MARSHALL - It was more than a milestone to celebrate. The ceremony at the Lyon County courthouse represented a chance for one area man to make a new start.
The Southwest Community Drug Court celebrated the graduation of one of its participants on Monday. The new graduate, who asked to be identified only as Jeremy, said the drug court program has made a big impact on him, as he worked to recover from addiction.
"I feel good. I probably feel better than I have in a long time," he said Monday.
In addition to graduating from drug court, Jeremy had reached 674 days of sobriety, Lyon County District Court Judge Leland Bush said.
"As of today, he will be our 16th overall graduate," and the eighth graduate from Lincoln and Lyon County, said drug court coordinator Amber Tisue.
The Southwest Community Drug Court program offers an alternative for people faced with prison sentences for felony-level drug crimes.
Participants must be non-violent offenders, as well as meeting other eligibility requirements. The program serves Lincoln, Lyon and Redwood Counties, and the Lower Sioux Community. Tisue said there are currently 11 people participating in the program in Lincoln and Lyon County.
One of the most positive things about the drug court program is that it helps participants get the support they need to get sober and make changes in their lives, Tisue said. Addiction treatment, counseling, support group meetings, weekly court appearances and supervision by law enforcement are all part of the program. The program also emphasizes finding employment or doing volunteer work.
Working through the whole program to graduation takes more than a year, although the amount of time individual participants spend in the program depends on how they do, Tisue said.
In a statement he gave as part of the graduation ceremony, Jeremy said participating in drug court helped him get his life back on track, and helped to mend his relationships with family members.
"I feel like I've come a long way from where I started," he said. Jeremy said drinking had made his life "a mess," to the point where he had lost his job and was facing alcohol-related criminal charges. "I had goals, but I was never going to make them the way I was going."
Drug court team members said that despite some initial setbacks, Jeremy had reached positive milestones while he was in drug court. He now has a steady job, and he has earned his driver's license back.
"You really have come a long way," Assistant Lyon County Attorney Tricia Zimmer told Jeremy. "You're on the right track. You just need to stay on it."
As part of the program, Jeremy also completed 152 drug tests and 75 "knock and chats," or random visits from law enforcement officers. He said being woken up late at night to take breathalyzer tests was probably his least favorite experience in drug court.
"It's not easy," he said of the program. But, he said, it's possible to get through it with hard work and a good support system. "It helped that we had to be accountable for ourselves," he said, with journals that drug court participants write every week and turn in to the judge.
After graduation, Jeremy says he will be focusing on work and making a living, but he hopes to continue his education to be a sound engineer.
"I want to go to school for music, when I can make it," he said.