Douglas’ longtime friend Noel Ashman tells PEOPLE he is “doing amazing” since his time behind bars.
“He’s doing great, he’s really doing amazing actually,” says Ashman. “He’s working out every day, he’s got a great attitude. I think he’s doing as good as anyone could imagine. ”
Douglas, 37, was sentenced to a five-year prison term for possession of heroin and selling methamphetamines in 2010. His sentence was later extended after he confessed to smuggling drugs into prison. He had been scheduled for release in 2018, but is now living in a halfway house in New York City.
“For a lot of us it might be tough,” Ashman says of living in a halfway house. “But for him, he’s incredibly grateful. He’s just very happy to be out [of prison] and to be doing things he loves and with people he loves – he’s very happy overall.”
As for how Douglas has changed since his time behind bars, Ashman says, “He’s the same guy but I think he’s a lot more serious and a lot more focused in a way he never has been. My opinion is that when you lose time like that, you don’t take it for granted anymore. And I think he wants to make every moment count.”
Douglas is applying that newfound sense of focus to his sobriety. “His attitude is very different than it used to be, he’s committed to staying clean and sober. It’s something he takes very seriously. I think he knows he made some big mistakes and he wants to make sure he never repeats them again.”
As he continues to focus on his recovery, Douglas hopes to pass along what he’s learned to others. “He wants to start a charity that will help underprivileged kids, kids of people who are or have been incarcerated,” Ashman explains. He hopes the charity will also benefit “kids in general to help avoid some of the pitfalls that he went through.”
When he’s not working on his charity, Douglas has been spending his days hitting the gym and hanging out with his girlfriend. He’s even started working with an acting coach in the hopes of getting into show business.
“It’s something that he loves to do and I think it’s something he obviously has the genes for,” Ashman says of Douglas’ acting aspirations. “He has a very raw kind of acting approach and commands attention on the screen in my opinion.”
Michael Douglas visited his son in prison regularly and the two have remained “close” since his release. Douglas is also getting reacquainted with the rest of his family, which has grown since his time in prison.
“He’s spending a lot of time with his family and his friends trying to catch up for lost time. He’s got brothers and sisters now on both sides, his mother and father’s side,” says Ashman. His father and stepmother, Catherine Zeta-Jones, have two children together, a son Dylan Michael born in 2000 and a daughter Carys Zeta born in 2003. Douglas’ mother, Diandra, also has three children.
“He was an only child growing up so I think he’s really excited to have such a big family now on both sides,” adds Ashman.
While Douglas has grown a lot since his incarceration, his friend says some things will never change. “One thing that’s important for people to know about him is he’s a really good person.[He’s] always a very caring and loyal friend.”
• Reporting by LIZ MCNEIL