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  • Writer's pictureWyatt Lim-Tepper

A Curiae Anecdotes-Resilient Roots: A Story of Redemption and the Pursuit of Legal Empathy

By Stephen Asmus


I am a native of Redding, California, where I was fortunate to be raised by loving parents. My childhood brimmed with wonderful experiences as I explored my passions for music and sports. As the child of a resilient mother who immigrated from the Philippines, I encountered challenges of navigating my identity in a predominantly Caucasian community. This struggle for acceptance by my peers was a defining aspect of my upbringing.

In junior year, I was compelled to leave my original school and transition to the first of two continuation schools prior to completing my education. Adapting to this new environment proved difficult, and I began to skip classes with increasing regularity and experimented with a variety of drugs to sedate the rejection I was feeling. This led to drug addiction.


The pervasive impact of addiction on my life manifested in various forms ranging from familial turmoil to the dissolution of career prospects. The insidious nature of drugs infiltrated every aspect of my existence, akin to an acorn's transformation into a towering oak tree. My initial experimentation with drugs commenced during the latter years of high school, typically at social events such as house parties, raves, or concerts. Substance use evolved into a weekend necessity, and I dabbled in a range of mainstream drugs including cannabis, alcohol, ecstasy, molly, and cocaine.

I distinctly recall the first occasion when I ingested Xanax during a high school lunch break. The sensation was akin to being submerged underwater, invisible to the world, yet paradoxically the center of attention. This experience offered a seemingly perfect solution to my social anxiety and desire for acceptance - the drug became my unwavering companion.

I later discovered OxyContin which led to heroin use. Heroin became a steadfast presence in my life providing an illusory sense of value and requiring minimal effort on my part. The potent combination of Xanax and heroin provided a temporary reprieve from reality and granted me a false sense of identity and purpose.

As I relentlessly pursued the numbing allure of these substances, I resorted to any means necessary to maintain my addiction. Relationships with family and friends were rendered dispensable while dishonesty and deception became ingrained habits. Manipulation and avarice emerged as instinctual responses. Criminal behavior became a constant presence. Ultimately, my unwavering dedication to these destructive habits left me feeling hollow, shattered, devoid of hope, and a federally convicted felon.


The Conviction Alternatives Program (CAP) has been a transformative, enlightening, and empowering experience in my life. This program offered me a chance to not only acknowledge and learn from my mistakes but also to make better choices and engage in productive behavior. Through CAP, I have been able to reduce the likelihood of recidivism, overcome substance abuse, and ultimately, lead a more fulfilling life.

The structure of CAP involves a collaborative team approach, targeting individuals with distinct personal risk factors. With a higher level of supervision, programming, and judicial oversight, the program exposes participants to various initiatives such as substance abuse treatment, mental health treatment, and cognitive behavior restructuring programs. The intensive supervision ensures that participants remain accountable and committed to their recovery journey. The program is divided into structured phases, which allows participants to progress through stages of early recovery, understanding and taking responsibility, healthy decision-making, and relapse prevention planning.

My journey through CAP began with the development of individualized goals, facilitated by the unwavering support of my pretrial officer and the dedicated CAP team. Engaging with a clinical therapist allowed me to address my struggles with substance abuse and childhood challenges. I identified attachment issues, insecurities, and processed past traumas, leading to a concrete plan for healing and personal growth. The weekly accountability meetings played a pivotal role in fostering unity, mutual encouragement, and vulnerability among participants. These connections proved indispensable in my pursuit of recovery and personal growth.

As a result of my successful completion of the CAP program, I have acquired vital life skills that have positively impacted my overall well-being. The program instilled in me a newfound sense of purpose, determination, and resilience, allowing me to reintegrate into society as a productive and responsible individual. My experience with the Conviction Alternatives Program has been truly transformative, and I am sincerely grateful for the opportunity to participate in this life-changing program. I wholeheartedly endorse its continued implementation for the benefit of others facing similar circumstances.


Drawing on my past experiences and achievements, my current goals are firmly grounded in empathy, passion, and rationality. I am dedicated to using these qualities to make a positive impact on the lives of others facing similar challenges. Recognizing the importance of higher education, I chose to major in Bachelors of Leadership Studies within the field of Interdisciplinary Studies at Cal Poly Humboldt. This decision reflects my commitment to bridging cultural and communication gaps both inside and outside the workplace, fostering diverse networks, and empowering those in need.

Having graduated from City College of San Francisco with an AA in Rhetoric and Communication and earning ministerial credentials from Global University, my academic journey has equipped me with the skills necessary to build and bridge intercultural relationships. My seven years of experience working with the underserved and under-resourced in San Francisco, combined with my personal history of substance addiction, have provided me with unique insights and heightened sensitivity towards those who need encouragement, belonging, and empowerment. In my Leadership Studies program, I aim to develop active listening skills, craft compelling personal and organizational visions, manage conflict, and create safe psychological spaces where mental and emotional health can be nurtured.

Navigating the intricate relationship between my identity and societal systems has been challenging, but it has also helped shape who I am today. While my past as a former drug addict and felon presented considerable obstacles in the academic, professional, and personal aspects of my life, I have risen above those difficulties. Embracing hope and determination, I am committed to being a catalyst for positive change and empowering others to overcome their own challenges.

My goals have emerged from a journey marked by achievements and challenges, and they are fueled by a deep sensitivity and commitment to growth. As I continue to learn, adapt, and transform, I am excited to make a meaningful impact in the lives of those around me and to contribute positively to the world at large.

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