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DUI Court helps change lives

Last week, during a special ceremony, a second graduation class of DUI Court received their diplomas and a second chance at life and living. After a full year of hard work, the three recovering alcoholics now walk with their heads higher and clearer and the roads of Williamson County are a bit safer.

In honor of the graduates’ achievements and acknowledging the work they continue to face in their battle with alcohol, a reception was held, complete with entertainment, a speaker and a certificate of recognition from the State Legislature presented by Sen. Jack Johnson.

Morry Trent and his 16-year old son Gavin sang the Billy Yates’ Grammy Award winning song, “Choices,” about someone who is “Living and dying with the choices I made.”

After years of “social” drinking and five arrests for driving under the influence, in 1988 during sentencing for his sixth DUI, guest speaker Steve L. was offered a second chance when the judge ordered him to enter an alcohol treatment program as part of his plea.  Although Steve still wasn’t convinced he had a drinking problem after all, the “problem wasn’t drinking, it was drinking and driving,” he told himself, after spending 10 weekends in jail, he was convinced he should take the offer at a second chance.

“I’m very glad I got to AA before I wanted to get to AA,” Steve admitted. “I got to sit with people who freely shared about themselves. After awhile I got to identify with them. In a short time in AA, [at first] I went because I had to go, but what I realized in about seven or eight months is that I had changed from a person who had to go to a person who chose to go. From a person who can’t drink to a person who didn’t want to drink.”

Steve has not had a drink since July 1, 1989.

The two-year old DUI Court program, modeled after the highly effective Drug Court, offers qualified offenders who, with between two and four DUI offenses, have demonstrated an alcohol problem and are interested in doing something about it. 

To qualify for the program, applicants must meet specific criteria, including no history of violent offenses, no criminal charges pending or no DUI with a death or serious injury related to the charge. The first class graduated in September 2011, about the time Kate was picked up on her second DUI.

“If you asked me a year ago if I was an alcoholic, I would have said no,” said Kate (not her real name), who was part of last week’s class of graduates. “I would have a glass of wine at night but I didn’t feel alcohol affected me or my relationships. Sure I would drink too much sometimes – doesn’t everyone?”

Before Kate was picked up the second time she thought an alcoholic was someone who couldn’t keep a job, someone who hid bottles and sneaked drinks, someone who sat in a bar from open to close.

“I wasn’t any of those,” she said.

After entering the DUI Court program, for the “First time in 48 years, I can be the person I want to be – not the person others need me to be. The program taught me honesty and to live life on life’s terms … to make the right choices.”

To accept responsibility for choices made and consequently to make better choices.

As the population of Williamson County continues to grow, so do the problems associated with growth. One of those problems is an increase in alcohol related accidents and arrests.

DUI Court is an effort by the Williamson County General Sessions Court and law enforcement officials to decrease the number of alcohol related crashes and fatalities, DUI arrests and repeat offenses.

For last year’s five graduates and this year’s three graduates, it has also changed lives.

Steve concluded with a poem handed down to him by a good friend.

“I sought my God

 I could not see

 I sought my soul

My soul eluded me

I sought my fellow man

And I found all three.”

Paraphrased from a quote by William Blake.

 

 

 

Posted on: 12/5/2012

 
 

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