Martin Lockett | Prison to Purpose Pipeline

Highjacked by trauma and a profound desire for validation, Martin Lockett attached himself early on to gangs, drugs and violence – all in the name of fitting in. It was a path that took him into a world of trouble, including a DUI accident that resulted in the death of two people. Sentenced by the state of Oregon to 17.5 years in prison at the age of 24, his life might have been ruined by addiction and despair. Instead, Martin chose hope and believed in the possibility of redemption. More importantly still, he was willing to do the work. “I determined that the only way that this tragedy would not be in vain was if I carried on (my victims’) legacies by doing the work in the recovery community,” says Martin, who methodically went about earning a master’s degree in psychology and acquiring tools and credentials to lift others out of the pain and self-loathing he once knew.

Martin found in substances an easy way to get comfortable with peers, and himself. He didn’t recognize the role that hypervigilance, low self-esteem and a fractured ego could play in feeding his addicted mind. That understanding came only through time, and intention. You’ll be inspired not only by Martin’s honesty but also by his mission to enfranchise young people impacted by trauma and social pressures of which they’re not aware.

Released from prison in 2021 after serving his full sentence, Martin is today a 43-year-old man committed equally to recovery and advocacy. He works full-time for Lines for Life, supporting individuals at risk for suicide and substance abuse. He is also the author of two books, including most recently his compelling memoir, “Prison to Purpose Pipeline: How One Sentence Led to a Life of Service.” There is power in accountability – to ourselves and to others. Martin epitomizes the ideals of service that fuel recovery and our best hopes for becoming our most fully realized selves. His resonant life story, rigorous self-reflection and commitment to change have something to say to all of us, wherever we are in our journeys.

Click here if you’d like to buy Martin’s book: “Prison to Purpose Pipeline: How One Sentence Led to a Life of Service.” You might also enjoy listening to Rock the Bottom, the podcast he co-hosts about rebounding from low points through our shared humanity.

If you’d like to support The Beyond Belief Sobriety Podcast, please consider clicking here to become a patron. Your contribution of just $1, $3 or $5 a month goes a long way towards building this community! 

KEY TAKEAWAYS:

  • Out of prison for a little over a year, Martin is living his best sober life and doing the work he set out to do after he committed a fatal DUI that sent him to prison for the better part of two decades.
  • Martin’s parents worked hard to keep him away from the “wrong crowd,” but for a shy kid who wanted to embolden himself the crime, gangs and drugs proved impossible to resist. Everything else was secondary.
  • An afterschool job at an ice cream parlor exposed Martin to white, middle class kids. He quickly adapted – code switching between Black street gang clothes and preppy designer labels to fit into what he perceived as a more upwardly mobile world.  
  • Coming out of a stint in juvenile detention, Martin was separated from his peer group and placed in a school where he was given personal attention. He blossomed, achieving straight A’s – until his 45 days were up and life returned to business as usual.
  • Will they listen? Martin reflects on the reasons young people don’t take advice:
    • They believe elders couldn’t possibly understand their current landscape.
    • They are sensitive to perceived judgment.
  • A powerful message Martin leverages to bring kids back from the brink: It’s not too late. You can still make different decisions to set yourself on a path of health and prosperity.
  • Trauma and Substance Abuse: There is an undeniable – but treatable – correlation.
  • Hypervigilance is a form of stress that lives on within the body, generated either by directly experiencing or witnessing trauma.
  • The brains of children who grow up in chaotic environments are materially altered by the prolonged stress and inevitable CPTSD (Complex Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder).
  • When we grow up in trauma-fueled circumstances, it impacts our ability to pick up on normal behavioral cues and make neutral assessments. The result? Poor choices based on skewed judgments.
  • Emotional intelligence and boundaries are integral to healthy relationships (which some understand intuitively and others must learn and practice).
  • That person you think is an arrogant narcissist is very often operating from a place of low self-esteem and fractured ego.
  • About Relapse: Coming out of another prison sentence at 21, Martin was determined to stay sober and make a success of himself. He was on track until his addictive mind told him he was doing so well he could allow himself a drink … It was only a matter of time.
  • New Year’s Eve 2003: It could have been any of us. While driving drunk, Martin slammed into another car, killing two people.
  • Martin reflects on his experience with the justice system and how he wound up with a 17.5 year sentence after pleading guilty to vehicular manslaughter.
  • Coming upon a newspaper profile about the lives of Martin’s victims, who were in recovery and actively working to support others in their sobriety, changed everything.
  • The Purpose of Purpose: Having a sense of identity and a mission enabled Martin to step into his larger calling and the fullest expression of his potential in service to others.
  • Tutoring fellow inmates seeking GEDs was Martin’s first exposure to the rewards of helping others strive towards their goals and dreams. He provided a safe space for vulnerability.
  • Mentorship, counseling and helping fellow inmates process trauma became the source of Martin’s own healing.
  • The Power of Connection: With help from a pen pal whose support would change the course of his life, Martin identified colleges that offered degrees via U.S. mail (because he had no online access in prison). It started a painstaking process that ultimately resulted in a bachelor’s degree in sociology and a master’s degree in psychology.
  • Pen to Paper: Sitting down to write his memoir brought back in vivid detail the many influences that shaped Martin’s life. The manuscript that emerged after seven months was gratifying in itself, but the catharsis and healing were transformational.
  • Where Martin is Today: He works full-time for Lines for Life, a support network that offers resources to people struggling with mental health and addiction issues. He’s also very involved with DUI victim impact panels around Oregon, youth education and speaking.

 Memorable Quotes

 “Through (this) process there has been, as you can imagine, a lot of introspection, a lot of education, a lot of, frankly, growing up. And then trying to parlay all of that into a purpose for my life.” (Martin)

“I was terribly shy – as a lot of young people are – and I would do virtually anything to overcome that shyness and be sociable, to be accepted and belong. We all have this inherent need to belong and be a part of something.” (Martin)

“I’m trying on all these identities … and that was kind of at the crux of my need to drink and to suppress these hard feelings. That’s how I coped.” (Martin)

“Even though I was out running the streets and doing these things I knew were contrary to what my parents would want and how they raised us, I still felt that I was capable. I felt that I was intelligent. But I couldn’t show that.” (Martin)

“We all want to belong. We all want to fit in. But you have to ask yourself: What price are you willing to pay to gain the acceptance of people who probably aren’t headed in the right direction?” (Martin)

“We don’t just wake up and find ourselves in prison with a 20-year sentence. It was a continuous pattern of bad decisions that just spiraled out of control.” (Martin)

“If your brain is constantly on active alert or your nervous system is stimulated, then you’re going to misperceive things that are a threat when they aren’t a threat; you’re going to react to something that is totally mundane.” (Martin)

“When I was consumed by my addiction, I was the most self-absorbed, self-centered, insensitive person you could have met. It was all about me. It had to be all about me, but that was from a fractured ego; a place of low self-esteem.” (Martin)

“I so desperately needed to feel important, to feel validated, to feel that my life mattered … but I still hadn’t done the critical inner work that needed to be done within myself to feel okay without other people’s acceptance, validation or praise.” (Martin)

“I determined that the only way that this tragedy would not be in vain was if I carried on (my victims’) legacies by doing the work in the recovery community, helping those struggling with an active addiction and getting the word out about the irreversible consequences of drinking and driving. So I set out on a mission.” (Martin) 

“It is giving of myself that has in turn validated me, that has in turn given me fulfillment.” (Martin)

“(Writing my memoir) really led me on this process … I was able to really sit with this heavy stuff … and get the closure that I needed in a lot of ways.” (Martin)

“We all are bound by this common thread of addiction and recovery … (and) once we have crossed over into this life of sobriety, we have an obligation to reach back and lend a hand to the person still struggling. We just do.” (Martin) 

Additional Resources

Lines for Life, a nonprofit dedicated to preventing suicide and substance abuse.

Remember 9-8-8, the federal government’s new suicide and crisis emergency hotline.

Rock the Bottom, a podcast Martin co-hosts featuring the stories of pain and reconciliation that connect us all. 

About Our Guest

During his incarceration, Martin earned a Certificate of Human Services from Louisiana State University, an AA from Indiana University, a BS in Sociology from Colorado State University and an MS in Psychology from California Coast University. He currently works as an addictions recovery coach and facilitates driver victim-impact panels, staffs a suicide and substance abuse hotline and speaks widely on topics related to sobriety and hope.

Follow Martin: 

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