I Confess! Facing Up to Your Crimes While in Recovery

When addicts and alcoholics are consumed by their illness, they can become entirely different people. In some instances, the desperation for drugs or alcohol can become so intense that addicts will literally beg, borrow, and steal to get the money they need to feed their addiction.

While begging and borrowing can be regrettable, when a substance abuser takes to stealing it is a sign that things have really gotten out of hand. This is not the only type of crime that addicts and alcoholics will tend to commit, however; in addition to their desperation people with chemical dependencies also lose their capacity for discernment and judgment, leading to reckless and irresponsible behavior that can cause serious injury to other people. Anyone who refers to addiction or alcoholism as a "victimless crime" is clearly underestimating the deleterious effects that substance abuse can have on the decision-making ability of even the most upright person, and the truth is that those under the influence of intoxicants on a regular basis are far more likely to commit a crime than someone without a chemical dependency.

According to a 2010 study released by the National Center on Addiction and Substance Abuse, 1.5 of the 2.3 million men and women confined to prison in the United States meet the established medical criteria for substance abuse or addiction; meanwhile, another 450,000 were under the influence of alcohol or drugs at the time they committed the crime they were sentenced for, committed their offense to get money to buy drugs, or were in prison for violating an alcohol or drug law. These are truly stunning statistics, and what they reveal is that the chances of an addict or alcoholic breaking the law at some point while they are using are disturbingly high.

For some substance abusers in recovery, this reality is something that hits very close to home. While many addicts do end up in prison, others manage to avoid the long arm of the law even though they in fact did commit illegal acts while they were trapped in the vicious cycle of drug or alcohol dependency. If this is the situation you find yourself in, and you are a person of conscience, then you are probably feeling caught on the horns of a vexing and difficult dilemma – as a part of your recovery process, should you confess to what you did and take your medicine, or is it enough to just concentrate on changing your life and becoming a better person?

Taking Responsibility and Making Amends

In reality, what makes this dilemma so difficult to face is that it is really no dilemma at all. Deep down, you know quite well what the right thing to do is, and what is holding you back is your fear of the consequences of stepping forward and telling the truth. If it is important for addicts and alcoholics to make amends to all of the people they hurt while under the influence, then certainly this list must include anyone who was victimized by any illegal actions you may have committed. Even if you cannot take it back, simply confessing to what you did will help bring closure for those who were damaged by your actions.

But your victims are not the only ones who need closure; if you continue to hide in the shadows, you will find yourself constantly looking over your shoulder in anticipation of who may be coming for you, plagued by both your fear and your sense of guilt, and this situation will make your chances of staying clean and sober for the long haul all but non-existent. In order to beat drug and alcohol addiction, you will need to concentrate on your healing process with a clear and focused mind, which will be impossible if you are keeping secrets and repressing terrible and destructive memories. So you need to take responsibility and confess to what you have done not just for the benefit of your victims, but also for your own benefit and for the benefit of your recovery process as a whole.

But even beyond these considerations, perhaps the worst thing that could happen if you do not come forward is that someone else could end up being blamed for your crime. No amount of rationalizing would ever make it okay for you to say nothing while someone else was taking the rap for something illegal that you did, and no one who has the slightest shred of decency should be willing to take the chance that this could someday happen. Even if a wrongfully-accused person were eventually cleared, being taken into custody and put in jail for a crime he or she did not commit could be a deeply painful and emotionally devastating experience for any person, which is why you need to come forward to admit what you did before anyone else is arrested for it, and not after.

Short-Term Pain, Long-Term Gain

If you have done something in the past that you know could land you in jail, it is understandable how strongly tempted you might be to just keep quiet about it and do your best to live with your guilt. But in truth, living with that kind of guilt is really not an option at all, not if you are serious about your recovery. Your chances of putting your substance abuse behind you rests entirely on how committed you are to taking full responsibility for everything you have done in the past and everything you will do in the future, and the short-term consequences of your choices should not be the deciding factor.

Before going to the police, however, you absolutely must consult with a lawyer first. Regardless of what type of crime you have committed, you need to know your rights and what you will be facing before you turn yourself in, so that you will be fully prepared for the trials and ordeals yet to come. Your future, and your sobriety, will depend on what happens next, so before you come forward to take responsibility for your actions you should definitely bring a professional into the picture who can help guide you through the legal process every step of the way.