The right frame of mind to approach Raphael Rowe’s Second Chance podcasts is not to expect the audio version of “Inside The World’s Toughest Prisons” because if you do that, you will are in for a shock and will be extremely disappointed, especially if you are among those who have binge-watched the series recently. I suggest you ease into it gently and transition over with the JaackMaate’s Happy Hour podcast interview of RR (best suited for a long car or train ride, because it is a rather long interview).
I didn’t listen to the Second Chance episodes in chronological order, and I am glad I didn’t do so because the way I ended up listening to them made more sense. Most of my readers will know that I don’t always do things by the book when it comes to writing and photography, harbouring a disdain for hard-fast structures and rules, so I started with Episode 3, the interview with “Cookie”, a mother imprisoned for being accused of killing her baby.
This is a woman who has been let down by the healthcare and legal systems, at the expense of her family, peace of mind, and dignity. As Cookie puts it, the years of imprisonment including the assaults from the various inmates pale in comparison the loss of her child due to negligence of the healthcare system and the lack of closure, of not knowing what really happened. The series of unfortunate events starting with negligent medical care and faulty legal advice landed Cookie in prison with inner demons to torment her that will never be appeased. Raphael Rowe’s sensitivity and gentleness in his interview comes shining through without sacrificing substance, and even the unintended pauses of shock make the podcast worth ploughing through until the very end. There are loopholes in Cookie’s story due to her continuing battle with depression, something I can sympathise with all too well, and at the end of the podcast you are left with a million and one questions. With Cookie the question is not whether or not she deserves a second chance, of course she does, but for me it is more an issue of whether or not she will take that second chance. Therein lies all the difference to how her story will continue.
Episode 4, the interview with JJ Chalmers that was launched on Friday, Sept. 4, is completely different and not at all what I expected. Truth be told, I was not really sure what to expect, but the general impression I had was more of sitting in someone’s living room eavesdropping on a conversation between two men with strong individual personalities who have made the most of their second chance and are living, breathing proof of one hell of a comeback. It was laid back, familiar, and when they talked about their struggles during the Camino de Santiago, memories of my own Camino adventures were inevitably resurrected. Those who have not been on the Camino or on a pilgrimage, will struggle with this, and not be able to identify with the trials and travails this particular journey entails, but it is an essential part of understanding JJ Chalmers and his phenomenal road to recovery.
What struck a deep chord within me was his difficulty in asking for help during recovery and reintegration. Any marine around the world is trained to be a pillar of strength in the face adversity, to go into the most dangerous situations and follow orders. Per mare, per terram – the motto of the Royal Marines is something they live and breathe, and as the old saying goes, you can take a man out of the marines but you can never take the marines out of the man. How then, do you maintain that dignity of a strong soldier when the armour has been so devastatingly damaged and the years of military training have made you so independent-minded that asking for help is a sign of weakness? I’m no marine, but I cringe with shame and humiliation each time I have to ask for help, having been raised to solve my own problems and being admonished from Day 1 that crying is for cowards. It has taken me three years to unlearn this, so when it came up in the podcast I had to swallow hard.
The part of the interview where I have my reservation was the manner in which the topic of Prince Harry was approached. It could have used a bit more insight into his role with the Invictus Games, the Invictus Games in general and their purpose, and how this is one of the most admirable platforms for second chances for veterans, espousing the motto
This to me sums up who JJ Chalmers has become – the unconquered war veteran who has overcome great obstacles and made the most of this second chance, giving back with commitment and generosity, and remaining true to his oath of service, just in a different uniform.
Episode 2 of the Second Chance podcast series I disliked from the very beginning, because I went into it expecting an extension of “The World’s Toughest Prisons”, and was distressed when it turned out to be an interview with clinical psychotherapist Lordia Lewis-Spencer from Protea Psychotherapy Practice and Chris Hickin from Remedi UK, an organisation that offers restorative intervention services, so I left it half way. However, I hate dangling participles and unfinished chapters, so returned to episode 2 after episode 4, started over and sat through the entire episode with fascination. It made so much more sense to me, and could put Cookie and JJ Chalmers into the intended perspective of the series.
Second Chance? Yes. we all deserve one, but the more powerful message here is to be a catalyst of someone else’s second chance. Celebrate someone else’s scars, be proud of your own, because they tell a story, and are proof that no matter what happened, you lived to tell the tale and will not make the same mistake again.
Click HERE for more information on Raphael Rowe’s work, and keep an eye out for the upcoming book Notorius, due out this fall.