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Diane first learned of the early-release senate bill while serving her second prison sentence. After years of being involved in biker gangs, substance use, and unhealthy relationships, her second incarceration was a five-year sentence for an activity her husband had been involved in. While in Perryville, she learned that many of the women there had similar stories, with a shared history of trauma.

As Diane was confronted by the length of her sentence, and she gained time in her sobriety, she realized how many of the decisions she made in life stemmed from her relationships and co-dependency issues. She wanted to gain a better understanding of this, and decided to enroll in programs offered by the prison. Diane reported that while she found she related to the other women’s stories, she didn’t connect to the programming since most of it was based in 12-step and faith-based theory. Diane felt that including a religious deity was almost an extension of not taking responsibility for her own actions, and when she first heard of SAGE’s Transition Program, she worried that it may be more of the same.

Upon her release, Diane did not have the support of her family. She felt ready, but still anxious about what would be next for her. Diane felt SAGE was a revelation, a place where she was treated like an equal, a place where she was understood. She found SAGE to be a place where she was able to learn about her past patterns in a way that resonated with her. She acknowledges that each person has their own personal path to recovery, and up until that point, she felt it was a one-size-fits all approach. She remembers clearly the moment after enrolling in SAGE when she realized that there are other ways to be in recovery, and was excited to learn how individual treatment can be, where varying points-of-view were honored.

Women's hands linking pinkies Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

It was this realization that inspired her to help others, and motivated her to identify her professional calling. Diane became certified in peer-support, and started working towards a college degree. Eight years later, Diane works as a coordinator for non-profit and a liaison for SMI clinics. She loves the challenge and rewarding nature of her work, and the opportunities it provides her to help other women get out of bad situations.

When asked what advice she would want to share with others, Diane stated she would tell those still incarcerated that “Prison and your past choices don’t define who you are. In fact, your past can build you a better future”. Diane felt that prison just focused on punishment and not rehabilitation, and that mindset does not allow for change. Diane’s advice for new clients is to be open, so that new paths can present themselves.