5 Tips for Rebuilding Your Life When You Have a Drug Conviction on Your RecordMicah Robbins
Even with addiction detox successfully completed, convincing people to trust you again is no overnight task. It’s worst if you have to make a fresh start after being convicted of possession or DUI: employers, landlords, and lenders harbor an inherent nervousness about investing in anyone with an unsavory past. Many experts believe that high “relapse” rates for crime, in general, are partly due to former convicts’ inability to find alternate means of supporting themselves.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way. If you’re newly sober and haunted by your biggest slip-ups being a matter of public record, here are some steps toward rebuilding a life to be proud of.
GET PEOPLE WHO KNOW YOU PERSONALLY TO VOUCH FOR YOU
Even among “ordinary” people, three times as many job seekers find new positions through person-to-person contact as through online applications and resumés. To an HR representative in a downtown office, you’re just one page of statistics among many. To a personal contact, you’re an individual who:
- has made mistakes, but have now proven yourself worthy of new trust
- can clarify the circumstances behind past mistakes and what’s changed since then
- has more skills that can be described on a generic application
- has personality traits that can only be appreciated face to face
There are probably at least one or two people among your friends and loved ones who will be willing to put open confidence in you as soon as you share your plans for a lasting sobriety journey. With others, you may have to spend weeks or months proving yourself before they vouch for you—but probably not significantly more time than an “ordinary” job search would take. Also, make new contacts—through your sobriety network and drug-free interests—who can see you clearly as you are right now, without the lens of past behavior clouding their view.
FIND A NONPROFIT THAT ASSISTS PEOPLE IN YOUR SITUATION
Nonprofits are better than government programs, as a rule, because nonprofit organizations have fewer applicants, more sharply defined missions and less red tape. Good sources of recommendations include:
- Your detox center
- Your sobriety support group
- Religious congregations
- Chambers of Commerce
- Medical centers
- Social-services directories (published by recognized sources)
Before applying as a client, review a nonprofit’s overall philosophy to verify it’s compatible with your own beliefs. Be clear on and prepared to follow official rules, including program attendance and completion of specific curricula.
KEEP UP REGULAR ATTENDANCE AT SOBRIETY SUPPORT GROUPS
Staying active in a support network is always a vital element of relapse prevention, but all the more so when you face daily possibility of hearing “Why should we trust you after what you did?” not only from those personally affected by your addiction, but from anyone who runs a routine background check. It’s easy to start thinking the whole world has permanently branded you a loser, and that perhaps they’re right. Getting all the personal encouragement you can, and staying regularly surrounded by others who understand, is your best defense against discouragement’s steering you back toward addiction.
STAY BUSY WITH FUTURE-ORIENTED ACTIVITIES
This includes “extracurricular” projects that build your initiative and confidence:
- Carpentry, knitting, beading, painting—any DIY or crafts project that yields practical or decorative results
- Seminars, conferences, and adult education classes
- Volunteer work (helping someone else will get your mind off feeling sorry for yourself, and most organizations are less strict about your background than in paid employment)
WHEN GIVEN A CHANCE TO PROVE YOURSELF, PUT EVERYTHING YOU HAVE INTO IT
Although it may feel at times that no one will ever take a chance on hiring you (or letting you into an educational program or approving you for a loan), the day will come when someone does. The not-quite-so-good news: that won’t automatically remove the “ex-convict” lens people have been viewing you through. You’ll likely be watched extra-carefully in the early weeks, and what people see will shape their opinion not only of you but of whoever referred you and of everyone in a situation similar to yours.
Instead of resenting this, consider it a major opportunity and privilege. Go all out to be the most responsible person you can be: showing up with time to spare, always delivering on your word, regularly taking the initiative to do a little extra. And don’t think of this as something you can do for a couple of months and then ease up on once people ease up on you: plan on making it a lifelong practice. A bad habit made a black mark on your past, but good habits will build you a bright future!