Every addict or alcoholic who gets clean and sober carries baggage with them. For most of us, that baggage is internal; for some of us, it’s visible to others in the form of unwanted tattoos.

Gang tattoos, tattoos that represent past relationships, tattoos that glorify a world we’ve left behind—all of these can pose significant obstacles to finding acceptance as we build a healthy, sober lifestyle. This is especially true for tattoos that can’t be hidden easily, like tattoos on the hands, face or neck.

To be fair, not all tattoos we got while using need to be removed. We may have tattoos that we love and appreciate, and that still have meaning for us. Even if these tattoos are visible, and even if some others suggest you should get them removed, keeping or removing a tattoo needs to be your decision.

If you live in a big city, finding tattoo removal is easy. Use Google or Yelp, and you’ll find a variety of business that off laser tattoo removal services and you’ll be set. Set, that is, if you can afford the often very expensive prices for tattoo removal. What if you’re desperate to get the tats taken off, but can’t afford the procedure?

The good news is that almost every major U.S. city has a non-profit tattoo removal program, while some for-profit tattoo removal shops offer sliding scale options that will meet your budget. There are a few nationwide clearing houses for people needing face, hand or neck tattoo removal. For an example, check out Fresh Tattoo Removal for a reference.

Only relatively small tattoos of certain colors can be removed in a single session. It often takes longer to remove a tattoo than it did to create it, especially if the tattoo is dark or large. The removal process can take several sessions, and progress is often cautious as the laser operator will be focused on preventing scarring as much as possible. It may be uncomfortable, it will be time-consuming and even with a sliding scale it will require some financial investment.

But if tattoo removal offers you a new start and a chance for people to see the real you that was hidden beneath the ink, the effort is surely worth it.