For 23 years of my life, I struggled to know who I was, or who I eventually wanted to be. As the youngest of 3 older siblings, I grew up quickly, and had friends who were mostly older than me. My parents had their flaws, but worked as hard as they possibly could to make our lives better than what theirs were. We owned our home on a huge lake; we had pets and multiple cars, and mostly everything we could have ever wanted, emotionally and physically. When I was about 13 years old, I started smoking pot regularly, which led me to a lot of trouble in school. I was eventually expelled from high school in the 9th grade. I finished in night school, by this time, I had moved on from just smoking pot, to also using prescription pills. No, they were never prescribed to me. By the age of 16 years old, I had thrown away every relationship and opportunity that I had built for myself. My addiction got completely out of control and I ended up incarcerated in state prison. Each time I was let out of prison, I would relapse, adding to my list of regrets and guilt. My family stopped trying, and the only friends i had were other actively using addicts. In 2009, I was sentenced to 5 years in prison for receiving stolen property, along with multiple other smaller charges. I was 19 years old. I was in a prison that held bank robbers and murderers. There were times I had gotten into fights or arguments, but for the most part, I was in solitary for constantly breaking rules or doing drugs in the prison. I was diagnosed there by a doctor with PTSD, Anxiety, Depression, and OCD. In 2013, I was released on parole. I thought they must have done that by mistake, because I was certainly not a model inmate. I made two friends while in prison, one of them, Jessie, has 2 life sentences, and as or right now, will never be released. The other, Dani, was also there for crimes she committed because of anger and drugs; she was sentenced to 8-12 years. Dani lost many of her close family members while she was incarcerated. Her family had been attacked, her sister was almost kidnapped, and she could do nothing. She was not able to go to their services. Jessie would never get to live life outside those fences ever again. Both of these girls are still my friends today, and they are my biggest support team. They are my only friends I can tell anything too. They push me forward every day, and remind me constantly to relax, and be greatful. Because of their support to never give up, and to get the proper help I needed, today, my accomplishments are staking up. I decided to go to college, and help other people like me. I am a convicted felon, with 3 jobs, my own business, and in school full time. I work for BAMSI, a program familiar to SAMHSA, as a therapeutic mentor and program coordinator. I work at Highpoint Treatment Center as a clinician, and I have a professional dog training company. I have a 3.91 GPA with only 3 classes left, and completed the MA National honors society with A's. I got the Blue Buffalo Dog Food brand to sponsor service dogs trained inside of the prison by the inmates, donating 40,000lbs of food/ year and training supplies. Finally, I was able to get other felons hired who live in Brockton, Ma to work at Gillette Stadium, 130 of them, to reduce the recidivism rate for Brockton, Ma. I own a brand new car, a motorcycle, 4 dogs, and a partner with 2 children. My life is amazing today. Even with all of the growth I have made, and all of the obstacles people like us face, I guess one thing has not changed, I still do not respect socially normal boundaries. As a felon and recovering addict with mental health struggles, people do not expect me to have ever come as far as I have, nor to have been able to help as many people as I have tried. The best part is, I am not even close to being done yet!
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