The Sobriety Court program is not for the faint of heart.
The two-year diversion program for people facing drunken driving charges requires them to – among other things – undergo random alcohol and drug testing and police visits, meet with probation and court officers, join a 12-step program, attend a weekend driver intervention program and develop plans for relapse prevention.
Still, each of the three people who graduated from the program Thursday expressed nothing but gratitude for the program and its affect on their lives.
"I actually got a relationship with my daughter and grandson. I'm really thankful," said Patty, who attended the event with her family. (Sobriety Court graduates' last names are not revealed during the ceremony.)
Judge Marla Parker noted that Patty hit some rough spots when she first started, as she dealt with being hit by a car and the death of her mother. "It's so pleasing to me to see how much you've accomplished," Parker said.
Not everyone who is arrested for drunken driving is placed into the program. Those who are eligible have a .15 blood alcohol level or higher (the legal limit is .08) at the time of their arrest, a high score on an addiction assessment and a record of alcohol-related offenses, Parker said. Others may be accepted, at the administrators' discretion.
"Some instantly see it as a blessing," Parker said. "Others see the program as a curse. It's the punishment they have been dreading. My guess is we probably have a mix of those people here today."
No matter how they approached the program, she added, all of the graduates have gone through "significant life changes", and "what we hope is these changes are the start of long-term sobriety and long-term happiness that may not have been there before."
director Bob Schulz said it takes a special person to be involved in the program, which he described as "very intensive". He said participants often form bonds with dispatchers and officers during the two-year program.
"It's kind of like a shining ray of light coming through the clouds to be here and celebrate this special achievement with you," he said.