Lasting Impact After a Felony Conviction
In my case, I know I had a lot to deal with when it came to my friends and family in the time just before, during, and after my conviction. Different people had different emotions about everything, a different perspective, and had different opinions on what to do, who to be, how to be, and they all wanted to be the one that was ‘right’.
- My parents – were disappointed and terrified, wondering what they had done wrong. They obviously wanted to step far enough away to allow a lesson to sink in, but also desperately wanted to help. As a parent now – I can only imagine the depth of conflicting thoughts during that time.
- My friends – were either enablers – in the direction of trouble – or they were backing away from me slowly. Neither reaction was really helpful. I knew I didn’t need to keep being around the troublesome ones, but when the ‘good’ friends couldn’t help but avoid me – it was even more difficult to stick to a positive path that was helpful.
- My siblings – basically disowned me on top of it (ten years later and we still don’t talk), and even though we didn’t start out close, it still was an added misery to be ignored by the people I thought would help me get back on my feet.
My parents, being who they were, forgave me quickly if harboring some very mild distrust with me afterward. But I didn’t mind that so much, as I knew I had let them down the most, second only to having let myself down (I had developed some pretty big plans for myself, and most of them were pretty well destroyed until I found the loopholes to get back into society). Our relationship was rebuilt pretty quickly honestly – but that’s not always the case for many of us with a conviction. The fact that my parents were willing to rebuild a relationship was an integral part of recovering my life and finding the stability that would keep me out of trouble.
The siblings, well… that was a different story. The sister that was always there for me had passed away a couple years before – and the other two … well, they generally act as if I died after my conviction. Even after more than a decade of time – and numerous attempts to mend the bridge – it is still in tatters. One sibling is willing to converse – so long as it centers around the care of our mom, while the other hasn’t spoken a word in my direction since 2006. While it’s not optimal – I also know I have found people that treat me so much better than they ever did – and that’s good enough for now. I still hope that one day we will mend the family but I don’t let it consume me or negatively influence my behavior.
As for the old and familiar friendly enablers, I may have held on to a few of these folks for a little longer than I should have (at least according to my probation officer). I did eventually let them go and cut the connections, at least for the majority of the group. I won’t ignore most of them if I see them in public, but I make a point to not dedicate my time to them to any extent – we’re just not on the same path in life anymore. It does suck a bit because there are quite a few good memories, but it’s not worth the possibility of getting back into trouble and throwing everything away again.
The positive friends that stuck around are spread a little thin after all of this time, but they have proven true and supportive over the years. It is quite true that while the quantity of friends reduces over time and through difficulty – the quality of friend increases. The ones that are truly helping you grow will show themselves by behaving in this way.
Unfortunately, I still have some difficulty making new friends. As an awkward person that is terribly anxious – it’s slow going, to say the least. But I get by with enough social interaction to not lose my mind entirely. Online support groups have helped – #FelonsAreHumans on Facebook has quite a few good people in it – that understand everything felons experience. The various Reddit forums have been quite inspiring as well and have brought me into contact with very interesting people. If you’re similarly awkward – try these platforms to reach out.
Combatting the Collateral Consequences
We all need a good support system in our lives. When you have a conviction and need a second chance, this can make it difficult though, especially if you stay in the same small town where your record happened.
However, there is hope, if you have the drive and determination to show that you’ve changed. My volunteer experience with a local shelter helped express to those in the humanitarian side of my community that I really was a changed person, and I have had a recent upturn in social interactions with the community.
I’ve also participated in a couple local events, selling craft items at a booth in a fall festival the town hosts, as well as walking in parades with various organizations my son has become involved with over the years. Every time I do this – I share my story and change a couple of minds while I’m at it. I’ve attended health events, reentry events, and addiction recovery events – sharing my story and sharing the resources I’ve found.
By having a positive public presence, our image can be improved along with our own progression through our trials and after felony problems.
It’s not easy, and even after a decade, I do still get some flack about the past. It isn’t easy to deal with every time it happens, but I maintain my dignity and respond with as much kindness as I can muster in those situations. I know it’s not easy, but we can always rise above the obstacles we face.
Best of luck in all of your social support endeavors my felonious friends, goodness knows we all need it.
Til Next Time,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)