Sobriety Court Celebrates Four New Success Stories
Keynote speaker Val Notto shares his success story with graduates during a Wednesday ceremony held at Farmington Hills city hall.
After his second arrest for drunken driving in 2005, the last thing Val Notto wanted was to be part of the 47th District Court Sobriety Court program.
But on Wednesday night, he stood in front of four new graduates at Farmington Hills city hall, telling them that while the two-year diversion program is tough, it's not impossible.
"I drank for 40 years. I drank every day. I got drunk every day," said Notto, who is a member of the first Sobriety Court graduating class. After a second drunken driving charge, he said, "I thought my world had ended ... I lost my job. My life at that point had stopped."
Judge Marla Parker could have sent Notto to jail. However, he met the criteria for the diversion program, which include having a prior drunken driving, substance abuse or alcohol-related conviction, having a blood alcohol level of .15 or higher (the legal limit is .08), or scoring a certain amount on an alcohol risk assessment.
So instead, Notto worked through two years of substance abuse treatment, endless meetings, frequent drug and alcohol testing, therapy, education and life skill development. Participants are expected to complete all the program requirements, and tough sanctions are brought to bear when they don't.
Notto recalled spending two years riding a bicycle after he lost his driver's license. He said that experience alone taught him humility and to slow down. "You start to appreciate and stop taking things for granted," he said. When he graduated from the program and went to get his license back, Notto knew he had earned it.
Now, on the anniversary of his sobriety, Notto calls Parker, his therapist and his probation officer, to let them know he's still on the right path. "I want them to know their efforts were not wasted," he said.
The two women and two men who accepted their diplomas all achieved more than sobriety; some found jobs or got promotions at work, others restored relationships with family members. One graduate gave birth to a daughter during her time in the program.
Parker said what graduates accomplished over the past two years "has changed their lives, and the lives of those around them."