Recovery from addiction: Stigma and many obstacles, but no excuses!

Many of the people in my life nowadays forget that I’m an ex-convict. Still, I get daily reminders that the “ex” part of convict doesn’t carry much weight. I also know that I have it easy because I have a Ph.D. after my name. For many others in recovery, things are even harder.

Still, when filling out job applications, considering possibilities for the future, or trying to start anything new, my past convictions are ready to jump out as the first hurdles.

Stigmatization after recovery from addiction

My first encounter with this sort of stigmatization came at my first job search after I got out of jail in 2003. I was applying for an Apple Store job and did well. Even though I told them that I’d been arrested on the job application, I got a second interview. Then the coveted email letting me know I was to report for training next week. Only the background check remained. But that final email never came. I never heard from Apple again and none of my emails and phone calls were ever returned. I can only assume that they found out that my arrest resulted in 9 felony convictions and decide to “pass.”

When I started at UCLA (no questions about felonies on school applications), I tried to volunteer at the Los Angeles Big Brothers and Sisters organization. I was rejected as soon as the background check was completed. People wouldn’t even let me volunteer and I had been drug free for over 3 years and attending a doctoral program at UCLA… It was frustrating to say the least

Being licensed is probably also going to be an issue if I want to become a clinical psychologist in the future. It was one of the reasons I didn’t try to go to medical school or law school. The hassle of having to fight for the right to work in my chosen field wasn’t something I was looking forward to. Apparently though while I wasn’t quite ready for the fight then, fighting addiction stigma is something I feel strongly about now. Between our “Anonymous No More” campaign and my efforts on and off the website, I think we’re going to be able to slowly move public opinion away from either the notion that drug use in itself is a terrible thing or that addicts are lepers and should be kept at a distance.

Recovery success, there is a life after addiction

Still, I am constantly reminded that success follows perseverance. When I’m told “No”, I feel disappointed, but I pick my head up as soon as possible (my great fiance often helps) and try to figure out another way in. That was true when I first set on my path and its true today. I’m proud of my achievements and by now, more than eight years after the last time I used crystal meth, they are many.

I know my worth, I believe in my purpose, and I’m not going to let anyone else hold me back. Yes I have nine felonies and I used to sell drugs for a living. But I’m done with that and I’m trying to do the best that I can.

I think my recovery is pretty damn good – I’ve got All About Addiction that is visited by thousands of people a week, more than a dozen publications and articles about addiction in professional and popular journals, and I’ve spoken at literally hundreds of sessions, classes, and conferences about addiction and the problems associated with it. If you believe in yourself, you need to think the same of your own work. Stay on the right path. Don’t let anyone stop you.

5 responses to “Recovery from addiction: Stigma and many obstacles, but no excuses!”

  1. Where there’s a will, there’s a way!

    I like the positive message that this entry is about and how to continue to persevere.

    I’m glad you have the fortitude to continue on your journey and I wish you continued success with your endeavors.


  2. Wow……. this is powerful and very courageous for you to share and it’s empowering for others to read – what you have overcome and how you keep on keeping on is an inspiration to us all. Thank you for sharing!

  3. There are other ways to use your education and experience, should the seemingly omnipresent “background checking” get in your way.

    The addictions field is in great need of researchers, trainers, policymakers, change agents, community awareness specialists…..a vast array of professional areas where client contact is not an issue.

    The AA Big Book says “No matter how far down the scale we have gone, we will see how our experience can benefit others.” You are one of many of us who can use our experience to benefit others, maybe not it the way you originally intended, but certainly in an important way indeed! Best wishes for a bright future.

  4. Thanks for the vote of confidence guys, and Dick, I’m not worried about my future. I have so many plans for what I’m going to do I’ll probably need to “share the wealth,” so to speak.

    My point is that for many out there, including myself, there are large obstacles that keep creeping up even long after we’ve turned our lives around and are focused on the betterment of society.

  5. Amen brother,

    Thanks for the post this is very inspirational.. there are many of us giving up on our dreams without many hurdles or any convictions. Your determination in the face of adversity is an admirable trait.

    Keep up the great work Adi!

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