By Garrett Estrada
Ely Times Staff Writer
The crowd at the courthouse tried to hold back tears as two men graduated from their long drug rehabilitation program on Monday.
The two graduates Devin and CJ, who both asked to go by their first names only, stood in front of Judge Gary Fairman and read speeches about how their lives had changed for the better thanks to the program.
The four-phase program is offered to addicts facing felony charges in non-violent crimes that involved the use of illegal drugs. The process can take anywhere from 18 months to over two years, and has strict rules, including two random drug tests a week and maintaining employment.
Upon completion of the program, their charges are dropped and they are set free, with probation. It’s a freedom that both graduates hadn’t experience in years.
“Where I was compares nothing to the joyfulness I feel now,” Devin said of his 748 days sober from methamphetamine and alcohol.
Devin’s 18-page long graduation speech to the judge recounted his days before he was in the program. Kicked out of his parents’ house after a short jail term, Devin slept in public restrooms, stole cars and dropped below 100 pounds as he lost control of his life to his addiction to meth and other drugs.
After two years, he said he knew he needed to make a change.
That’s when he met Drug and Alcohol Counselor Amy Adams.
Adams said she first met Devin when he was 19. When he joined the drug court rehabilitation program, she worked with him every step of the way, doing her best to help him put his past behind him. When he mentioned in his speech how much her help motivated him to get better, she had to wipe away tears.
“It is such a touching, humbling experience,” Adams said. “Counselors are human too and to hear that you are helping, you can’t help but feel proud of that. I’m honored and completely humbled by it.”
CJ is a recovering alcoholic. He said when he checked into the program in April of 2012, he was “terrified” and had no idea where his life was headed.
“Now I am 728 days sober,” he said. “I have successfully lived on my own for a year and have supported myself and my son. I have kept a job for two years now with the same company. These are all things I have never done before and it feels great to be independent.”
Fairman began the graduation by speaking on the importance of the drug court, citing nationwide success rates for such programs see six out of 10 people who complete the program stay out of the court system after they are released. He compared that with the much lower 2 out of 10 for those that serve a prison sentence. In turn, successful drug court programs save communities money that would be spent to house the addicts while also making sure they become an asset to their community.
“Their participation starts them on this trend,” Fairman said. “It helps them lead clean and sober lives. They have to have a job. They become taxpayers because of that job. They are able to think clearly and can focus on their families. They are not on welfare, they are not in jail and they are contributing members to society just like they were before their addiction problem.”
Judge Steve Dobrescu, who established the drug court in Ely in 2005, said despite the programs success, funding for it has been drying up in recent years. He asked those in attendance to do their part to try and keep the program alive and functioning.
Three other participants in the drug court program were also recognized at the beginning of the ceremony for successfully moving from stage three to the final stage four.