Judge John Wooten oversaw the ceremony and offered his thoughts on the program, which was started by Judge J.O. Bond in 2002.
“When I first heard about these programs, I felt they were just get-out-of-jail-free cards,” said Wooten. “But I’ve seen these programs change lives. Addiction is, I’ve often said, it’s a very selfish way of life. You have to serve your addiction. Our program – especially early on – is selfish, too, but it’s about giving people the tools to change their lives.”
The drug court is for those who are felony offenders within the five counties served by the 15th Judicial District. The bulk of the participants come from within Wilson County, which is why the program is based in Lebanon.
During its first year, there were 80 people assessed and put through the rigorous screening. Of those, 12 were admitted to the program and three of those graduated.
The first graduate recognized Friday was Carlos Spivey, a Macon County resident who came to the program in May 2016. Spivey called his life prior to the program “unmanageable” and said his least favorite part of the two years he spent in the program was the drive from Macon County to Lebanon. Spivey said his life goal was to grow old by not using drugs.
The second graduate was Nichelle Harper, a Trosudale County resident who’s currently working toward getting her certified nurse’s assistant license. The day after Harper entered the program in February 2016, her house burned down. She said she looked at the program at the time as additional punishment. She hopes to work with people who want to start a life of recovery in the future and teach them to focus on themselves and work around distractions.
“It’s been an interesting two years,” said Harper. “The journey seemed it would be difficult, and when my house burned down, I contemplated serving time instead. My anxiety and depression were weighing me down, and I was self-medicating for that. I feel like I’ve grown up mentally and emotionally through the program. I’m here, and I’m sober. I’m far from where I want to be, but I’m closer than I’ve been before.”
Jordan McCarter, of Wilson County, was the third graduate recognized. McCarter started his program in the Morgan County facility, where participants are expected to stay in the facility at all times. After a year, he transferred to the Wilson County program, where he had more freedom. McCarter said his life before drug court was a fight every morning to wake up and struggle through it. Now, he’s set goals to get his driver’s license, get his son back and eventually be stable enough to help others like him gain peace of mind in their own lives.
Darlene Cahill, of Smith County, described her life before drug court as shattered like a windshield on a car, but she said drug court gave her a new windshield. Cahill came to Wilson County’s program in May 2016, and she has worked with several other addiction programs during her time there. She sponsors two people now and is currently working to plan the 2018 Music City Roundup, an annual Alcoholics Anonymous event. Cahill said she knows she’ll always be an addict but won’t be an active addict.
“I will die with this disease, but not because of this disease,” she said.
The last graduate recognized was Deidre Bashaw, of Wilson County. Bashaw came to the program in October 2016 and, similar to Cahill, described her life before the program as a crack in a window over time. She described herself before the program as broken, homeless and unhappy but thanked the drug court for helping her get her life back.