Here’s a point to ponder: if addiction is a disease, what happens to our daughter’s and son’s whose “consequences” from addiction to alcohol and/or drugs have earned them a permanent record, as in felony charges, within the legal system?
As I understand the legal system, felony charges do not go away. Therefore, someone who has committed a felony while under the influence will forever be unable to be interviewed for a job at a nursery or grocery store, for example, if the question, “Have you ever pleaded ‘guilty’ or ‘no contest’ to, or been convicted of, a crime?” — appears on the application. Even if she or he has successfully detoxed and completed a treatment program and made all monetary and legal restitution and is staying clean and working a 12-step program, theirs will be the first application to hit file #13.
Now that’s some heavy dues. What does someone to do in their mid-thirties, for example, if their habit spanned a decade or two? Are they to be penalized life-long for a disease for which they have sought treatment, paid restitution, and pulled themselves out of the physical, emotional, and spiritual havoc showing themselves trust worthy?
Perhaps entertaining the question at all hinges on whether you consider addiction to be a disease or a moral failing, of possible genetic predisposition or strictly a choice. My experience confirms the former in both instances.
Those of us with daughters and sons who must work to remain clean every minute of every day know that relapse can immediately turn them into someone unrecognizable. The gentlest soul can become violent; Dr. Jekyll can morph into Mr. Hyde, as the door to fresh consequences swings wide. But, must Dr. Jekyll in recovery forever be penalized?
I think not, but our culture is not ready for what this parent thinks. Our daughters and sons must become inventive in how they go about moving through consequences into seeking employment. Job fairs are probably not a good option, as a background check is requisite to thinning the ranks. And who needs to be reminded of their legal “hit parade?”
A parole or probation officer may be a resource if a good rapport has been established. Our daughters and sons are not the first young people to run afoul of the law, nor are they the last. The right word to the right person, or a letter of recommendation in the right place just may open a door. Stranger things have happened… .
Starting school or resuming an aborted education is another route when employers won’t budge. A letter of recommendation from probation or parole officer and/or a successfully completed rehab program will give an admissions counselor or financial aid officer reason to pause. Vocational schools, and colleges and universities are in business! They need students, and an older student who has traveled through hard ground and is standing upright and confident presents challenge and opportunity.
Confidence is the lynchpin here! Shame, blame, and guilt are a triumvirate for any addict. Our daughters and sons must resurrect their self-worth and lead with it, and here is where we as parents can help.
In Chapter 9 and in the Epilogue of IT’S NOT ABOUT YOU — EXCEPT WHEN IT IS, I remind parents that “none of us made junk.” No matter where our children have been, our role in our daughter’s and son’s recovery is to shore up their belief in who they are until they can walk into the office of a prospective employer or admissions counselor, lay their cards on the table, and say “This is where I’ve been and this is what I’ve done about it, can you help me?”
We have just come through the season of miracles. I want our daughters and sons to experience their own Easter. Those who have walked the walk and done the work deserve it.
If a flower can find a way to grow up through a concrete sidewalk — and I’ve seen it — our children can surmount the odds they face. Let us remind ourselves. Let us remind one another. Most important, let us remind our offspring!