Ex-Prisoners Are Sharing The Habits They Learned Behind Bars That They Just Can't Break, And It's Eye-Opening

    "I’ve been out eight years and I still eat like a dog."

    For many people who get out of prison, rejoining society can be a major adjustment. Habits that you form behind bars — often as a means of surivival — can be hard to shake once you're free.

    handcuffs being unlocked from a wrist

    Well, a viral Reddit thread once asked former prisoners of the internet, "What was the hardest prison habit to break after being released?"

    a prison interior

    The thread garnered thousands of responses from people who've made the transition from prison to the outside world. Here are their top-voted answers:

    1. "Staring at sharp things. Like there's no desire to use them inappropriately, but you are just kinda shocked they're there and available for use. You might be surprised what qualifies as a sharp object. I remember whenever someone tried to hand me a knife or something to cut veggies I'd be afraid to touch it. Glass was the biggest thing though — just mirrors in all the bathrooms. Real ones. I could smash that shit and have a big jagged weapon. I can't believe this Italian restaurant has such a dangerous thing in their bathroom. Stopping thinking of objects as weapons is hard."


    2. "I’ve been out eight years and I still eat like a dog. Most prisons give you 30 minutes for your meal but that includes the walk from your cell block to the chow hall, waiting in line, and finding a seat. Normally by the time I actually get a piece of food in my mouth I’ve already got a CO yelling over my shoulder to hurry up. It’s really annoying going out to eat with people and gobbling up your meal, only to be stuck watching normal people eat for 20 minutes."


    3. "I didn't use a fork for a few weeks. Ate everything with a spoon without thinking."


    a hand washing spoons

    4. "Taking a shit with my underwear up to my thighs to hide my junk. It took a long time to go back to pants around the ankles."


    5. "Dude I work with said for the first little bit after getting out, he would take a leg out of his pants when he’d shit. Not sure how common that was. Dude’s a fighter though, so maybe that had something to do with it."


    6. "Hoarding feminine hygiene products. We were super limited on the number of pads or tampons they gave us. They didn't give any to the women in holding cells. There was dried and fresh menstrual blood on the floor and concrete benches, and a drain in the middle of the rooms like they intended to hose down the room, but if they did it was not often enough."


    a woman holding tampons

    7. "Being paranoid. Always looking over my shoulder, and never letting anyone stand behind me. Even people passing on the side of me, I'm always turning my head to see what they're doing."


    8. "I still like having a stash of ramen packs somewhere, even if I'm not going to eat them."


    9. "Making prison commissary-only food. Everyone around me thinks it is gross as hell to throw summer sausages, pickles, cheese, Doritos, Cheetos, and such into my ramen noodles, but good lord, I can't stop, and I have been out for five years."


    stacks of ramen noodles

    10. "I’ve got a good job now, and nice respectable friends, but I still react to confrontational situations more quickly, decisively and...efficiently than they do. I’m able to pull back at the last minute, but it’s pretty clear that violence is not a tool in their arsenal."


    11. "The hardest thing has been to talk without using the words fuck, fucking, or asshole in every sentence."


    12. "I don't smoke, but every time someone offered me a cig I would pocket it. On the inside that's a bartering chip. Took me about a month or two to break."


    a person rejecting a cigarette

    13. "I had to completely change my sense of time. I agree with all the people who said they ate super fast, but then we would slow walk back from the chow hall — any excuse for a few minutes more outside. I made sure I never consolidated enjoyable things. If I had a snack, I ate it and concentrated on it. If there was something good on TV, I watched it. Now, I’ll snack while I watch a movie because there aren’t enough hours in the day — but on the inside, I was trying to make hours and days go away."


    14. "Definitely sleeping habits. Still haven't broke them. Haven't slept a full night in over a decade. Any noise and my eyes are open and I'm wide awake. I can hear really well. A raccoon comes nightly to eat scraps and cat food and I can hear him crunching outside on the porch from bed on the opposite side of the house (roughly 60 feet away). Wide awake."


    15. "Taking as long as you want in the shower. For the longest time after I got out, I took less than five minute showers."


    a person shampooing in the shower

    16. "I spent 72 months in prison for a tragic car accident that I had caused. After I was released, I kept telling my wife exactly what I was doing without her asking. She thought it was funny at first, but after a few weeks of it she was starting to get bothered."


    17. "I was released at the end of November after three years, and my biggest adjustment is grocery shopping. In prison, you typically can only go to the canteen once a week. And it isn't like just walking into your local grocery store, you have to write all your items down in advance, so if you forget something, you have to wait another week to get it, or if you're lucky, buy the item off another inmate. So it is still weird adjusting to being able to go and get groceries, hygiene items, etc. whenever I need them."


    18. "I find myself hoarding toilet paper under my bed. Sometimes I do it without thinking and I'll look under there and have 10 rolls of TP."


    toilet paper

    19. "Not an ex-con, but my stepdad has been in and out of prison for the majority of his life. He always said that whenever he gets out of prison you're so used to to it being loud all the time, that when he got home he couldn't sleep because it was so quiet."


    20. "Doing laps. In prison, every time you get time on the yard, you do laps. Seriously, almost every single person does it too. When you get out, it's hard to break that habit."


    21. "By far the hardest conditioning to break, which I haven't and doubt I ever will, is the constant pessimism and cautious optimism. You see, when you're waiting to work your way through court, get a deal, and get sentenced, you will have your dates changed 50 times, hope for certain things only to be disappointed, and any time you are told something hopeful it doesn't work out. As a result, I never get excited for something until it actually happens."


    And finally...

    22. "Isolation. I used to be a social butterfly, but after spending so much time keeping to myself I don't know how to socialize anymore."


    a lonely man looking out a window of his bedroom

    You can read the full thread of responses on Reddit.

    Note: Some responses have been edited for length and/or clarity.