Gone is the paranoia that caused Mike to avoid cops at all costs. Gone are the weekends spent in jail, and gone is the dope that ruled Mike's life.
The Monett man is now enjoying a life of freedom thanks to the Barry County Drug Court program and his faith in God. On Aug. 25, Mike officially graduated from Barry County Drug Court, becoming the 10th person to successfully complete the intensive, court-supervised program since its inception back in May 2008.
His graduation was a celebrated event. Held in the Barry County Circuit courtroom in Cassville, the ceremony attracted a crowd of close to 75 people, including his family, fellow Drug Court members, other recovering addicts who attend the Monett-based NA meetings, his pastor Noel George and members of his church, the Monett Church of the Nazarene.
Earl Best, Mike's counselor during Drug Court, presented Mike with two coins that all graduates receive as a reminder of their time in the program.
"In many ways life begins when you enter Drug Court," said Earl. "Mike, you grabbed hold of the program and made it seem so easy. You have gone above and beyond, and we are proud of you."
George also addressed the crowd gathered in Mike's honor and talked about the changes in Mike's life.
"On Easter 2010, Mike gave his life to Jesus Christ," said George. "Jesus Christ is his power source and what we're seeing in Mike is repentance. You're producing fruit in your life, and this graduation is an example of that."
When Mike entered the Barry County Drug Court program in February of 2010, he had been using methamphetamine on an almost daily basis since he was 21. Now at age 42, Mike found himself facing 10 years in prison for drug possession charges. When he began Drug Court, Mike said he was just trying to escape prison and had no plans to clean up his life beyond the basics of what was required to complete the program.
"I had no intention of stopping," said Mike. "I was going to go through Drug Court, and when I got done with it, I planned to reward myself like I'd always rewarded myself by taking a shot of dope."
Mike's outlook quickly changed as he experienced one day, then two days and then one month without drugs.
"Drug Court kept me clean those first 30 days until my head cleared and I saw it was good to be clean," said Mike. "Drug Court gives you the clean time to want to be clean."
Drug Court's policy of frequent drug testing worked for Mike.
"You're held accountable 100 percent," said Mike. "If you use, you'll be caught. There's no beating the system like you can with probation and parole. It's not just the UAs (urine analyses). It's everything. It's the meetings, the one-on-one counseling. They keep you busy, and staying busy works."
Now after being clean and sober for almost two years, Mike is embracing his new life, which includes a job at Crosslines in Monett, church involvement and a busy evening schedule that includes NA meetings in Monett and Drug Court group meetings in Cassville.
"I like to keep busy," said Mike. "Not having idle time is a good thing. If I was just sitting around by myself, I'd be in trouble."
Through his battle with addiction, Mike said Kashina, his girlfriend of seven years, has stayed by his side along with long-time friend and employer, Troy Coatney. He has broken ties with the rest of his old friends and has forged new relationships through NA, Drug Court and his church.
"I think people like me now," said Mike. "When I was using, I got a certain amount of respect, but it was out of fear. I'm a nicer person now. I respect people and myself more."
Mike is quick to give credit to God for getting him through Drug Court and keeping him clean today.
"If it wasn't for finding God, I would never have stayed clean," said Mike. "You can't do it on your own. If you don't have God, you ain't never gonna make it."
What is drug court?
Barry County Drug Court is an intensive court-supervised treatment program that is dedicated to improving community safety by breaking the cycle of crime and addiction through accountability. The court's ultimate goal is to improve the lives of individuals and families through a pathway of change for continuance of success in recovery.
The program targets non-violent offenders charged with felony drug or drug-related crimes. Participants must be at least 18 years of age, reside in Barry County and express a desire to pursue program objectives.
Goals of the program are to:
* Create better lives for individuals and families
* Improve community safety
* Help people succeed through accountability of their actions
* Break the cycle of addiction
* Change public perception about drug offenders and the court system
* Create a pathway for individuals to succeed in recovery.
Drug court participants are regularly and randomly tested for drug use, required to appear frequently in court for the judge to review their progress, rewarded for doing well and sanctioned for not living up to their obligations. Participants are also required to attend self-help meetings and counseling sessions, perform community service and be employed or enrolled in college or a GED program.
Research continues to show that drug courts work better than jail or prison, probation or treatment alone.
Members of the Barry County Drug Court team include: Barry County Associate Circuit Court Judge Victor Head; Barry County Prosecutor Johnnie Cox; Brian Landreth with the Barry County Sheriff's Department; Earl Best, treatment provider; Nancy Foulke, Missouri Probation and Parole; Cassville Police Chief Dana Kammerlohr; Mike Riehn, defense attorney; Marty Stearns, drug court coordinator; Lisa Schlichtman, drug court evaluator; and Shawn Billings, treatment court administrator for the 31st and 39th Circuits.