prisoner professor

From Prisoner To Professor

prisoner professor

Noel Vest shares his motivating story of personal recovery.

This article originally appeared at


Possession of methamphetamine. My life in addiction probably began after my first arrest. Before then, my addiction didn’t seem real. I always gave myself the benefit of the doubt.

That first arrest changed things. I had crossed an invisible line into territory where there were no more logical excuses. I could no longer hide.

I wish that my story ended with that first possession charge. In a perfect world, I’d go to treatment, get the help I needed, and live happily ever after. But I have never been a person to learn things the easy way. In fact, my preferred route was the extreme opposite direction of the easy way. In the year after that first arrest, I lost my car, custody of my daughter, my apartment, and sold out my half of the business I had worked tirelessly to start.

Noel VestOver the next two years, addiction stole my life from me. I am not proud of what I became. I will live with the consequences for the rest of my life. I was sucked into the seedy underworld of the drug subculture, a world where people don’t sleep, crime pays, and the party never ends. Sure, meth was my drug of choice, but identity theft gave me the rush of a thousand roller coaster rides. Slowly, the felony charges piled up. Then came the police. My luck finally ran out on July 1st, 2002.

I spent the next seven years of my existence reading, learning, persevering, and redeeming myself in the Nevada Department of Corrections. I am not an incredibly smart person but I am extremely motivated when I am passionate about something. I read three books that would forever alter the course of my live; Alcoholics Anonymous, Broken by William Cope Moyers, and Beautiful Boy by David Sheff.

Those three books spoke to me and reached me in a way that no other person could have. They gave me hope and challenged me to be a better son, brother, father. Most of all, I wanted to be a better person. I decided that I wanted to try and use my own experience to help and motivate other people struggling with addiction.

My new life began on June 28, 2009, the day I was released from prison. I had started college classes while in prison but the real challenge was going to be surviving college in the “real world.” I signed up at the local community college with the goal of trying to become a drug and alcohol counselor. Little did I know that I was only at the beginning of my education.

My goals have increased in scope over the past eight years. Along the way, an instructor told me, “You have the ability to go to grad school, if you choose to.” That comment stuck with me. It changed my life.

prisoner to professorToday, not many people even remember me when I was active in my addiction. I am a person in long-term recovery, making a difference. Since my release from prison, I did become a drug and alcohol counselor. I also earned my Bachelor’s degree, my Master’s degree, and I am on track to receive my PhD from Washington State University in experimental psychology. I’m doing what I love: researching the effects of drugs and alcohol and trying to help other people struggling with addiction whenever I can. I was transformed from prisoner to professor through the power of recovery.

Most importantly, I am a father, a husband, a brother, and a son. My family is proud of me. I can never thank them enough for sticking with me. We do recover. We make awesome contributions to society. We offer a perspective on the world that could only be gained by going through our experience. Thank you to all the men and women in recovery out there making a difference.

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