Felon (noun): A person who has been convicted of a felony.
Synonyms: convict, crook, criminal, outlaw.
While I was using, my entire life was lived like an outlaw, well, at least according to the definition above I pulled from Google. My life was a crime. Heroin ran my life. Possession, felony. Theft to get money to buy heroin, felony. Possession of a syringe, felony. Bad check to get money to buy heroin, felony. Purchasing heroin, felony. Everything about the dope game is a felony. I had no idea how serious a felony charge was until I was charged with one, and by then, I was already in the grip of addiction. First, alcohol had me pinned, and then the harder stuff took over and I was just a ticking time bomb. I was a threat to everyone and everything. There are no morals in active addiction, no on/off switch. Well, if there is, mine was permanently switched to the on position, and the handle broken off, so that it remained that way. I was firmly in the grip of addiction, the disease was in total control. I was but a stringed puppet, and the disease was an evil grinned insane mad man above the curtain, just manipulating me at his will. For a long while there, it was honestly like I was watching myself commit these offenses. I was on auto pilot. Checked out to lunch, while my life just burned down around me. When I woke up in the morning dope sick, the puppeteer woke up with me, and I was off again. I had to do anything and everything I possibly could to end this horrible nightmare of withdraw. A feeling I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy. It’s really quite interesting thinking about, because all of the things I did to get more actually go against everything I believe in. I would never steal from hard working honest people, family, or businesses when I’m clean. Hell, I always make sure I take a few singles with me when I visit big cities, to put in the homeless people’s cups, as they beg for change on the side of the street. I have always been a giver, a big hearted, do-anything-for-anybody-type of person. Until I was on heroin. This drug turned me into an absolute polar opposite of who I believe I really am. That Jekyll and Hyde. When I was in this state of dereliction and degradation, I always believed that I was doomed to die this way, lost, strung out, alone, and with a needle in my arm. And so my spiral perpetuated on the fuel of fear, desperation, loneliness, and self pity. I gave absolutely zero thought to the fact that my actions would someday have a major impact on my future. I was incapable of doing so, my mind was poisoned. I was a puppet, and had met my master.
I have now been clean for over a year, and have met some TRULY amazing people. Kind, loving, selfless givers who I truly consider my friends. Felons. Addicts. Addicts in recovery who I would do anything for, and who would do anything for anybody who needed it. Our stories may not be the same, they may not have done what I’ve done, I may not have been where they’ve been, but at one point or another, I have felt what they’ve felt. That pain, hopelessness, grief, misery, self pity, and self destruction. That feeling of despair. Praying for death but too scared to do it myself. I was not afraid of the overdose. I was afraid of the underdose. But today, they’re different people. People who sparkle with a zest for life. People who glow and smile, laugh and love. Fathers. Mothers. Hard working, kind hearted individuals who brighten my day with their stories of overcoming and triumph. Our friendships today are a celebration of our survival from this horrible disease. A disease that is killing someone right now. A disease which symptoms include theft, possession, dealing, prostitution, lying, manipulation, and suicide. Symptoms that no human being ever wants to live out, trust me when I tell you this. Very few of us make it out of this thing in the free world. The deck is stacked against us. This disease is insidious and fatal, so our camaraderie and unity is founded on a common appreciation of the struggles we have survived. Rooted in gratitude and empathy, and brightened by a hope of brighter days ahead. Not all felons are addicts and not all addicts are convicted felons. The felons that I know are all addicts in recovery, and they’re some of the most genuine and loving people I have ever been blessed with knowing.
And so I get back to my main point, felonies. Felonies may be common place in recovery, and in the back stories of addiction. Felonies are not common place in society. I stated in the first section of this blog entry that ” I gave absolutely zero thought to the fact that my actions would someday have a major impact on my future. I was incapable of doing so.” And boy was I right! It is incredibly difficult for a convicted felon to find a career. Hell, to even find a job at a fast food restaurant is seemingly impossible. Companies like to do these things called background checks. Where they go back in time, through the miraculous wonders of the internet and various search media to dig up any and all dirt they can find on someone. And if a person has a prior criminal history, then odds are, the person will more than likely be looked at more closely than other candidates, and, in my experiences denied for the same position, duh. I get it, it makes sense to me, I’m not disputing this practice. If I was a business owner, I would want to know who I was getting in my company as well. But there is, in my opinion, a problem with background checks, they only show the negative side of the past. They do not show the positive changes a person is making, in the present, to better their lives. This recently happened to me. I was verbally offered the career opportunity of a life time. A life changing dream. With a fortune 500 company in Chicago. I had three interviews with various members of the company, and after the third interview the consensus was, and I quote, ” We LOVED you!” “We are SO excited to bring you into our company, and we’re CERTAIN you’ll be a tremendous asset!” After the completion of the interviews, and the phone call with the good news, I was asked to attend a webinar to go over the compensation package and various career paths they offer. And then I was sent a link, which connected me with a background check agency. And my heart dropped. This particular company has placards all over the high rise office with their “core values” all over them, number one being honesty, then followed by, in no particular order, transparency, integrity, and the like. Once I got this link in my email inbox on my phone, I knew it was time to do something incredibly uncomfortable, I had to call Human Resources and speak to my recruiter about my past. Honesty, right? Transparency, right? The right thing to do, yes. I pitched myself by telling her about two things, the things she would find on my background check, and the things she would NOT find on there. The former, I’ve been telling you all about from day one, and the latter was things like, I’m in recovery, I’m a father to a beautiful 4 year old boy, I volunteer at a local non profit organization( a radio station), I’ve completed several rehabilitation and treatment programs and have attended individual counseling, I’m now a faith based hard working young man, with ambitions and dreams of turning my life around and I’m working very hard every day to provide myself with the type of future that I deserved all along. And of course, I have real life experience and a salesmanship that will give all of my competitors, my co workers a run for their money, day in and day out. I voiced and displayed a hunger and drive to succeed which, I’m sure she had rarely seen or heard. Her response, “wow.” She truly seemed touched at my heart felt sincerity and genuine transparency. But in the end, attached to the results of my background check was an email telling me that her hands were tied, and that she knew how badly I wanted this position, and she was sorry. She was sorry. Boy, if I had a dollar for every time I said I’m sorry. I had absolutely no idea how much this disease of addiction was going to, time and time again, even when clean, affect my future. The past seems to always rear its ugly head. I just wish that people weren’t so focused on someone’s past problems, and could focus on someone’s future solutions. I don’t know, maybe I’m biased.