Bar of Soap Serves as Reminder of Effort

‘‘Stay Clean’’ read two words on the cover of a bar of soap.
For the 33 DUI/DWI Court graduates, who received the soap as a gift, those words have a special meaning because it signaled the completion of a very difficult program that kept them out of prison.
It was a long journey for the graduates, lasting a minimum of 18 months. For some, the process lasted nearly two years.
Only two members of this class were sanction-free, according to Judge Sarah Day Smith who oversees the court. Others slipped while in the program as additions prevailed despite their efforts to remain clear.
This specialty court is one of several used in Tulsa County and many counties throughout Oklahoma to keep people out of prison since their only offense was being addicted to drugs or alcohol.
Several of the April 24 graduates thought the process ‘‘would be easy,’’ Judge Smith continued. All quickly learned they would follow a very difficult regimen or they would go directly to jail.
One graduate, wearing bright colored clothing to court for his first appearance, learned how quickly sanctions are applied.
He didn’t have a driver’s license and it was shortly after his appearance that Judge Smith saw him driving a vehicle. The sanction for that offense was applied that day.
Graduates representing the six therapy groups involved in the program gave brief statements about their successes — and failures — as the progressed through the DUI/DWI Court program.
Elias Gonzalez, ACE DUI School and Counseling graduate, said he was looking at a future of so many years in prison.
‘‘I got another chance,’’ he said. ‘‘I did what the court asked. Drug Court helped me so much. Today, I am a better dad and employee. My wife is proud of me. I have been clean for 28 months.’’
Lawrence Gilbert, representing the ACE DUI School, summed up the feeling that people go through as a sobriety time where the body and mind go through stability after years of drugs.
Mark Kirk, representing Family and Children’s Services, said that joyful aspects of the job are seeing rewards and recovery as people get clean. It is wonderful to see people so excited and reunited with family and friends having rebuilt their lives.
Shalonda Williams said she managed to remain sanction-free and is a better mother to her children and daughter to her parents, quickly and tearfully adding, ‘‘it can’t get any better than that. I really didn’t think I could get this far.’’
Ann Murphy, representing Human Skills and Resources, said she really needed a big pom pom to help graduates celebrate the event.
John McClendon said his entry into drug court was the start of a life-long change. His other choice was prison.
‘‘Now I am an active member of the Narcotics Anonymous and helped start a chapter in Bristow 11 months ago,’’ he said. ‘‘I learned about cravings and what to do when I have them. I have skills that can help overcome those urges.
Dr. Sherry Bray with the Indian Healthcare Resource Center, praised the eight graduates from that section.
Donald Cahwee told about opportunities he was afforded in the program, how he learned about himself, not only through the treatment program, but also family counseling.
Ann Carwell, representing Resonance, noted the difficulties participants experienced as they worked toward success.
Crystal Foster acknowledged that because of meth she lost everything that was so important to her — family and kids — and it took awhile for her to stop.
She said that while she was in jail she saw the drug as the real monster that it was.
After being accepted into drug court she started trying to get her children back and kept working with the Department of Human Services with the assistance of her husband and mother-in-law.
Foster told the audience that her children would be coming home.
Tracy Martin, 12 & 12 representative, said she saw people coming into the program who were scared, overwhelmed and didn’t know if they could make it.
But through the program they were able to gain knowledge and understanding about themselves, she said. As the program ended, all were still participating.
Donald Williams said that when he entered the program in 2005 he knew he was headed back to prison if he didn’t succeed.
‘‘Drug Court and Judge Smith gave me the opportunity to get my life back,’’ he continued. ‘‘Every day when you wake up sober you realize you can live life.’’
‘‘It’s a great feeling. We made it!’’ he exclaimed.

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