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My history of jail and drug addiction makes me feel virtually unemployable

Today I’m answering a question about how to make positive life changes when it feels like you’re at rock bottom without any sort of ladder.

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I’m 33 years old and working in a job that wouldn’t excite a teenager. When I was 15 years old, I got into the drug scene and messed up my life. I wound up dropping out of high school and was in and out of juvenile facilities until I went to jail.

I’m virtually unemployable and don’t even have a high school diploma, so I can’t land a good job. I work in a car wash, doing the rag wipe-down. I’ve given up drugs, but feel like a failure despite that. I want to make something out of myself, but it seems like there’s no way I can do that from where I’m starting, given how old I am. Mom says get a G.E.D., but what would that get me?

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You gave up drugs; now give up your failure attitude. No matter where you start, you can get somewhere — and to a place so good that you can’t even now imagine it.

Have you heard the story about Johnny the grocery store bagger? Every day, Johnny typed out an inspirational quote that appealed to him and made 300 copies of it. As Johnny bagged groceries, he slipped a copy in each shopper’s bag saying, “I liked this quote and thought you might. Hope you have a great week.”

Weeks later, the grocery manager noticed twice as many customers stood in Johnny’s check stand line as the other. The manager opened up another line, but the customers in Johnny’s line said they’d wait so Johnny could give them his positive send off.

In the next weeks, Johnny’s spirit impacted every store employee. For example, the in-store florist no longer threw away broken-stem flowers, but made them into corsages to give away to nearby shoppers.

In other words, you have the same opportunity the rest of us have to do the very best where you are and to see what comes from that. Your current job gives you the chance to interact with more than fifty customers every day. One of them may own a company and be looking for a hard worker with a good customer-service attitude.

Also, get that G.E.D. because it’s your ticket to a better job. The school personnel where you take the test may be able to refer you to a better job. In fact, everyone you meet might help you find a better job — if you show up as who you are: someone with the guts to pull yourself up and out of a problem history who is willing to work hard for your future.

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Have a question for Lynne? Email her at with subject “SheKnows” and she may answer your question (confidentially) in an upcoming piece on SheKnows.

Lynne authored Solutions and Beating the Workplace Bully, AMACOM. You can also follow her on twitter at lynnecurry10, or visit her websites or

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