Dominic smiles as he talks about the cat he just adopted. He said that during his last prison sentence, seven years in a high-risk yard with rotating cell-mates, he never imagined that the next being he shared his space with would be a rescued cat. Dominic has been out of prison now for several years; it is the first time in decades that he has no legal issues and is not on probation or parole. Adding to his list of accomplishments, last year he moved into his own apartment, after experiencing homelessness and incarcerations since 1986.
Dominic realized during his most recent prison sentence that he had had enough, that he had given too many years and sacrificed too much of his life, in an endless pursuit of drug use and apathy. During his years of active drug and alcohol use he got to a point where nothing else mattered, saying it was like being in a tunnel. He thought of the many times he had been in jail and prison, where his main thought was how quickly he could return to his past lifestyle, and about all of the people that he met over the decade with a similar mindset. He thought of how easy it can be to sometimes find hope and make plans while incarcerated, only to give up once released. He realized he would have to do the hard work once the gate opens, that his actions and choices must be different this time.
He became involved with recovery groups while still inside, resolved never to return, and was happy to be eligible for early release on SB1291. Once he was released, reality was a bit of a shock: he had no place to live, had no income, was experiencing health issues compounded by age, and what felt like a lot of rules set by parole. With the support of SAGE, and his groups and case manager, he was able to create structure and refocus, and get clarity on what he is striving for, and on steps on how to get there.
Dominic believes that once one realizes that they have had enough, and that they are ready for change, even if it’s not clear on how that looks, that help is there. Dominic feels that knowing that there are others that care about his success helped him stay motivated, and gave him hope. Five years after his release, he has established his retirement income, reinstated his license and bought a used car, and has his own apartment, which he is now able to share with his new roommate and companion, his rescue cat.