Drug court commencement

On Wednesday the Hocking County Common Pleas Court hosted a Drug Court commencement ceremony. From left is Chris Williams, Judge John Wallace, Kevin Fannin, and Donald Williams Jr.

LOGAN — Almost everyone knows someone or is related to someone who has been affected by drug addiction. Although, with the drug court programs in Hocking County, lives are being changed and it’s up to the graduates to stick with it after they complete this chapter.

One of the drug courts is operated through the Hocking County Common Pleas Court and was established over four years ago in an effort to give those convicted of felony drug crimes an option other than serving time.

Throughout the course of the program, participants are required to call in daily. Additionally, they are selected randomly by a computer call-in system for drug testing.

There are four phases to the program, of which the supervision and testing ease up on the completion of each phase as clients adjust to sobriety and normalize their lives. Clients are monitored throughout the duration, which can last up to 12 or 18 months, to ensure they are staying clean.

The drug court works in conjunction with Treatment Alternatives to Street Crime (TASC), a federal initiative created in 1972 in order to use the treatment system to meet criminal justice goals for those convicted of felony drug crimes.

The organization provides assessment, counseling, case management and referral services for drug court clients. The service can also provide clients who face financial barriers to completing treatment with funds for things such as work clothes or a security deposit on an apartment.

On Wednesday, three people celebrated their commencement for completing the program. In attendance was Hocking County Common Pleas Court Judge John Wallace, Drug Court Coordinator Stephanie Sullivan, Probation Officer Jon Rager, Deputy Director of the 317 Board Bill Dunlap, Hocking County Sheriff Lanny North and HCSO Chief Deputy Dave Valkinburg, and those currently going through the drug court program.

Rager gave a brief summary of how these three men were the perfect example of how different everyone’s path in recovery can look.

Donald Williams Jr. went through the program with no issues whatsoever. He has all his court costs paid off, all his restitution paid off, not only is he completing the program but he’s off of probation too.

Second Rager pointed out Chris Williams, who, when he started the program struggled and went back and forth. Then one day, he was put in jail for the weekend and that was his wakeup call, which Rager said was a great day because from then on Chris had zero issues. He had never been to jail before and only spent a few days, but it was enough to scare him straight.

Lastly, Kevin Fannin whom Rager admitted couldn’t count the amount of hours he put in trying to track Fannin down because of all his warrants with the Hocking County Sheriff’s Office. Nevertheless, he came back and they gave him another shot at the program.

Rager said Fannin, “Took a lot from the program, came back, applied it and has done very well. He’s just as deserving as anybody to complete the program even though he took the longest of these three. The hardest road — it’s a good testament to what the program represents.”

Kelly Gallagan, peer recovery support supervisor and trainer of TASC Southeast Ohio, was the special speaker. She opened with recognizing how difficult the road has been to get to where they are now and how proud she is that they’ve now come to the end of their journey.

Gallagan has worked with drug courts for 18 years and has family members who have been affected with drug addictions. Therefore, she realizes how difficult it is for folks to stay on the path to recovery and that it’s challenging to start life over again.

“Your recovery comes first, so that everything you love doesn’t become less. I know that every one of you who have been addicted to drugs has put your family, your kids, your job, and your relationships on hold so that you could chase what you thought you loved, which was drugs,” shared Gallagan.

Gallagan explained that recovery is demanding and it can be exhausting, something she’s witnessed in each and every person who’s walked through the doors of TASC. She realizes that there are many times when they felt like giving up, but nevertheless, they persisted because they were sitting at commencement.

She encouraged them to stick with it because if they’ve made it this far then she knows they’re strong enough to continue. Then one day, they’ll realize, ‘why didn’t I do this sooner,’ she relayed.

However, Gallagan acknowledged that just because they might have the strength to continue one day, doesn’t mean they will all the time. Just like everyone else, she said they’ll have good days and bad days, but to remember what they went through to get to this moment and to allow that to drive their desire to continue.

Gallagan referenced the saying, “You fall seven times, stand up eight.” Though she doesn’t recommend having to repeat the drug court program, she affirmed those in attendance that sometimes it doesn’t stick the first time, but try, try again.

“Don’t allow your addiction to control your life any longer. It’s time to stick up for yourself and it’s time to stick up for your recovery. Kick the triggers to the curb and chase negative attitudes and people away,” encouraged Gallagan.

Though it will be difficult to overcome, she hit on the importance of not being ashamed of their past. Instead, learn from it, encourage others, and be proud of the accomplishments they’ve made.

Similar to a monologue about a girl struggling with addiction, she shared an autobiography in five short chapters. The first chapter talked about a man walking down a street but falls into a deep hole in the sidewalk. He’s lost, helpless, can’t find a way out, but doesn’t want to blame himself for his mistake.

The second chapter says the man walks down the same sidewalk, pretends to not see the hole in the sidewalk and falls in again. He says it isn’t his fault and it takes him longer, but he eventually finds a way out.

“This person is reaching for recovery, but not getting it because he’s blaming everyone but himself. He’s not taking responsibility,” explained Gallagan.

In the third chapter, he walks down the same street, sees the deep hole but still falls in.

“My eyes are open. I know where I am. It is my fault and I immediately get up,” read the chapter.

Chapter four, he walks down the same street, sees the deep hole, but walks around it. Except, Gallagan points out, that isn’t enough. Walking down the same street, just like talking with the same people, going to the same places and doing the same things leads back to addiction. She reiterates that their new life must start fresh.

In chapter five, the man walks down a different street.

“Please know, that if you’re going to get out and struggle, we’re here for you — all of you. I just want to wish everybody a day like today, like it is for these three. Just keep doing what you’re doing,” expressed Gallagan.

Wallace added that he doesn’t like to use the word graduation during these ceremonies because it’s more of a commencement.

“This is the start of the rest of your life and also there’s still plenty of work to be done. You’ve got to fight the battle for sobriety everyday. I think it does get easier as you develop good habits, but the battle is still there so you’ve got to stay engaged,” he concluded.

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