It is not impossible but be prepared to battle!
I had alcohol issues throughout my teen years that resulted in the equivalent of a felony on my record when I was 16 (doesn't show up on background checks as I was a juvenile). I was on drugs for one year when I was 18, and became clean one week after my 19th birthday, in 2009.
I went to nursing school and graduated at the very top of my class. I anticipated problems so hired a lawyer for $2500 at the beginning of my last semester who helped me get all of my paperwork prepared and sent in (400 pages when normal application is about 4). We sent in all of my past medical records, court documents, all of my current medical records that show rehabilitation, my grades since they were so good, my rewards from school, reference letters from all of my professors who all stated that I was an excellent student and was obviously recovered. We graduated in May, all of my classmates received their ATT's in July. I finally heard from the BON in October who sent me a certified letter telling me that I needed to see their psychiatrist for an evaluation, no big deal except that it cost $2500 and was 7 hours away. I went to see him one month later in November for a 9 hour evaluation that went very well. It takes him about 4 weeks to turn the report in, which he has done, so I am back to waiting again. I don't expect to hear from the BON until February since their next meeting isn't until the end of January (they meet every other month). I expected to wait, so it is not as bad as someone that didn't do their research and is shocked that they had to wait longer than everyone else.
If you do decide to go through with this then I will offer you advice based on my experience. 1. Be afraid. Yes be very afraid that you will not be granted a license. Used that fear to do ABOVE average in school so you can score excellent reference letters from professors. I have been scared that I was not going to be licensed since I started school, and I tried to compensate by being at the top of the class, which does help your case. 2. Don't listen to ANYONE and get a lawyer. Other classmates, family member, even the director of the nursing program tried to tell me that I was worried about nothing since I was so young and that a lawyer wasn't necessary. I did my research and knew better! The school has NOTHING to do with the BON giving you your license, a lawyer will be the one negotiating on your behalf and deciding if a consent agreement is fair. 3. Prepare to be offered a consent agreement, but don't accept it if your lawyer and you do not feel that it is fair. Many do not hire lawyers and accept the consent agreement that is thrown at them thinking that at least they will have a license, when this is not the best thing to do. This is why an experienced lawyer is necessary. They will help you decide if the consent agreement is fair. My lawyer is fighting for no consent agreement for me. Consent agreements can make finding a job extremely difficult. 4. Do not pick a lawyer that does not fit your personality. Experience is not everything. I had a consultation with a nursing lawyer that stated "why did you go into nursing with your history then?". I immediately did not hire her and kept looking because I did not see her "fighting" for me and making the BON believe that I deserved to be a nurse when she clearly did not think so. 5. If you are not already then start seeing a pschologist and psychiatrist NOW and regularly. They will want to see proof that you are rehabilitated and take your past seriously. You need to make sure that you have licensed professionals that can vouch for your mental health. 6. Do not compare yourself to other students- this is one of the hardest things to do. You will see EVERYONE else getting their ATT's, getting licensed, and getting jobs WAY before you and it is very easy to feel bad about yourself while you are still waiting to hear ANYTHING from the BON- but don't do this. Don't compare yourself to everyone else. Your situation is unique and it in no way determines what kind of nurse you will be, if anything it will make you a better one. I will truly not take my nursing license for granted because I know what the gut wrenching feeling is of possibly being denied one.
These are some things that are at the top of my head. I went into this knowing that I was a changed person, but being prepared to battle for my license. Has it been scary and an emotional roller-coaster at times? Yes it has, but it has all been worth it to me and I would do it again. It is a choice that each person has to make individually after they research and prepare what is to possibly come.