.

I’m going to end it there. Putting my thoughts together was exhausting, and they barely scratch the surface of what God has shown me in prayer and contemplation.

There’s so much more to these arguments.

Love, Alex


April 17, 2017

Happy Easter! Sorry it’s taken so long to get this mailed. I finally received my state envelopes today, much later than usual.

I’ve been blessed the past couple of weeks. I’ve had phone conversations with my birthmom and her daughter, my half-sister. They went well. Both seemed genuinely interested in renewing a relationship with me…

I find that when I keep my heart focused on Jesus, I am filled with contentment and joy. When I put my trust in His love and let go of my desires for things of this world, I feel a huge release. It’s the same fulfillment that I’ve been chasing since I was a little kid and could never find. And life just got worse and worse.

That’s when God spoke to me.

You know I believe He tried many times before but that was the first time I was listening. I’m not using some metaphorical mumbo-jumbo. He really spoke to me.

I heard him in my heart and He continues to teach me and guide me. It’s definitely a learning process. But the peace I finally found is what I’ve been searching for my whole life. It’s the knowing that you are loved by one who understands and accepts all that you are…

I still haven’t heard from my court-appointed lawyer about my case, but I’ve pretty much accepted that now. It’s all going to work out the way it needs to. Of that, I’m 100% sure. I love you, Father.

Love, Alex


February 27, 2018

Sorry I haven’t written in a while. I’m just tired, mentally and physically tired. I’ve been having frequent panic attacks with more intensity than when I was young and being abused physically and emotionally by my step father…

I’m seriously fighting insanity fueled by my PTSD, and honestly, a few times death seems like an escape. I can deal with being isolated in the prison. I can deal with the indifference of those who claimed to love me. I can deal with pain, sadness, loneliness, hunger and cold. Those define the majority of my life experience. I’m used to that. But when I can’t even trust my mind because I’m becoming increasingly delusional and prone to episodes were I can’t believe in reality.

It’s like existence feels dark and ominous and like life itself is an illusion. Sometimes I feel as if I’m a character in a book. Sometimes my mind truly believes life is just one big book and we’re just playing out story lines written by our creator. We can’t escape our fate. We’re sentenced to fulfill what’s been written for us.

So my mind comes into a hallucinogenic episode where I literally feel unreal and made up. I freak out; sometimes so strongly that I start screaming for help because I’m so terrified. I can’t control it.

Self-talk doesn’t help because i honestly believe the delusion is the truth at the time. If this is what it;s like to go insane, I can truly understand why mentally disturbed people commit suicide.

Love, Alex



May 26, 2018

Some good news. They put me back in population almost a week ago. I can go outside everyday and I’m working on getting a job.

I’m still struggling with anxiety pretty regularly exacerbated by the two years I spent in that little box of a room. Still haven’t heard from my public defender. He’s worthless. I should’ve been out by now if I had a real lawyer. Still haven’t gone to trail. Still haven’t signed a plea? Isn’t that unconstitutional?

I’m doing alright though I guess. Just trying to stay positive. Tell everyone that I love them.

I haven’t lost hope. I know you haven’t either, and that means the world to me.

Love, Alex



Craig Peterson family 2005

For anyone moved by my son’s writings, you are welcome to correspond and encourage him – which might give clarity and perspective to your own journey as a survivor or parent.

Alexander A. Peterson #178999, Wabash Valley Correctional Facility, PO Box 1111, Carlisle, IN 47838-1111. (Use plain, lined white paper, pen and a plain white envelope. No computer documents allowed. Do not use a return address label. Write the return address by hand. In addition, the envelope can only contain a letter from one person. Nothing extra. No cards. Any books or literature must be shipped directly from the distributor.)

With a small allotment of envelopes and stamps, Alex has limited ability to respond. Thank you.


Craig Peterson publishes EACH Child every Tuesday. To subscribe, open this link and “Like” the page. EACH Child is Special: Working Smarter Not Harder to Raise Every ONE

To learn more about Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love, Craig’s soon-to-published memoir about raising six children with special needs, click here: Adopting Faith: A Father’s Unconditional Love

To follow my son Andrew’s inspiring story, “Like” his special Facebook page Andrew Peterson Goes for the Gold

4 thoughts on “Prison Diary of a Trauma Survivor

  1. I will have to write to your son to tell him how his words have inspired me. I am the mom to a 13-year-old adopted daughter who is struggling. Her father feels she needs much more intensive treatment (we clear the house of other children 2-3 times per week because of rages … for the last 3 years.) I have been SO resistant – she can do so well in other modalities – at school, for instance! The words about Truth and Love hit me right between the eyes. I cling to Love. But Alexander is so right. Love without Truth is the greatest deception. We do need more help, and Denial is not my friend. I needed to read this today – and I needed it from someone who has lived it, who has walked the path my daughter is walking.

  2. Very insightful and touchy. I truly appreciate that you are sharing this part of your son’s life, as it can be so influential to many young people, like him and you, as a father. Thank you again

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