Recovery Event – Recent Things

Hello Readers!

Your favorite felon has been one busy gal recently. Between landing two steady writing gigs (huzzah for determination!), I’ve also been recovering from the loss of a dear family member and getting the homeschooling year started, as well as preparing for a local event that celebrates recovery in all forms.

It’s been a rough and tedious couple of months, but this particular event reminded me that my work need not overtake my life – no matter how much I love it – and that I had been letting this side of things fall to the wayside. Which is not what I want to do at all – there’s still too much to be done in the realm of re-entry after conviction.

I arrived about forty minutes early, once I found the entry to the pavilion – unfamiliar territories always prove interesting for me. I always hate when I’m lost in those winding parks that dot the MidWest because I know I look insane as I frantically search for the building I need to be in while inching by whatever pedestrians might be around. /shiver

While still a bit unsure, I wandered around the area on foot until I found a familiar face – the wonderful woman that has recently founded a new approach to recovery through her own experiences. I won’t share her name here – but take it from me – she’s inspiring. We’ve even bounced ideas off of each other as we found different ways to rehabilitate our mindsets to find our own versions of freedom and happiness. Which is even better because there’s history there – and it’s not always common to see close friends on the track to recovery. It’s a beautiful thing when it does happen though, so cherish it if you have it.

We set our tables up and took turns manning tables, swapping information, and she even took a huge step and actually spoke in front of people. I know I’ve talked about doing that before, but I still haven’t reached that point yet – so I’m extra thrilled that she was able to push herself to do the public speaking thing and share her story that way. I was also able to meet a few new people on both sides of the fence, in just about every way you can define that phrase. From freshly convicted and currently supervised, to family members awaiting the release of loved ones, to genuinely interested program directors and board members of local institutions. The area judge was even present and shared the successes of the new problem-solving court that he’d recently implemented (both in terms of success stories and the financial savings that real rehabilitation efforts can offer the taxpayer). It was amazing and heart-warming to see the dedication that was obvious in the hearts of all that were present and to connect with like-minded positive individuals. The event focused on the hope that we need to utilize to heal from the past and keep moving forward in a positive way.

Overall, it was an invigorating and positive experience with fantastic people that want to help. Hearing some of the stories I did today, I can’t help but think back over my past, replaying the major events of the three years of bad choices that led to my own conviction, about the loss and depression that fueled a lot of those decisions, the addictions I toyed with and my overall tendency to destroy myself every time I found something good, and I realize that while I probably wouldn’t have chosen the life I’ve had – it’s the life I needed to find my purpose and to fully discover the things that I am truly passionate about. I also wouldn’t wish any of my experiences on my worst enemies – the bottom of the barrel is too hateful a place to be. I’m reminded of why I love to help those in need – breathing easy in life is something that is too often taken for granted and it’s far too fragile in all honesty.  But with a little bit of help, and a little bit of hope, we can lift each other up beyond our wildest dreams.

Love and Peace,
Aza (@Aza_Enigma)

 

 

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Five Things Felons Need to Know

Welcome back Reader!

Today, I’ve got a short list of five things that felons should know after their conviction.

This isn’t a hate post either, I am the Friendly Felon after all – so you’re in store for some nifty information that is really going to give you hope and help you get back on track.

That’s what I’m all about here – finding those little rays of hope for a better life and growing that into a goal you can reach. Just thought I’d mention that for the newcomers – because they might not have known what they were getting themselves into here. (Partly why Enigma is part of my chosen moniker)

Anyway, without further ado, I present my newest list:

Felons Should Know:

1. We can get the majority of our civil rights back – and some states even allow restoration of rights immediately after you finish your last day locked up or once you get released from whatever level supervision you might be on. This includes voting, earning a public office seat in a governmental body, and more. Some rights will take more time than others, and every state is different in their limits, but ultimately – the rights are available again once you’ve kept yourself out of trouble for a while. Not a bad bargain really.

2. We can gain legal certificates that help us get jobs. First, there is a federal bonding program that is available for all felons in every state across the entire nation. There are also some states that offer a ‘Certificate of Good Conduct’, or a ‘Certificate of Relief from Disability’. Both of these help with getting a job, and one can even help you get a professional license. You’ll have to earn these with a lot of research and a lot of action – but it is completely possible!

3. We can do anything we put our minds to! If you’re a felon that wants to go to college, there’s not much that can stop you. Sex convictions aside, most felons – including drug-related convictions (might have to wait for financial aid to be allowed again, but otherwise chances of acceptance aren’t terrible)- can attend college without hassle. I’ve been accepted numerous times into various colleges for interior design, art, beauty school, and psychology. I might have only stuck with one of these choices, but all of them were willing to work with me regardless of my background. The payment of the tuition is the biggest hassle here, but most convictions can apply within just a few years of completion of your sentence.

4. We need to be honest about our backgrounds with employers. When you hide it, you’re just wasting time (yours and the employers to be honest). There might be restrictions in various states as to how far back the background search can go – but in many cases, a simple background search performed online will bring up every single conviction under your name. It is a much better idea to be honest, and spend more time learning how to prove you’re a good employee to potential employers. (Character references, volunteer experiences, letters from probation, parole, etc, anything and everything that gives ‘proof’ of a good worker).

5. We are worth the effort it takes to overcome our obstacles. Just because we made a mistake doesn’t mean that our lives have to be over or that we’re doomed to a life inside an institution or on the ‘wrong side’ of the street. Of course, if you want to continue the life that brought you to this point – that’s up to you. Personally, I recommend picking the important pieces of yourself up and building a better life – it’s the most difficult thing to do – but that just means it will be that much more meaningful when you accomplish your goals.

So, that concludes my list for the day – I hope you like it and if you want more information about how to overcome your conviction related obstacles – please purchase a copy of my Guide to Life After a Felony – available in print on Microcosm and on just about every eBook retailer out there – click here for the Kindle edition.

If you want some personalized research done for your situation – I offer that on Fiverr – click on the Hire Aza link at the top of the page – I’m here for you to help you meet your goals and dreams. It’s what I do – seriously, it’s all I think about. Keep going strong everyone! Rise above!

Love and Peace,
Aza (@aza_enigma Twitter)

Five Things You Should Know About Felons

Hey guys, thank you for stopping by! I’m so grateful for all the supports, shares, follows, and likes in my various social media platforms.

Today, I’ve compiled a few things that felons need you (yes, YOU) to know.

Let’s take a look at what the felon community wants to share with everyone!

  1. Criminal Records are more common than you might think – weareallcriminals.org shares that ‘one in four people have a criminal record’. While this includes misdemeanors (which carry far less stigma – even if many convicted felons were only sentenced to probation or time in a county jail – which is the same punishment for many misdemeanors!), it really draws your attention to the fact that criminal records are actually quite common. That would be because…
  2. We all make mistakes – now, while only one in four has a criminal record – it can be safely assumed that at least three in four (if not four in four) have committed a crime of some level (misdemeanors included here again), they just weren’t caught or convicted. Again, weareallcriminals.org comes into play and shares stories of people who realized that they could have had their entire livelihood taken from them – had they been caught and joined the ranks of ‘convicts’.
  3.  Felons CAN change for the better – even if they’ve earned more than a few convictions. One participant in my poll describes how she’s earning a degree to work in social welfare after SIX convictions. It might take some of us longer to get out of the rut, but when we do – many of us want to contribute to the greater good. We aren’t hardwired to stay ‘bad’ like so much of society wants to think – we just have to find what will truly motivate us to make a positive change in our lives. That motivation varies for each of us – as well as the situations that lead us to our convictions.
  4. Background checks ONLY show the negatives – even when we’ve made positive changes. So, when you’re an employer that’s looking at an interviewee who has just opened up about their record – consider asking about the GOOD things that they’ve done. Rather than immediately assuming that felons are nothing but bad news – try to see the things that they are trying to change in their life. Because honestly, the income that we are seeking with you is going to be part of keeping a stable life that won’t push us back into old patterns of behavior. Many felons hang in the balance – trying to get back on track in a society that doesn’t want to let them have the chance – no matter how much we have changed for the better.
  5. Felons have a lot of GOOD to contribute – As a felon, I know that every time I find a new job – I have to work five times harder than my co-workers (and the felon community is very familiar with that sentiment) just to prove that I’m worth keeping as an employee. Employers are wasting talent when they deny felons work – especially when that work has NOTHING to do with the background. For instance, my theft record might prevent me from working in retail (thankfully I have literally zero interest in retail stores), but I’m qualified and capable in the field of psychology and coaching.

Overall, felons just want a chance to find a stable life. Our packaging might be a little bit damaged – but we have a lot to offer when given a chance. So, before you judge us based on your assumptions – take a moment and take a chance – there’s plenty of protection for employers (certificates of employability, certificates of good conduct, certificates of relief from disability [this one is a bit confusing in the title but still a great thing]). As far as society goes – who hasn’t made a mistake? We’re all flawed but we’re still beautiful people.

That’s all for today folks! Thank you for stopping by and feel free to click around and explore the various posts and links I share on the blog page. If you love what you see, please share it, especially if you know someone that needs the information I’m sharing with you!

Love and peace,
Aza

 

 

Twitter Interview #1 – Jess T.

I’ve finally been using my Twitter account instead of ignoring it and I made an awesome new friend on it this week. It feels pretty awesome to know that there are people in the same situation that want to help others who are still struggling with their recovery in life. She’s decided to share a little of her story about her conviction and her progress with her recovery from those darker days.

Are you ready to read her interview? I know it touched my heart and reminded me of how amazing each and every one of us is. Here we go:

Aza -When were you convicted and what were you convicted for?

Jess – Let’s see. The last time I was arrested was July 2007 for possession of methamphetamine. I was already on first offender felony probation, so I ended up staying in the county jail for a little over 5 months.

Aza – What helped you push through the obstacles that your convictions put in place?

Jess- I found out about two weeks in that I was pregnant. It was one of the scariest 5 months of my life. I called my mom to bail me out like I always did… only, this time she called my existing probation office to make sure they put a probation violation hold on me so that I couldn’t get out. Of course, at the time she had no idea how long I would be stuck in there; she just wanted me to get clean. For so long, she didn’t even know if I was still alive; so, knowing I was somewhere safe was a relief. As far as pushing through the obstacles that stem from my convictions, of course, my faith and my family were a huge driving source. I honestly believe that God saved me. That putting my life in His hands is the only reason I still have one. And, I couldn’t have made it through the drug court program and rehab program and the stress of being a single mom and recovering addict without my parents. But, also, there was no choice but to push through. I remember being paraded through doctors offices (because a pregnant inmate still has rights to prenatal care) in cuffs and leg shackles, people pulling their kids closer to them as if I was going to attack, and thinking, “I’m not this person. I never hurt anyone other than myself.” The shame was unbearable. I remember standing in front of the judge for the last time, facing 10 years in prison, and feeling completely hopeless. And, I remember the world around me stopping as I heard her say she saw something in me that she can’t explain, and that she was going to give me another chance on the condition that she never sees me in her courtroom again. And, at that moment, I knew I had no choice. I wanted to be better, for myself and for my baby. I was going to prove to everyone that I was better than what they saw.

Aza – What advice would you give to other struggling felons and recovering addicts across the globe?

Jess – For advice, I would say this: You are not your mistakes. BUT don’t disown your past. Own every single part of who you are. One thing that always bothers me is when people say, “well, that’s your past. That’s not who you are.” Wrong. My past is every bit a part of who I am. And, I wear it with pride. I have been through the pits of hell and I have come out, no matter how battered or bruised, on the other side. I encourage you to not let anyone make you feel ashamed of your past. You’re a survivora fighter… and the world has so much in store for you!


Thank you, Jess, for sharing your story of struggle and how you pushed through the obstacles that life throws at us.

 

Misinformation is Abundant

Hey Readers! I’ve been scrolling through the Twitter feeds and Facebook groups, and I have been shocked by the amount of misinformation about felons that has been spread.

There’s a few things in particular that I’d like to clear up now.

Voting: In many states, so long as you’ve completed your sentence fully (lock up and supervision included), you can register to vote again and have your voice heard.

Firearms: In many cases, non-violent felons can regain access to firearms – again, once completely finished with your sentence.

Felon Friendly Jobs – Lists have been floating around the internet for years, ever since we figured out we could share information. The thing is – not all felons will be hired by ‘felon friendly employers’. This is very much based on the nature of your felony and the nature of the work you’re going for. For instance, with my record, all retail store employers see is a thief when they look at my background. However, I can easily work in the automotive industry, in factories, and many other career paths if I choose to.

Thinking All States Have the Same Laws – Seriously, just throw that idea out the window now. My research has shown me just how insane the differences are, and guess what – you’ll need to find out what applies to you and your state if you want to succeed with your background. (I can’t stress this word enough – RESEARCH, RESEARCH, RESEARCH)

Alright, that covers the main pains I’ve seen recently. Here’s a list of previous posts that are also full of resources:

Misinformation about Felons

Timelines and Tips

Felons and Certifications

Guide to Life After a Felony (ebook)

Friendly Felon’s Guide to Life  (print book)

That’s all for now guys, til next time – Stay Strong, Rise Above, and NEVER let anyone tell you who you are and who you CAN BE. We are MORE THAN OUR PASTS and we will overcome all our obstacles!

Love and Peace – Aza

No Rest for the Wicked

Good Afternoon Readers!

It has recently come to my attention that I’m basically working all of the time. When I talk about my life to my co-workers and other peers, they’re often left wondering how the hell I do all these different things and how I’ve picked myself up time and time again.

The simple fact is… I’m just constantly putting in effort in some area of my life. Even on my ‘days off’, I often find myself ‘working’ in some way.

Just last week, I cleaned an entire house of soot damage and repainted the ceiling in two rooms on a ‘day off’ from my payroll job.

Today (also a ‘day off’), I wrote out another round of postcards for the mailer marketing I’ve been running for ‘The Friendly Felon’s Guide to Life‘, am writing this post currently, and have also been adding content to not just one book in progress, but two completely different books in progress. (Spirituality and Perspectives (non-fiction exploration), and Letters of Love and War (fictionalized memoir) simply because those are my two favorite works in progress today) I’ve also read three Tarot spreads for clients online in the last 24 hours.

Point is…. there really aren’t any days off. Not when you’ve got something in mind to work toward.

Now, this doesn’t apply to just us felons…. My mom friends and work friends are also crazy busy between balancing their children, work lives (sometimes multiple jobs), and also building toward their goals – whatever they may be, some are in nursing school along with a full time job and the millions of sporting events that 4 children in middle school bring while others are working two jobs and attending college courses while living out of their vehicle to save on expenses.

The grind is real, for all of us.

Now, this isn’t to say, ignore everything else in your life while you run your nose into the metaphorical grindstone…
Just that you can’t stop going after your dreams. Even when things seem slow or pointless or even overwhelming simply because you’re so busy. (For instance, after a year and not even 50 followers, many people would have given up on their blog as a way to reach others… but here I am, still chugging along – slowly… but surely. Even if I had to take a couple breaks here and there to keep other things in life on track as well.)

So, when you’re feeling tired of the grind, remind yourself that the rewards are worth the lack of ‘rest’. And even if we aren’t all ‘wicked’, we all have those dreams that are worth chasing, and worth the lack of relaxation. We can relax once we’ve crossed our finish lines.

Love and Peace – Aza

 

 

Writing Your Story

Sorry for the lack of posts guys, as usual, things are crazy on the home and business fronts. I’ve been hard at work researching and writing first drafts of my other writing projects (more information on these coming soon). And while writing is on my mind, I wanted to talk about how writing your story (how you became a felon) can help you put things into perspective. The insight that you might find through the practice of writing the story of your life might help you find your path to freedom again.

Shortly after my own incarceration, I found myself writing non-stop in my diary, talking about how I had got myself into the position I was currently in, how the people I thought were friends were just dragging me into unknown depths, and how insane my experience seemed to be in general.

I started to realize that it wasn’t just my friends that had beguiled me into the situation and that I had to take control of myself for myself. I had to start being accountable for my actions and lack of actions. This realization helped guide me to where I am now. I have raised a child to double digits (the little one isn’t so little these days), I have supported my family, and I have taken control of my life and I won’t let anything stop me from being successful. Felon or not, I am going to find or forge (create forcibly, not write bad checks, just FYI) my path to freedom and acceptance in society. And I know you can do it too!

Point is, writing it out can help you get outside of your head and might take a bit of the depression off your shoulders. It helped me learn more about myself and find out what I needed to change about myself – you never know until you authentically give it a shot.

Til next time,

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

Learning to be Flexible about Work

Hello, dear Readers!

I want to talk to you about being a felon and finding work. If I’ve learned anything over the past ten years of having a record tied to my name, it’s that being flexible about the kind of work I’m available for, is the best way to keep the income coming in.

With my conviction, I was pushed to gain my GED by a given date in the probation papers, and this helped fill in the first -good- part of my resume. In some cases, your own convictions and the following supervision period (probation/parole/etc) may have included similar pushes to become an active member of society again.

Often, you’ll have to complete these either while serving time or while getting probation or parole over with. If not, I suggest getting this generalized diploma as soon as you feel you can pass the test. There are tons of GED classes available in most areas, as well as numerous free sources online that you can use (like Kahn Academy – I use it for homeschooling too!) to get your basics in shape for the test.

After I got the GED out of the way, I marched around town (7 months pregnant at the time on top of it), and put in an application to nearly every business I happened across. Did I get any of the jobs? Absolutely not. My conviction was too recent, my name too recently brought up as the worst name in the books, and I was too far along in my pregnancy for any employers to want to invest their money training me for a job I’d statistically either thieve from or leave from too soon. Did it stop me? Again – absolutely not.

It did take a while for me to finally find a job that would employ me, and that first job (I’ll leave you guessing here) after the conviction had actually left me with some majorly mixed emotions – even to this day- and helped push me into a state of mind where I was very uncomfortable with myself.

Normally, this isn’t a great thing, but it allowed me to realize that in order to get my good (or even just neutralized) name back in the surrounding area, I’d have to find a way to do good things and prove that I wasn’t the person I had been before.

I started applying to the diners and cafes in the area so that I could interact with people and let them get to know me as a person. There’s nothing like a customer service job in a small town. My probation wasn’t quite up at the time, and the incident I had been involved in was still relatively known and discussed, so even a slight misstep was cause enough to get myself fired in these early days. The pay was low, and customers were fairly rude (to which I learned to respond with kindness – that was bloody difficult), and the tips were unreliable.

Once probation was finally over and I passed the age of 21, the option of working in bars opened up as well. This proved rather lucrative, as when the locals came and drank on my shift, they would get drunk and actually begin to give me time to talk to them and they tipped even more than the morning rushes at the diners. I even managed to make a couple of friends. However, thanks to my inability to move from the area, there were still rumors flying around and I managed to irritate a couple people by simply existing and having a job while having a bad record.

This was still only about four years into my felon status, so things were still pretty raw when it came to jobs that actually ran background checks. Now, after ten years, it’s not so much an issue for me – but I still feel the same old hopelessness creep up every single time I bring it up. It’s not easy to overcome, but since I have no option EXCEPT to keep moving forward, I choose to push through it every time the job search is renewed.

Another thing I’ve learned is that you can’t win by lying to your (potential) employer. The background checks now are often not limited to a certain number of years as everything is becoming digital and can be retrieved for a low rate by nearly every company.

The most recent application I made for a part-time independent contract inspection agent position proved this, as I found that even after ten years and one month past my conviction date, my record was readily available and staring me in the face in an (accusatory feeling) email. However, they have given me the chance to discuss the conviction and how I’ve proven that I’m not a naughty person any longer. Not all companies will do this, and even when they do, it’s likely something required by law and they’re just covering the bases to cover their arses.

That’s where the certifications and proof of positive change come in to save the day (in some situations anyway).

That’s all for now, keep checking back!

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter)

 

Getting Bonded (Insured at Work)

Hey there, thanks for coming back!

We’re going to cover another topic today, one which can really help you sell yourself (in the best way possible) to the various employers that might be on the fence for hiring you thanks to that pesky background check.

While it’s tempting to cover up your background, it’s better to come out up front about it (more on this later, I promise). There’s a good reason for this:

It’s called the Federal Bonding Program, and it won’t cost you OR your employer a single cent and it lasts for six whole months.

This particular pro-tip isn’t just for felons, it can be used by those who have substance abuse issues, those who are on various forms of welfare, those with poor credit (for those pesky jobs that evaluate every aspect of your personal life), those with little to no work history and those who were discharged from the military without the honorable discharge.

The great thing about this is how easy it is to get started. You can use this link (http://bonds4jobs.com/our-services/job-seekers) to get more information about how to get started or to grab information to take with you to your next interview.

In line with this program, I’ve also heard that many factory jobs receive tax incentives for hiring felons, so if you have a healthy enough body for that kind of work, you may have much better luck finding employment through one of your local factories.

That’s all I’ve got on Federal Bonding, but it’s definitely worth more investigation if you’re having issues with getting past the interviews for work.

Love and peace,
Aza @aza_enigma (Twitter me!)