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Drug Court graduates mark major step on recovery road

New Drug Court graduate Ivy Dawson said it was a long road toMonday’s graduation ceremony, but every step was worth it to gainthe freedom he now has as a result.

“I had to rebuild everything,” he told the group that crowdedinto the student union hall at Southwest Mississippi CommunityCollege Monday in honor of all the participants in Drug Court. “Thebattle starts now, because we have to face the real world now.”

Drug Court, a program to help rehabilitate drug offenders, hasfour levels, with the first level being most intensive. Throughtime, counseling, weekly drug tests and meetings, felony drugoffenders who have pleaded guilty can be not only rehabilitated,but can be put on the right track to a normal life again.

“Not only has Drug Court saved my life, it has given me life,”said new graduate Gordon Robertson, of Magnolia. “Now I see thingsthrough a new set of eyes, and I have a positive outlook. I sleepwell at night, and I’m grateful to be alive.”

Robertson said there’s a marked difference in his life now thatthe addictions have been overcome with the help of the Drug Courtprogram.

“Today I have a choice,” he said. “I’m not a slave to drugs andalcohol anymore.”

Fellow participant Billy Joe May said finishing Phase IV andgraduating the program has given him a new sense of confidence, andthat he finds great hope in having finished the program.

“I let go and let God, because I wanted to better myself,” hesaid. “And I can stand here unashamed and say today that I am abetter man.”

Circuit Judge Mike Taylor, who oversees the program in the 14thCircuit, said the 34 graduates of Drug Court paid over $112,000 infines in the last year. He said those who finish the program aresome of the most determined people in the 14th judicialdistrict.

“This is not the free, cheap way out,” he said. “These peoplehave accepted full responsibility for their actions, and they havebecome symbols of hope to their families and friends. It’s our hopewe’ll start an epidemic of recovery in the 14th district.”

McComb resident Byron Williams said part of the hope stems fromdoing something not everyone believed he was capable of.

“A lot of people said I wasn’t going to make it, but I madeit!,” he said.

Fellow graduate Jevon Jackson said the road wasn’t alwayssmooth, but that the lessons were well-learned.

“It took me getting knocked upside the head a couple timesbefore I learned,” he said. “But once you get in this program,honesty is the best policy.”

Robertson stressed that while graduation marks a milestone inthe lives of the recovering drug addicts, it is still a day-to-daybattle.

“I’m graduated from Drug Court, but I’ll never graduate from mydisease,” he said.

District 38 state Sen. Kelvin Butler spoke to the group, tellingthem not to take the milestone of graduating the Drug Court programfor granted.

“Be proud to be a winner,” he said. “You stuck with it andovercame so many obstacles to get to this point. You have facedproblems that have had some effect on your life, and you are nowequipped to confront them.”

Butler said 224 people graduated the Drug Court program in 2007,and participants gave birth to 45 drug-free babies.

“That’s responsibility. Having the courage to get clean so yourbabies can come into the world drug-free,” he said.

Taylor said Drug Court is not only about the war on drugs, it isalso about changing lives.

“You’ve had all sorts of milestones and stumbling blocks alongthis journey, and this is the big one,” he said. “There are somereally amazing people in Drug Court, and this is about people. It’sabout the stories of how lives have been changed forever.”