NANAIMO — Drugs, violence, mistrust, anger.
All factors which put a Nanaimo man on a one-way track to jail. They’re the demons he’s now hoping to vanquish in order to realize his goal of living a normal life.
Dustin, 47, was released from Nanaimo Correctional Centre (NCC) on Monday, June 18 after serving his latest one-year stint behind bars for a violent crime. During a lengthy phone conversation with NanaimoNewsNOW, Dustin opened up about the mindset of a career criminal and the struggle to break free from the destructive cycle.
Crime was a part of Dustin’s life since he was 12, leading to numerous drug and violence-related sentences in several B.C. communities.
He said heroin became a coping tool, easing the pain of a lifestyle riddled with trust issues, distorted thinking and anti-social behaviour.
“These things became habits and part of my daily life where I didn’t even know how to function properly in society.”
Dustin called a 2011 to 2012 period in NCC’s renowned Guthrie House program a “real eye-opener” into the depth of his problems. The therapeutic community dealing with residents of NCC with addictions issues helped him deal with anger problems, something Dustin said was the biggest reason for his inability to coexist in normal society. However, he said formidable challenges like poor communication skills and accepting his true identity remained unresolved.
When a friend was murdered in 2014, Dustin’s reaction was violence, leading to his most recent prison term. He said in hindsight he didn’t address what really made him angry when he was released from NCC in 2012: how to process and communicate his emotions properly.
“I didn’t know how to cope and deal with that, which made me resort to using drugs because I hadn’t prepared myself for feelings and emotions and how to properly process and deal with them at that time.”
Over the past year in the Guthrie House program, Dustin learned important lessons about tolerance, self-trust and being mindful when he’s judging others. He said guilt and shame from his past were addressed by talking about those feelings instead of masking them.
It also became clear many prior relationships were unhealthy and based on need, something he called common in the criminal lifestyle.
“If somebody had something that I wanted or needed I would be nice to them for that purpose. If somebody was nice to me then I would be questioning ‘What do they want from me?’ That built up a lot of issues with trust.”
Dustin said he is now mindful of how he interacts with others and can accept opposing views free of hostility. He has formed more meaningful relationships.
He said accountability has brought him much closer with his son and granddaugther, who he said are “very supportive” of his journey to recovery.
After leaving NCC on Monday, Dustin moved into a Nanaimo sober house and plans to pursue schooling with the goal of becoming an addictions counsellor.
He acknowledged some people may judge him, but he’s comfortable with who he is and the path he’s on.
“I can only be me and try my best to be a good person and do everything the way I know it needs to be done.”
While time will tell, Dustin said he’s done with his old life and is severing ties with people involved with the drug and criminal culture.
— Watch for part two of Dustin’s rehabilitation journey next Monday, offering a detailed account of NCC’s renowned Guthrie House addictions program.