Turning Addiction, Death and Incarceration Into a Brand of Hope and Inspiration

Prior to the pandemic, I had the pleasure of graduating groups of inmates in my “Define Your Brand, Own Your Future” personal branding workshop program for sentenced and pre-trial offenders within the Massachusetts Department of Correction. Prior to each inmate receiving their MDK Brand Management Certificate of Achievement, celebrating their completion of the 4-week program, they wrote and presented their personal brand elevator pitch. Each inmate (now part of the electronic monitoring program) stood in front of their peers and the entire staff of the facility and shared their story. The stories were intense, raw, and deeply personal. Please read the two below. These are real stories experienced by real people.

Thank you to Middlesex County Sheriff Peter Koutoujian for his incredible leadership in offering life-changing programs for his male and female inmates. And a huge thanks to Suffolk County Sheriff Steve Tompkins for opening the door for me years ago that led to my having the rewarding opportunity to use my experience to help offenders remake their brand and rebuild their life. After reading the stories below, I hope you will take a moment to reflect on the devastating impact of addiction, as told by two people who live it every day, and who have made it their mission to turn their “mess into a message.” I am so proud of them, as I am of each inmate who decides to take control of their future and turn their life around.
“Hello. My name is Shay and I inspire to use my past trauma and bad decisions to help others out of a hard time in their life. Growing up I watched my mother and loved ones struggle with addiction. Learning these behaviors at a young age, I believe, led me into my life of addiction. After facing addiction for most of my young adult life, my poor judgement led me to my incarceration. While incarcerated, I had lost my mother to addiction. This was a significant event in my motivation to turn my life around. Instead of dwelling on her no long being here with me, I use it every day to push me to my purpose. I am now using all my life lessons and experiences to grow as a substance abuse counselor in hopes to bring change and positivity to someone’s life who needs it.”
“Hello, I’m Sean. I went from a troubled angry youth to committing crimes and selling drugs as a teenager and then a full-blown addict as an adult. Growing up I never felt like I had a chance at a ‘normal’ life, college degree, 9-5 job, house and a family with a white picket fence. When I was 25, I was charged for the death of my best friend. While incarcerated, I had a spiritual awakening, a reality check. I have since turned my life around and want to show others in similar situations you can achieve anything you set your mind to, and it’s never too late to start over. My name is Sean, a recovering addict and felon. I turned my life around and so can you.”
According to the National Survey on Drug Use and Health (NSDUH), 19.7 million American adults (aged 12 and older) battled a substance use disorder in 2017. If you’d like to help, contact https://recoverycentersofamerica.com.