Mike describes a moment midway into his prison sentence when he realized there has to be a better way: a better way to spend his time, a different place to focus his energy, a way to shift into a positive space. One of the things that stood out to him was the negativity and hopelessness for a better future shared by many of the men at the prison. He saw this echoed in the lack of opportunities and in staff’s attitude.

Mike found his way to prison as a result of drug use, which occurred later in his life, after obtaining a master’s degree and having a successful career in writing. This led to the dissolution of his marriage and his life falling apart. This resulted in him continuing the cycle of using, despair and hopelessness that kept following him until his moment of clarity in prison.

The realization that a better way exists led Mike to take action, to identify ways to find hope, even in a place where it was difficult to do so. He began practicing yoga, started to attend 12-step meetings, and decided to study addiction counseling. He took advantage of a correspondence program with Rio Salado college, which reinforced his desire to live a life that was about helping others. Once Mike was released, due to SB1291, he participated in SAGE Counseling’s Transition Program, which continued to provide him with structure and support. He felt it was a platform that allowed him to be heard, and his path led him to enroll at GCU to pursue a master’s degree in addiction counseling, which he finished last year.

Person in a field of flowers jumping for joy Photo by Catalin Pop on Unsplash

Mike’s realization that he must take action in order to once again become the person he wanted to be, was the motivation that he needed to change his perspective. He worked on putting the negativity of his environment aside and focusing instead on self-development, mindfulness, and on recovery. He realized that those without hope often remained in a cycle of self-defeating thought patterns.

When asked what advice he would want to share with others, Mike said that he would tell those still incarcerated to set goals, to be focused, and not to give up. He wants people to know that there is life after a felony, that opportunities exist, and that one’s attitude can change one’s future. Being a convicted felon or recovering drug addict is just a label, and shouldn’t have to define the rest of a person’s life. Mike wishes that inmates were given more opportunities, since in addition to his own experience, data shows that education reduces recidivism. Now that Mike has graduated and works as a group counselor, we are pleased to have SAGE continue to be part of his journey, as he continues to help others on their own path of recovery.