“…I don’t have to fight everything anymore…I was able to let go, and to realize I am in control of my feelings and my decisions….

Feet with arrows pointing in different directions indicating a choice Photo by Jon Tyson on Unsplash

These days, Isaac is stressed about balancing his schedule, which includes working full-time while being an ASU student. After years of substance dependency, homelessness, legal issues, and ultimately, prison, it is a problem he’s happy to have. Isaac, who had worked in law enforcement when he was younger, found himself serving a prison sentence after losing his support system, which resulted from substance use and relationship problems. Isaac reports that his drug use was a form of self-medication, for undiagnosed and untreated behavioral health issues. Finding himself homeless made finding employment a challenge, and he found himself in a cycle that was difficult to break. While in prison, the reality of his situation hit him with clarity: finding himself on the other side of the law was an experience he describes as humiliating, and he felt he lacked any support.

Once released, after becoming eligible for an early release through SB1291, he felt it was challenging to let go of the anger he felt, and at the frustration he was experiencing with parole, the legal system, and homeless services. He decided that this anger and approach were no longer working for him, and he made the decision to be open with his treatment team, to be open to learning a different way of thinking and being. Isaac reports that his time in SAGE taught him that he can control his emotions, that it is his choice whether he allows others to have the power over him, and that he holds the key within himself. Through groups, case management, and individual counseling, Isaac learned to control his anger, to be accountable to himself, and to explore his underlying issues. Isaac states that this all made him strong and helped him identify his needs and ways to address them. Through SAGE’s help, he enrolled in a supportive housing program, continued his counseling, and began taking medication.

When asked what advice he would want to share with others, Isaac stated he would tell those still incarcerated that “… we all have choices, and that choices have consequences, and don’t allow yourself to be a victim”. Isaac would want to tell new SAGE clients that “you have all the tools available. No one can make you use them, but you’ve got a great support team, and it’s up to you to take full advantage and put those tools to use”. Having seen both sides of prisons, as a former correctional officer and as a former inmate, Isaac feels frustrated at what he sees as corruption, especially within private prisons. This is what leads him to be involved in recovery and advocacy efforts in our community, to make a difference in a system that creates cycles that can be hard to break out of. He wishes that there was more focus on treatment and not incarceration, since he credits the treatment he received at SAGE as being the pivoting point that made true change possible for him.

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