Lyne is in her early 40s and works full-time in the construction industry. It’s an exciting time in her life. She is engaged to her partner and just bought her first home. Lyne also just celebrated eight years clean and sober. It’s an accomplishment she is proud of, and one she works hard to maintain by staying active in Narcotics Anonymous, where she shares her experience to help others in recovery.
During her late 20s and early 30s, Lyne spent several years in the throes of addiction to crack cocaine and opioid painkillers. To support her addiction, she started stealing things to resell, and also stole credit cards. She was eventually caught and convicted on upwards of 30 charges, most for fraud and theft, as well as narcotics possession.
“Bottom line, my record is based on my drug use,” Lyne said.
Lyne has worked hard to get where she is today, but her criminal record from her past addiction still limits her life.
“When I came into recovery and was starting to get my life back on track, I felt very discouraged because I felt like I couldn’t do anything because of this criminal record,” she said. Her previous career field, healthcare, was off-limits to her because of her criminal record. Lyne retrained as a heavy equipment operator and truck driver, knowing that at least some employers would overlook her history.
As she looked to advance, though, she found her record restricted her options. She was passed over during a hiring spree of women by a major company in her area, even though she already had plenty of experience in the industry. Friends at the company said it was most likely her criminal record. She was offered an interview for a position driving a public transit vehicle, but when she realized the city required a criminal record check, she knew they would not hire her. She didn’t bother with the interview.
Later, Lyne was stunned when her criminal record came up somewhere she never expected. She tried to buy disability insurance and was rejected because of it. She decided it was time to apply for a record suspension. She’d been eligible for a few years, but had put it off since the process seemed daunting.
Lyne is extremely positive but has found the application process for a record suspension very challenging, both logistically and emotionally. She has had to request court documents from two different courthouses, but one has been unresponsive and the other sent back paperwork full of errors that she must somehow get corrected. The application asks her to list all of her addresses from the last 10 years as well as the circumstances and reasons behind all of her convictions – details that she doesn’t always remember, since they were from a chaotic period of her life, and her memories are clouded by addiction.
And delving back into that time carries huge emotional weight, especially the prospect of having to write explanations for each of the 30-something charges.
“I’m extremely overwhelmed thinking about that,” Lyne said. “I have a good group of people that support me and love me, and thank God for them, because this stuff has also triggered me.”
Lyne said forgiving herself for behaviours she isn’t proud of during her period of addiction – and accepting they were part of the disease of addiction, rather than a reflection of her character – has been important to her recovery. Cultivating self-respect has helped her take better care of herself.
For now, Lyne has decided to put the record suspension application on hold.
How would having a clean criminal record change her life? “I’d probably be changing careers right now, or maybe looking at a new job,” Lyne said. “You know, my self-esteem and confidence is pretty good, but I think that would definitely help in that area as well.”