Diane’s mother introduced her to meth at the age of 17. She was already buying Diane alcohol at around age 15. Diane’s first arrest was at 17, and then she seemed to get arrested almost every year following that for marijuana charges and other miscellaneous stuff. Her first DWI was at age 22, and then one at 24. She didn’t get her 3rd DWI until she was 32 because she didn’t have a license for all those years. If the system would have looked at her criminal record as a health chart they could have seen she had a problem with substance abuse and could have insisted on treatment way before she had to become a felon. From Diane herself, “When people start that early in life they don’t know any other way to live. My story isn’t much different than a lot of kids these days where mom would rather be your friend.”
Diane is now about to graduate from college and plans to serve in the social work profession. I know her personally, and she has been an inspiration to me and countless others. She has overcome many obstacles and still continues to face legal discrimination and ostracizing stigma due to her criminal record. However, her passion for the transformation of others who struggle with where she has been and for our community provides an energy and authenticity that is unmatched and invaluably necessary for all of us working in our community. And I can only imagine how many more years we all could have benefitted from Diane’s powerful presence if she had gotten the help she truly needed much earlier on. Just think of all the transformative possibilities of Diane’s life and all those who struggle from a very early age with substance abuse issues!
Instead, because we give those ill with substance abuse a rap sheet before a health chart, we continue to thwart and throw away many years of productive, transformative lives that could be working to make life better for us all. But it’s never too late. Thank you Diane!