Dear Uncle Mat

I’m a 23-year-old male living in San Antonio. I’ve been in trouble in the past (law, drugs), but I’ve changed now. I work full-time for my family business and go directly home after work to avoid getting into trouble. I’ve started working out and going to my parents’ church regularly.  

But it’s still hard for me to meet new friends since I dumped all of my old ones. I tried volunteering at the fire department but they won’t take me ’cause of my criminal past. I’d like to meet some good people who aren’t completely dorks or Bible thumpers at the same time, and wouldn’t judge or look down at me ’cause of my past — maybe someone that can relate to my past lifestyle but also wants to do better. I’ve also noticed that I’m one of the few people my age who does not have any children. I understand how life can change after that and you don’t have much time to do things with your friends. Any idea or suggestions would be great.

— Anonymous 

Dear Anonymous,

Congratulations on turning your life around. It is not easy getting your life on track, especially with a criminal record and history of drug abuse. Unfortunately, you will be met with some discrimination and will have to prove your good intentions to some people. But there are still many, many opportunities available to you. You need to stay focused on the positive elements in your life and use them as the path to achieving the goals and lifestyle you want for yourself.

It is not unusual to feel lonely when you make a substantive change in your life — you have made a social and cultural shift and finding your place will take some time. You are creating a new identity, and new friends will be a part of this. As you become more comfortable where you are and with who you are, you will see them all around you. Everyone is different, someone always thinks you are a “dork,” and we will never be cool enough for everyone, so take it easy and look for things you do have in common with people.

If you are interested in volunteering in the community, maybe you could work with at-risk youth to help them either avoid or recover from making the same mistakes you once made. You may have some of the contacts you already need through community-service programs or counseling services, if you were required to participate in any due to your previous troubles. If not, I recommend contacting the Family Service Association as a start. Does your church volunteer in the community? You may not want to hang out with “Bible thumpers,” but maybe you’ll meet other people at the places you volunteer.

What are your other interests? Maybe you can volunteer at the local YMCA since you are interested in fitness. Any hobby or general interest has some form of social outlet, you just need to search it out.

Have you considered taking night classes at the local community college? You can pursue a degree or just take classes for enrichment. This is a great way to meet new people and find or develop a new direction in your life. Possibly you can take your family business from neighborhood mom-and-pop to world-brand chain. Wal-Mart was just a Wal-Mart at one time, and the Colonel just some old dude making chicken.

You have given yourself the opportunity to restart your life and reinvent yourself. At first staying out of trouble and leaving behind the bad influences of your past may feel like you’ve created nothing but a big hole, but really it is a giant open field filled with potential. It is intimidating, and from your perspective tiny obstacles like the fire department turning you away appear disproportionately large. Do not allow this to distract you. See the vast amount of opportunity and possibility before you, and the adversities and disappointments will dissipate.  

Much success, friendship and luck,

Your Uncle Mat

Uncle Mat answers questions about relationships, sex, pets, and art. Email him at [email protected],, or check out the Dear Uncle Mat Page on Facebook. Your true identity is safe with him.