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Mindfulness and Addiction with Marshall Lane

Updated: Mar 27

In this episode, Marshall Lane talks with Fleet Maull on his experiences with addiction and incarceration and his life post-incarceration, focusing on his work with Tiffany's Recovery Inc.

  • The complexities of recovering from addiction in prison and the role meditation can play

  • Taking responsibility and shifting self-blame/shame from the past to create a better future for self and all human beings

  • TRI Recovery- helping to coordinate recovering addicts with community outreach services

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Mindfulness and Addiction with Marshall Lane Transcript

Fleet Maull: 

Hi! Welcome to another session here on the Prison Mindfulness Summit. I'm thrilled to be here today with Marshall Lane. Welcome, Marshall. 

Marshall Lane: 

Hi! How are you doing, Fleet? I'm glad to be here. 

Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, it's great to connect with you. We've never met but I do feel a kinship with you. We both did significant time in prison. I was in for 14 years on drug charges if people aren't familiar with my story already. We're going to talk about your experience of going through incarceration and coming back into the world now. I'm very happy that you're out in the world and doing well. And what that journey was like for you and the influence of your involvement with meditation and Buddhist practice and things like that. So, I've been looking forward to this conversation. 

Marshall Lane: 

Thank you. Yeah, me too. 

Fleet Maull: 

So, Marshall, I know that you dealt with addiction in your life. Our classic recovery stories often have to do with what it was like, then what happened, and then what it's like now. So, let's start with your journey through addiction and recovery. What was the experience of being caught up in addiction like for you? And then, finding yourself in prison. Well, maybe we'll just start there. In your memory, like, when you were really caught up in your addiction and then finding your way into prison. Just what was that experience like for you? 

Marshall Lane: 

Well, to encapsulate that whole experience, I guess, is beyond words, but I'll kind of begin where the addiction started. It's when I was younger. I grew up in a family with some mental health issues and addiction issues. When I was seven years old, my parents got divorced. My mother was an alcoholic, and my father had severe bipolar disorder. He stopped taking his medication. I think, between my mother's drinking and his manic episodes, is, you know, kind of what dissolves that marriage. 

My sister and I were stuck staying with my mother. My father moved out. He would visit like every other weekend, see us on Wednesdays and stuff. We were poor. We were very poor. My sister and I grew up in a wealthy town. My sister was about two years younger than me. Life was very unhappy at that age. I was always jealous of the other kids. My mother could be quite mean. She drank heavily. I think she kind of was unhappy at the fact that now she was a single mother that had to provide for two children. And it was just a lot of struggles. 

When I was young, because of my behavior, I was diagnosed with ADHD. I was kind of segregated to some of these kinds of special classes. They call them the SPED classes, special education. I just felt like an outcast. I think it was my attempt to connect with people so I would act out and misbehave to get attention and things. The punishment was always pretty severe for that. 

I remember when I was around 12 years old, I started smoking cigarettes, stealing my mother's alcohol and drinking. I'm not going to say like I was, I was really enamored with alcohol, but it was a way for me to feel more mature. It helped me connect with some of the other disadvantaged kids. Cigarettes, I enjoyed smoking cigarettes. 

I think as far as addiction goes, that kind of began when I was introduced to marijuana around the age of 12 or 13. I fell in love with that drug because when I smoked marijuana, I felt good. It was shortly after I began selling marijuana for two reasons. One, so I could have enough money to buy marijuana. But also, I found that other people would like me if I had, you know, I had weed on. It was just my way to connect with people. That just became a lifestyle for me. At that age, I had a lot of problems, obviously, from drug use and misbehavior. I was also prescribed Adderall too so amphetamine, I use that drug as well. 

I kind of disconnected from society. I kind of became enmeshed in this kind of underworld type life. I had no respect for authority whatsoever. I was mistreated. I didn't trust anybody. There was a point in my life where I was out of the home. My mom kicked me out. When I was little my father and stepmother, I had a couple of step brothers. My stepmother didn't want me there. So, I was on the street. They were trying to get me. They wanted to put me at DYS. So, I was staying with a friend of mine. 

Some family members would call, asking how I was doing, if I should go into social services. But I said I was fine. Ultimately, I kind of got through that. I remember there were some threats involved that if they put me in social services, I would report my mother and things of that nature. So, I was just left alone for a year. 

I remember when I was 14 years old living with my friend and his mother. My father had a mental break. He had a breakdown. He was struggling with his relationship with my stepmother. He had to go to a mental hospital. I had to go see him. It was tough for me to see my father in that state. That state of mental illness. He was there for a while. He was highly medicated. Eventually they let him out and he had to kind of survive on his own. 

It was interesting. When I was out on my own, he kind of wasn't interested in helping me but once he was on his own, he was alone. He wanted somebody to connect with. So, he reached out and asked if I could move in with them, which I did. My father was a disciplinarian. Unlike other situations, my mother and stepmother and he pretty much told me I could do whatever I want. I was already involved in drug dealing at a young age and doing all kinds of other illicit things and stuff. So, you know, that's kind of like how my life progressed. Like petty arrests, drunk and disorderly, possessions like marijuana and hallucinogens, fighting and doing all kinds of things, petty thefts, things of that nature. I get probation here and there. 

That's kind of where I'm at. I made that lifestyle choice. I made those lifestyle choices because I thought in my mind the only way I could connect to people, the only way I can feel good is through drug use. There was a short period of my life, I remember, when I was in my, like, 20 years old, like, right when I was coming into my twenties. I met a girl. We went on a date. We had a really strong relationship. I got away from a lot of the substance use and kind of troubled friends that I've been spending time with. The idea was we're going to get married. She's very responsible, come from a good family. 

I was working on fishing boats. I came home from a fishing trip. We got word from the Coast Guard that some of my family died. I believe I was 20 at the time. It was my sister. My little sister passed away. My girlfriend ended up telling me. I was heartbroken because her and I kind of lived through a lot of traumas and we're connected. I'd already envisioned a life with my sister in the future and to lose her was devastating. 

Then I began with the behavior. To cope with that I just started partying and drinking a lot and hanging out at bars back with the old crew. That's where my drug use really kind of spiraled out of control. I got introduced to cocaine in the bars. I started selling weed again. Cocaine was something that I was really interested in. It didn't really chemically mix with me well, but I found that like, a lot of people were interested in it. People started asking if I could get it, and I was able to get it through one of my connections. 

I also got introduced to Vicodin. I used pharmaceutical-based opioids and benzos and stuff before, occasionally. They were alright, but Vicodin, for some reason, I just really fell in love with. A buddy of mine used to trade coke with Vicodin. I got addicted to that real quick. I liked the way it made me feel. It gave me that confidence. It gave me that good feeling that I was always looking for. So, two or three days a week turned into like, every day. I had to hustle harder so that I could afford my addictions. I was working and hustling constantly. That turned into Oxy 80 because they were pushing during that huge farming push. 

Eventually, you know, just trying to sustain this run opioid dependence. I kept trafficking and bringing in more drugs and selling more drugs. I ended up getting busted by the Feds for trafficking crystal meth and heroin, which was something I promised myself I would never do. I was like, I'll never sell those. But yeah, there I was. I got busted by the feds. I got busted with a girl I've grown up with. Her and I have been selling drugs for a long time, on and off. She ended up getting three and a half years indictment, and I ended up getting 12 and a half years in federal prison. 

And before that, I'd only done 20 days in the county. So, it was like a hard hit. And that's where my addiction led me to that point. I'm going to take some space. And Fleet, I'll let you if you want to open up with anyone. Are there any more questions or would you like me to continue? 

Fleet Maull: 

Well, first of all, I just want to acknowledge, you know, Marshall, all the pain in that journey. Growing up with alcoholism and mental illness in your family and losing your sister. I just want to acknowledge that. I hope people realize, not to take away from the uniqueness of anyone's story, but so many people who find themselves incarcerated have similar stories of how they ended up involved with addiction and selling drugs or whatever it might be. 

Ultimately, to turn our own lives around, we have to embrace responsibility for our own choices or our own actions. Kids who are kind of programmed by their circumstances end up in trouble. I just really want to let you know that I hear the pain in your story. Yeah. 

So, when you did get sentenced to federal prison, was that like a wakeup call for you? Did you get into recovery right away? Did you stay in the game for a while in prison and then find your way into recovery? Because that happens in lots of different ways for different people. 

Marshall Lane: 

That's a good question. And yeah, oftentimes, it's very convoluted. So yeah, it was a huge wake up call. I remember being sick. In the beginning, I was scrambling to get my hands on people's sleeping meds. I was still really craving hard to get out of that miserable state of post-withdrawal from opioid use. It was tough. The depression was insane. The world's coming to an end, I think. I drank the white light. In some of the places I was at white light, it's like the look shot that they make. 

Fleet Maull: 

They make in prison a hoot, sure. Yeah. Yeah. 

Marshall Lane: 

Yeah, they just steal it. They stick a stinger in there, and they kind of evaporate the alcohol off, mix with water. I was trying to get high if I could. That was like my thing. But I started reading, like, that was the thing. 

I don't know if it's the ADHD thing or what, but like, not having stimulation was a painful thing so I would just read. I was interested in religion and philosophy, like all these Christians run around telling me these things. I wanted to investigate that for myself. I'd read a lot of fiction books, but eventually, I got straight into nonfiction, like philosophy. I was big into science. I used to read the newspaper every day and started learning about politics, things like that. So, anything new, anything that was interesting, I just started reading it. 

As my sentence progressed, they sent me to obedient over in Otisville, New York. I passed my TDD when I was 18. Like, dropped out of high school. They kicked me out. So, because my scores were high, they gave me a job as a GE tutor. I inquired about it, and they said, "You have to retest to do this job." So, I started doing the GE tutor job and started thinking about my own education. 

It was really difficult because they got rid of all the Pell Grants, so I had to really network through the institution that works with my family. My family started paying for classes. There was a woman that was coming in. Her name is Franca Ferrari Bridgers. She was working for Queensborough Community College, and she was doing communication courses with us. She liked me. She thought I was smart. She agreed to sponsor my associates in psychology. So, I did that correspondence while I was in prison. I really dug deep into psychology. 

Right around that time, I was still in and out, dabbling here and there with like, you know, substances very seldomly. And then I got back into hustle and cigarettes in prison. I was trying to make money. I started smoking. I smoked some marijuana. And then I smoked K2, and I had a really bad experience with that. During that time, it's like, right when I really started digging into Buddhism, I read this book by Bhikkhu Bodhi called the Noble Eightfold Pathway to End Suffering

I just think that like the way Bhikkhu Bodhi writes, like, five years earlier, I probably wouldn't even understand a word he was saying, but my reading level, it advanced to a point where I was able, in my understanding of like, you know, philosophy and religion and ethics and psychology and things where I was able to take that information in and it was like that missing piece of the puzzle. 

I hyper focused on no use of intoxicants because nobody had ever really given me a good enough reason why I should use toxicants. I think like the Buddhist understanding of intoxicants as corrupting the minds so that one can't practice spirituality properly, you know, developed, you know, good conditions for their lives. It made a lot of sense. I finally was able to understand that, see that, so I made that commitment. I got away from the cigarette selling ring because I was scared I might get in trouble. That was another motivating factor there. I just really started focusing on myself and studying Buddhism. 

I began to read the Pali Canons amongst, you know, other works. I delve into Mahayana Buddhism to some extent because I liked some of the descriptions within that philosophy. And like, for years, I just really kind of dug in hard with Buddhism and along with the psychology and trying to understand who I was going to be when they released me from prison, and where I was going to fit in society, what I was going to do with my life. That was kind of my experience with that. 

Fleet Maull: 

So, Marshall, when you first started reading Buddhism, and that started to create that shift for you, how long have you been in prison at that time? 

Marshall Lane: 

I'd say I've been in prison about five years. 

Fleet Maull: 

Yeah. And you had been transferred from a higher security prison down to a medium at Otisville? 

Marshall Lane: 

Well, I started the medium. And then they transferred me to Danbury, which was low security. And then I went to a camp. I spent, like, almost five years in the camp. 

Fleet Maull: 

I see. When you were there, was there anybody else interested in Buddhism? Or was there a meditation group or anything? Or were you just doing all this on your own? 

Marshall Lane: 

Well, I was in the low when I really kind of took a hold of Buddhism as my spiritual practice. They were like a group, but there was only one guy there. So, we started working with a prison and we got volunteers and created a nice little group in Danbury, then I transferred to Devon's in Massachusetts, which is a minimum-security camp. 

We started a little group over there. I would teach people about Buddhism. I tell the Buddhist story and things of that nature and, you know, explain some of the principles and stuff behind it. We did that. It was a small camp with like a hundred guys in it. I did that for the remainder of my prison sentence. 

Fleet Maull: 

I think people often realize how resourceful incarcerated human beings are. When you catch that kind of fire about education, right? When you really kind of catch that bug about really wanting to educate yourself and you get on fire about learning and change. People become really resourceful about putting together resources, starting groups, and often with no support from the institution or have very little support from the outside. But, you know, start self-educating. That sounds like your path was you were really kind of learning a lot of self-reliance there and taking responsibility for your own education. 

Marshall Lane: 

Yeah, definitely, Fleet. I think one of the things that would really motivate me is I'd ask a lot of questions. People would talk to me and tell me things. And then like, I would try to dig in and find the foundation of that knowledge. A lot of people will just say things. So, I'm researching. I'd look into it especially when it comes to religion and philosophy because people are really quick to tell you something. They tell you that you have to believe this, you should do it. But I was always like, "But why?" "What was the reasoning behind that?" I guess that curiosity and probably defiance is what motivated a lot of that kind of reading and learning. 

Fleet Maull: 

Marshall, I remember during my incarceration, just the environment of most prisons and jails, and just the whole. It can be such an assault on one's own personhood and self-worth. I mean, on a good day, you have maybe only a half dozen kinds of really demeaning encounters with either the staff or your fellow prisoners. It takes a lot to maintain a sense of your own innate goodness and self-worth. And so, I'm curious what that journey was like for you, especially since I'm sure because of your journey with addiction, you had already experienced a lot of self-criticism and feelings of guilt and lack of self-worth. So, how did you begin to discover the strengths? What role may your study of Buddhism play in that in terms of finding a way to believe in yourself again, and having a sense of your own innate goodness, and so forth? 

Marshall Lane: 

I would say I attribute that to meta. The meta practice really resonated with me because it talks about kindness focusing inward on yourself, and then working itself outwardly. Self-love is huge. Yeah, you're right, I struggle with that. Even to this day, I still struggle with it. 

A lot of that's probably found in my history and trauma and things. Buddhism really opened the doors to me understanding, self-wellness, self-help, self-love, and then being able to get to a certain point where you're good with that and being able to then project it outwards onto the world and others. 

I think before Buddhism, even if I was trying to do something good or trying to help, I never really had any foundation and self-love or self-care. That's probably one of the reasons why I just gluttonously was just hunting to find things to make me feel good about myself, which isn't the case today. 

Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, absolutely. There was a very important loving kindness practice or meta practice, very important practice for me in prison. I was in a federal prison as well. And there were like 10 buildings. It was a big place. It was a big track kind of between the buildings and the main yard. I would get out, walk that track and be reciting the meta statements the whole time. And for myself, initially trying to overcome all my negative internal negativity and eventually expanding that out to others. So, that was a very, very healing practice for me. 

I'm curious as to how you worked with and perhaps are still working with recognizing. I mean, for me, I had to really recognize that I've been involved in really harmful things, involved in drug trafficking, and I was smuggling cocaine. Originally, I justified that with all kinds of Us versus Them thinking and back in the 70s and early 80s when I was involved, though, we thought Coke was like a recreational drug. And actually, it was creating tremendous harm in people's lives and society. 

And then, once I was in prison, we had a recovery group there. Sitting in those meetings and listening to one man after another talk about their life completely unraveling around cocaine, I had to recognize that I've been involved in something really harmful. So, I'm curious about for you what it was like to embrace personal responsibility and maybe experience regret for past things, and own all that without that turning into self-blame or self-shame, right? 

How do you balance feeling regrets over past action and taking responsibility for our past and our future, while not having that tip over into self-blame or self-shame. And so, I'm sure the meta practice was a big part of that. But I wonder if you could talk a little bit about that balance between self-love and self-kindness, and embracing responsibility for our own lives for our past and our present and our future? 

Marshall Lane: 

Yeah, that's a really good question. So yeah, like you, I experienced that type of loss and pain. I began to start to realize that. I didn't know I was hurting people when it came to drugs. I hadn't really thought about that. I thought I was doing people a favor because I was so in love with drug use things, I thought it was my savior. 

I guess when it comes to regrets and stuff like that, nowadays, it doesn't really affect me. But I think the progression was understanding my reasonings and changing my reasoning like, creating like critical form, like this foundational thinking in Buddhism, you know, following like the five precepts, understanding the truth and the path, and how those correlates to my behavior, and how my mind operates, and internalizing that, and then utilizing it, and then understanding that like my history. 

The damage that I caused, because I did cause a lot of damage, and I do feel guilty about it. And sometimes I'm faced with it. It definitely hurts. But understanding that now I'm doing something different. And I get back, you know. I work for a big company. I'm a Recovery Coach Manager, which I seem to do well at that job. I have a nonprofit now that I started for people that are reentering into society from prison, and people in early recovery or people that struggle with addiction. 

And not only kind of like that selfish kick, but more of like, the gaps, the gaps that exist in treatment and social services out there, which I started noticing right away. It has been three years since I've been out and I've had a lot of struggles. And, you know, noticing the struggles and keying in on it trying to find solutions so that people are put in a situation where they have to make the survival decisions. I think like that form of learning, reasoning, and understanding how not only I think, and others think that they make these choices. 

And being able to take my history, the suffering and pain and you know, the experiences of the past and refocus it into a positive way, is one of the things that makes me feel as if I'm of use, like I'm doing something meaningful and worthwhile, which motivates me. So, the motivation has changed. And so, I don't hold any ill will against the past and myself because we're human beings and we're bound to make mistakes on this journey. 

Fleet Maull: 

That's great. That's great, Marshall. I know you have a very strong service orientation today. I want to explore that more. And yeah, I think that is one of the ways that we can put our past to rest is really by focusing on what we're doing now. Right? We're living our lives now in a way that we feel good about. We feel like we're adding value and so forth. And yeah, we're all human beings, and we make a lot of mistakes. 

I can feel the meta practice there of your self-forgiveness and self-kindness. I can feel the meta practice coming through that. So, that's really wonderful. So, let's talk about getting out of prison. So, you were in for 11 or 11 and a half years and then you got out, did you go straight to the street? Did you go to a halfway house? What was it like getting out of prison for you? 

Marshall Lane: 

Getting out of prison was wonderful and amazing but it was also a stressor because they put me in a halfway house in Boston. New laws came out so instead of having six months, I only had to do three months. The second I hit the halfway house I started working. I had been working on trying to figure out how I'm going to try to, you know, I've got nothing. I got to start getting to that next stage. 

I remember my uncle let me go out and walk around in the city. My uncle gave me a bike. I was riding a bike around. I got a job. I was put into home confinement at my aunt and uncle's house, Western Mass. My uncle gave me a bike. I was riding bikes around getting food stamps, getting all the things I needed. It was a hustle, man. It was a real hustle. I had to ride to the train station. I got up at like 4 AM every day so I could get to my job on Western Mass, Milford Mass, just because I was trying to force him to get me out of the halfway house and put me in home confinement. 

I remember I burnt myself so bad I got sicker than I think I'd ever been sick before. I had to take an ambulance to the hospital because I couldn't breathe. Just from like, you know the amount of work that I was doing just trying to get out of that uncomfortable halfway house situation. They would make you document everything. You have to write a list of everywhere you're going. You got to text them every, you know. It wasn't fun. 

From there, you get your license, you get your IDs. I had all the paperwork. So, I did that. That was a struggle. And even when I was in home confinement with my uncle, I had to get a job at a temp agency because the probation required me to disclose to every employer that I've been incarcerated, which didn't make sense, which, you know, I came across the roadblocks there. So, I just went right through a temp agency, got a warehouse job, started, you know, stalking my chips. 

I stayed with my aunt and uncle. They were great for four months. And then my uncle was like, "All right, it's time for you to hit the road. When are you moving out of here, buddy?" I had saved some money. So, I got a room out in Milford. I didn't want to come back to the North Shore because that's where I'd been doing all my dirt. I was afraid. I'm like, if I come back to the North Shore, then, you know, what if I get connected with old friends and like, what if like, there's an issue. I don't know. So, I just was careful. But then COVID hit. 

I was working as a mechanic. I got this kind of cool mechanic's job. I was doing a lot of welding and metal fab, which I learned in prison over there. And like, the guy was paying me peanuts. I got sick, it wasn't COVID. I got an infection in my lungs. He put me on, what do you call that? A workman's comp or whatever. I was getting the COVID check. 

I came back to the North Shore under the veil of COVID. I wanted to get into treatment. I really wanted to work in one of the psychological fields and treatment just seemed like a good segue. I have associates in psych. I couldn't get a job. People would put me on. They do the quarry. They would tell me, "Oh, you know, you're a great fit." They were dragging me out. So, I'm collecting unemployment at the time. 

A few agencies, I told them, I said, like, "I can't just sit here and wait for you to get the okay from HR or the state or wherever to hire me." So, I kept feeling neurotic. I couldn't find a job. Someone told me to get a recovery coach certificate. It's like a two-week training session. I did that. And, you know, that was one of the most beneficial things I did. I love the recovery coach training. I love the foundations of it. I had learned a lot of motivational interviewing in my psych studies. I fell in love with that. My teacher likes me a lot. And she helped me, and she helped me get a job at one of the kinds of detoxes like the state-run detoxes. That's where I started. 

From there, I didn't like the detox because of how some of the nurses, the staff would treat the clients, and they would treat me too. I guess that was kind of like, you know, some of the stigma, like recovery specialists working on the floor is that like, "Oh, they're just people in recovery. They have no education, and we can just treat them however we want, which is unpleasant." So, I went from there. I started looking around and I got a job with this pool company because I didn't, you know, network and they have a big network or network, and the recovery community was called Aware Recovery Care. 

They do all the treatment. And so, it's like a yearlong program. You get a team of four people. Two recovery coaches, a nurse, a family educator. They work with a person in their recovery in the home. They work from that kind of small family home dynamic. And then, we connect them outwards to different AA or whatever multiple pathways, whatever support group they're interested in, in the community. We have activities. I ended up getting that job. It was a new agency in Massachusetts, which is now the biggest agency in the company. 

I just really hustled, and they ended up making me a manager and now we oversee Middlesex County. I manage all the CRAs in that area. It's a remote job. So, it's either I'm seeing clients or I'm working with other recovery coaches. And within that time, at the detox, I started the nonprofit. And because it was starting COVID, and like, what they did is they shut down all the meetings, and people were having relapses like crazy. I was like, well, let's put together some events, some activities. We do stuff like COVID-friendly walks and things like that trying to keep people active. Do bike rides and stuff, just so people can get out and do something. 

Fleet Maull: 

Yeah, I want to say more about your nonprofit in a moment, but first of all, I just want to really acknowledge that you hung into that struggle of getting out. I'll never forget that period. I was in a halfway house, and I was able to get in home confinement after three months. I did three months halfway house and three months in home confinement. 

I was at risk of violating all the time not because of any bad intent. I came up with a really positive attitude and good support from the Buddhist community that I was connected with. But that just seemed like the place was almost set up to make you fail. They had all these crazy rules. You had to document everything. They wouldn't even show you the rulebook. It's like a thousand rules. 

My good friend, our Executive Director of Prison Dharma Network, Vita, bailed me out a couple of times, just by driving over and picking me up to get me from one place to another, so I wouldn't get violated because, you know, trying to keep up with their crazy system. I almost went back to prison, when I slept through a phone monitor call once I was in home confinement. I just didn't hear the call. And then in the morning, I saw the message that was on my phone, I called. "Fleet, you weren't there. Blah, blah, blah." 

And fortunately, it was a weekend and the halfway house, so the reporting company executive was out of town. So, by Monday, when he got back, and then they called the feds, the feds decided, "Well, you've been back on the clock for two days. We're not going to send you back." But they said, "You're lucky because they should have called us directly and you should have gone back already." So, it was like a crazy system. 

I really understand that. You kind of work your way through that and get yourself into the recovery field and the treatment field and get yourself trained with motivational interviewing and so forth. And then, now you find yourself as a manager with this. It's called Awareness Recovery? 

Marshall Lane: 

It's called Aware Recovery Care. 

Fleet Maull: 

Aware Recovery. Yeah. Yeah, that's fabulous. I mean, I just don't think people realize how heroic it is really. I mean, you're just doing what you have to do to survive, but still, you know, there's a lot of things stacked up against you when you get out like that. And for you to do that, get yourself into where you're a recovery professional now, I think it's just so admirable and really just enjoy sharing that with you and want to really congratulate you on that. So, tell us about your nonprofit that you started. 

Marshall Lane: 

The nonprofit is called Tiffany's Recovery Incorporated. It's named after my sister who died of a drug overdose. The abbreviation is TRI. TRI has a lot of significance in Buddhism and a lot of places, and I just liked it. We call it TRI recovery. It's just kind of funny. 

We started it with the idea of opening up more options as far as recovery-based events and activities. I was working on it with my professor for the recovery coach, because she was really passionate about it. We didn't have support like that. We had all kinds of clinical support, but we didn't have community support. 

I started on profit 501-C3 is a struggle. It was three of us working on it. The treasurer is a business. He's got a really good college education. So, he was able to connect us with a nonprofit, lawyers clearinghouse, we got a pro bono lawyer through them. We got the 501-C3 in under a year. And like, kind of developing programming was a struggle. We're at a stage now, like, we did like a lot of events and activities, but we find there'll be sporadic attendance. It was a lot of work. You'd have to do all the writing. We're doing everything ourselves. 

I had an accountant that was a volunteer, a friend of mine forever. He ended up kind of like, just, you know, ghosting us. So, we ended up adding to the taxes for the first year after the fundraiser. That was a struggle. So, what we've done is now we've developed more into outreach stuff, and like on the technical end, so we created websites, the idea of the websites is to be able to have the calendar to list all the events that are happening within Massachusetts mainly. And then from there, we have some of the resources. 

And then, we just kind of run projects. Mainly outreach projects. Dharma Outreach is one of our projects. It's a Buddhist based project. I have a Tera Vaada Buddhist monk that is working as the director of that. What we do is we go out and we make commitments like what you see in the recovery world, which is just, you know, the monk that's working on this, he's got a history of addiction with crack and alcohol and had a lot of legal troubles in his life. He became ordained monk in Thailand, earning his independence there. 

And so, Kilgore would be able to relate with people that talk about the practicalities of Buddhist practice, and to disadvantaged populations. He goes to St. Francis house, the day shelter in Boston. He'll make commitments. He has a regular commitment at Danvers Detox, which is where people come in like

right off of Mass Ave and stuff throughout your store. He's been to ball pay, you know, and he's been a few other places. 

The idea is to build out more facilitators, people that have no knowledge of Buddhism, some form of Buddhism. We're not really concerned about sectarian Buddhism, but people that can share some of the practices and teach people about Buddhism, in a sense, so that they can learn about it. People that are disadvantaged. The reason for the Dharma outreach, the reason I did that is because I do the outreach out on Mass Ave, and I saw all these Christian organizations. I didn't see one Buddhist organization. So, we got that. 

We also have Prisoners of Prosperity. I started a support group for ex-incarcerated men about a year ago when a licensed drug and alcohol counselor/guide told me that was like doing time back in the 60s and 70s. He's a great guy. It's just a group of men. We have a solid group of guys. Some of them are childhood lifers. Once they got their life sentences overturned because of the new law saying that it's unconstitutional to give people life when they're under 21. So, these guys we meet. It's like an AA group. 

I've been developing a platform so that we can use it as a group that's going to be supported through the nonprofit for people that were ex incarcerated with substance use issues and things of that nature, I guess that's not a requisite. But so, they can have that support group for themselves. But they can also kind of network out resources and things to help people if they need any assistance. 

That group has been like that. That's my baby. There are probably 11 guys that consistently show up. They've just all done amazingly well. We haven't had one person who shouldn't be in that group. Everybody in that group is at high risk, including myself. That's been amazing. So, Prisoner of Prosperity is a project through the nonprofit. 

And then, the book donation. Institutional Book Donation Project is we take books like any books that are recovery based, self-help, spiritual, philosophical, and inspirational. We just donate them to detox institutions, places of that nature. That's been really cool. 

Fleet Maull: 

Wow, that's so great. It's really inspiring. What's the website for your nonprofit so people can learn more about it? 

Marshall Lane: 

Fleet Maull: 

And if people want to support your work, is there some way on the website people can make donations? 

Marshall Lane: 

Yes, absolutely. We are 501-C3 and there's a donation page. They can reach out to us. They can become members. Yeah, that would be great. Yeah. Don't get me talking about TRI, Fleet. I'm going to get all excited, you know. 

Fleet Maull: 

Well, it's your passion. It's your baby. I can feel the passion coming through. Absolutely. Absolutely. That's so great, Marshall. It's such an inspiring story. I got one last word, but we're at the end of our time here. I just have one last story. I'm just curious. 

I think for some people to get involved in Buddhist practice, meditation, and Buddhist practice in prison. Sometimes it's a struggle to find communities on the outside they can connect with. Sometimes a lot of Buddhist communities, meditation centers, maybe they're out in the suburbs, or they're kind of middle upper middle class, people are super educated, things like that. People don't connect or whatever. Well, what was it like for you to find a community? Have you found a community to continue your own Buddhist path? 

Marshall Lane: 

That's a really good question. When I was in Boston, I was riding my bike all around these different Buddhist places and it was really hard to connect. I remember like, it was one of the meditation centers, I think, in like Somerville or something. They were doing a retreat. I went in there to talk. And she's like, "Oh, no, we're doing a retreat." Like, showed me out. 

I went to this one center for grafting, which is like the highroad sterile tree lock, and in the month, did his talk. He spoke broken English. I knew what he was talking about. I don't think a lot of people there could understand him. I just know because I studied quite a while, but I went to shake his hand and he pulled his hand from me. And then I felt, you know. 

I really like to network to try to connect with people. It was during COVID. So, like, people really weren't doing a lot. I will give a shout out to them because one of their members used to visit the prisons, so I'm connected with them. I've visited them a few times. I like that group. They've been supportive. But I don't like it locally, like in my area. 

There's another Zen Buddhists out here. And like, you know, she jumps on a lot of political causes and stuff like that. I really try to avoid that. I stay neutral in my practice. That's something I'm not really interested in. I've really struggled to find it. I am connected to another Tibetan center that just recently moved here. And so, I keep an eye on them. I like them a lot. So yeah, I've networked around, but I haven't found my home. I haven't found a place to hang my hat as far as Buddhism goes in my area. 

Fleet Maull: 

Well, I hope you do. But it sounds like maybe you're creating your own place to hang your hat as well. So yeah, but stay connected with us, Marshall, we really want to support your work. Prison Dharma Network is national and international, but we happen to be based here in Massachusetts. So, we're neighbors. Right? We want to continue to support you and support what you're doing. 

To our audience, one of the messages I think here is that, I think, Buddhist communities and meditation communities all over the country, we could do a better job at opening our doors to people coming out of prison and out of homelessness and out of addiction, and out of the various life struggles that so many of us get caught up in. 

I think as a movement, you know, Western Buddhism needs to do a better job than that. And so, yeah, I'm glad you're able to speak that. One of the impacts that I hope this summit will have is raising awareness around the whole Prison Dharma, Prison Meditation movement, and how important it is and how the larger kind of meta Buddhist Sangha, which really involved in so many ways, but when it gets down to actual centers and actual communities, sometimes there can still be a lot of barriers that people experience, whether it's around socioeconomic status, or race, or gender expression, or coming out of prison, or wherever it is. I just hope we can all become more open and embracing. 

I just really want to thank you for being part of our summit, Marshall. It was really inspiring to learn about you and your story and the work you're doing now. Congratulations on that. 

Marshall Lane: 

Thank you, Fleet, so much. The beauty of Buddhism is these teachings are open for all. I just want to give a shout out to my wonderful girlfriend who has been so supportive with everything, Samantha McCourt. I want to highlight that. Sometimes I don't mention the people that are really responsible for my own personal success. 

Fleet Maull: 

None of us do it alone. So, I'm glad you got that support. Well, you take care, Marshall. Let's stay in touch. 

Marshall Lane: 

All right. Thanks, Fleet. It was good meeting you finally. 

Fleet Maull: 

Good meeting you. Bye. 

Marshall Lane: 



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