Many addicts and alcoholics encounter legal problems during the course of their addiction or alcoholism. These may come in the form of DWIs, felony possession charges, assault convictions, theft, prostitution…..you name it. The fact is –the law has almost no patience or tolerance for people who have a problem with substance abuse. While we were drinking or taking drugs, we may have minimized the severity of these charges or convictions, but now that we are clean, they have come to haunt us. Finding an apartment, getting a job, receiving government assistance or getting financial aid to go to college can become problematic for someone with a criminal background. We may even be rejected by our peers who don’t understand how addiction works.
Unfortunately, these are the consequences of drug and alcohol addiction. Even more unfortunately, they are consequences that will likely affect us the rest of our lives. The reality is; there are many companies who will never hire people like us. Countless landlords will rip up our rental application and never give us a second thought. There will even be friends who desert us when they hear of our history and plenty of dates who will refuse our phones call after they run a background check.
This is all because these kinds of people don’t want “those kinds of people” living on their property, working at their office or coming home to meet their parents. We, of course, are “those” kinds of people! Sad, but true.
In spite of our most sincere efforts to change our lives and become positive, productive, contributing members of society, the fact is, there will always be people who slam the door in our face and opportunities we can never pursue because of past poor judgment. We must acknowledge this and accept it for what it is. Until our laws change and the United States’ criminal justice system begins extending mercy to addicts and alcoholics because of our disease, we have no other choice but to accept that having a criminal record is part of our predicament.
Now for some good news…..there are just as many people out there who are willing to give us a chance. Plenty of employers will give us the benefit of the doubt and hire us on. There are apartments that will welcome us to their complex. We will find romantic partners who love us for who we are today instead of judging us for who we were two years go. No matter how bad our past may seem to some, there will be those who extend some grace and give us the opportunity to prove ourselves.
If you are running into problems because of a criminal record, don’t give up. Keep knocking on doors, keep applying for good jobs, and keep looking for safe and comfortable housing. Eventually, you will come across someone else in recovery who understands your plight who will help you along the way. You will meet spiritual souls with empathy and a forgiving heart. You will be introduced to people who also have a past, but never got caught. You will find, if you look hard enough and long enough, that nothing is completely out of reach when you’re committed to walking the road of recovery.
A word to the wise: never lie about your background. You don’t have to volunteer the information, but if someone asks, be honest. Explain that, once upon a time, you had a drug or alcohol problem and made some poor choices. As a result, you had some legal consequences. Be sure to point out all the things you are doing right in your life now. Offer references who can attest to the changes you’ve made and the positive steps you are taking to live a sober lifestyle, one that includes morals and values you now hold dear.
Keep on keepin’ on and don’t use no matter what. It may take some hard work, and you may have to be willing to sacrifice a high-paying job or luxury apartment for the time being. But, eventually, one day at a time, you will establish your own credibility, better opportunities will come along and you will become a successful person with the world at your fingertips.