Dan Hust | Democrat
SULLIVAN COUNTY COURT Judge Frank LaBuda congratulates Cherron with her “diploma” upon graduating from the county’s Drug Treatment Court.
Tales of redemption at drug court
By Dan Hust
MONTICELLO “Suffering is an essential part of the growth process,” according to Monticello Central Schools Superintendent Pat Michel.
“... You cannot be strong if only wonderful things happen in your life.”
And some pretty nasty things have happened to the lives of those honored in Monticello Thursday.
But despite Cherron B., Samantha D. and Pamela H.’s drug addictions, court cases and family tribulations, dozens of people gathered on the Sullivan County Courthouse’s sunlit lawn that day to applaud them.
For they had persevered where others had not, they had pushed past the pain to find a new life, and they had emerged as victors and as the three newest graduates of the Sullivan County Drug Treatment Court program.
“You have succeeded, and you should be proud of that success,” observed Michel, the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony.
Drug Treatment Court alumnus Deidre Koch also offered words of encouragement, noting that three years ago she was in jail, the result of being a heroin addict since age 14.
“It was something I really wanted to change,” she recalled.
She graduated from the program in October 2006 and is now a nursing student in college. Though still on probation, she’s far removed from the drug-addled world she once inhabited.
“We are in a constant battle with drugs,” acknowledged emcee and Sullivan County Court Judge Frank LaBuda, speaking of both his court’s battle and the war being waged by people caught up in those circumstances.
But the judge proudly pointed to the three graduates as evidence of the court’s and the people’s ability to win that war.
“The world certainly is changing through people like you,” he said to them.
It’s changing locally thanks to the program itself, which takes nonviolent drug offenders through a recovery and rehabilitation process that includes educational and workforce training to make them self-sufficient, rather than keeping them in jail at taxpayers’ expense.
Thursday’s theme reflected that effort: “knowledge attained, change retained: striving to live drug- and alcohol-free.”
Though Pamela could not attend Thursday’s ceremony, both Cherron and Samantha shared their struggles and triumphs in what was the first-ever outdoor graduation of the Drug Treatment Court.
“In all honesty, I should have been in jail five or six times,” Cherron candidly assessed.
Today, “I’m working out, I’m in school and I have my own place,” she proudly related.
“Dealing with the disease of addiction is all about change and facing one’s fears… and letting them go,” added Samantha.
Thanking everyone for giving her a second chance “to find out who I am,” she explained that she “learned how to live again” through the Drug Treatment Court.
And now she’s ready to bring that message to a much wider audience than was in attendance Thursday.
“I am a change the world needs to see,” she said.