Kelly’s story, sadly, is one we’ve heard too often before. She grew up in a home where her parents often did drugs, started using meth as a teenager and ran into trouble with the law at a young age. As an alternative to jail time, she entered into the King County Drug Court program, where eligible defendants (generally low-level and non-violent offenders) can choose to receive substance use treatment instead of going to trial. Upon successful graduation from the two year program, charges may be reduced or dismissed. As the main provider of King County Adult Drug Court Services, Therapeutic Health Services (THS) works directly with the courts providing intensive drug, alcohol and mental health treatment, case management, life skills training, employment and educational services, pro-social activities, and community reintegration for court-involved individuals. Drug Court creates a non-adversarial courtroom atmosphere where the judge and a team of people including prosecutors, defense attorneys, probation officers, case managers and THS treatment staff work together toward the common goal of breaking the cycle of drug abuse and criminal behavior. Kelly graduated the program and spent several years clean and sober.
Old Issues Creep Back In
Recovery is a lifelong process, and sometimes relapses happen. Kelly started using alcohol heavily several years after graduating the Drug Court program. As she puts it, “I was like a half gallon a day alcoholic. I think I spent like two years in a blackout.” Soon, Kelly turned to heroin, “I started just smoking it a little bit at first and started drinking less and less and less and I thought that was a good thing. I thought the alcohol was killing me and it just felt better to be doing heroin…it was just a little bit and then it became more and more and then it got more and more expensive.” Kelly’s habit became so expensive, that she started committing crimes to cover her costs; “We were stealing cars and breaking into houses and [committing] burglaries and all kinds of stuff to get the drugs.” Kelly was arrested and was facing significant jail time, but she remembered the King County Drug Court program. With a young daughter at home, she wanted to re-enter treatment and finally try to put addiction behind her.
Eager to Change
The second time around, Kelly was a King County Drug Court rock star. The program is rigorous. Random drug tests are performed at least twice per week. Participants meet with their counselors for individual or group counseling sessions a minimum of one to two times per week. They attend sober support meetings weekly, complete community service and appear before a judge at least monthly. Kelly spent each day getting up early and participating in groups and individual counseling sessions for most of her day. Kelly remembers this time in her life as being intense, but critical to establishing the sobriety she has now. Kelly feels that “Everything Drug Court does, they do it for a reason. You know, you need to step back away from everything else you’re doing. You’ve got to make your whole world and your whole life about recovery. I think Drug Court drives until you’re able to do it yourself.”
Earning Every Day
Four years on now and happily clean and sober, Kelly is a hard-working restaurant manager and life is going well for her. Kelly really connects with her job and she’s been growing in her role, taking on new responsibilities and being rewarded for her hard work. Kelly values the skills she’s acquired at THS. As she puts it, “I’ve learned about productivity and how to set and meet labor goals. I think I’ve learned a lot from this place about managing, you know, and I think I can take that with me anywhere…I’m grateful for that.” Recently, Kelly and her daughter took a trip to Disneyland, a trip she has been promising for many years. They both enjoyed the rides, the food, and all the fireworks each night. Kelly had to spend a year saving up for the trip and she knows it was worth it.
Great Things to Come
Kelly has even more great things planned. “Right now, I’m looking forward to the future. I want to buy a house and I do this positive thinking thing. I think in my head what it’s going to look like. It’s exciting, you know, to be able to do that.”