Why Are So Many Addicts Repeat Offenders?

September 4, 2023 Kelsi Cronkright

Have you ever wondered about repeat offenders? It is not uncommon to hear about folks who get in legal trouble for using drugs or alcohol, and instead of remaining sober, they go back out and use again. It is difficult to understand how someone can keep engaging in the same behavior after losing everything. Repeat offenders are often called selfish and ungrateful. But what if the opposite is true? What if repeat offenders need compassion just like everyone else? 

My Repeat Offender History

In 2012, I got arrested for driving under the influence (DUI) of alcohol. My second DUI charge happened a few years later, in 2015. Between the ages of 23 and 28, I was arrested five times and admitted to inpatient treatment or rehab six times. For a decade, I was a chronic repeat offender. As soon as I left treatment or finished probation, I immediately drank again. 

Each time I got in trouble, the consequences harshened. Instead of receiving holistic, evidence-based, compassionate care for a life-threatening condition, I received criminalization. The shame that I felt for struggling snowballed along with the punishments. I didn't think my life could get better. I couldn't escape a nagging inner monologue that said I was nothing more than an alcoholic loser who couldn't trust herself. 

I was a repeat offender because I couldn't deal with the shame. Even with two college degrees, having a criminal record and no driver's license means I can't pass a background check. Only entry-level jobs tolerate criminal, repeat offenders like me. How could I survive and pay tens of thousands of dollars in student and legal debt while making minimum wage? How was I supposed to stand back up while being held underwater? 

Repeat Offenders Have Been Harmed and Need Help

I got addicted to alcohol because I was living with unprocessed trauma. It does not make sense to meet traumatized humans with handcuffs. Repeat offenders are battling addiction in a system that actively works against them. It's no wonder my 20s were such a nightmare.

If I learned anything during my 20, it is that punishment does not lead to abstinence. My relationship with alcohol didn't change until I found a community steeped in love. They told me, for the first time, there was no need for fixing because I was not broken. I know it's hard to love and understand someone who struggles with repeat offenses. But trust me when I say we are not doing it to cause harm. We are doing it because we've been harmed and need help keeping our heads above water.

APA Reference
Cronkright, K. (2023, September 4). Why Are So Many Addicts Repeat Offenders?, HealthyPlace. Retrieved on 2024, July 21 from

Author: Kelsi Cronkright

You can find Kelsi on Instagram and Substack.

Leave a reply