07/07/05 — Addicts, alcoholics in trouble with law complete programs

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Addicts, alcoholics in trouble with law complete programs

By Bonnie Edwards
Published in News on July 7, 2005 1:45 PM

A graduation ceremony was held Tuesday morning at Wayne Community College for 62 addicts and alcoholics who have been in trouble with the law.

The men received certificates for completing several programs at Wayne Community College. It is one of several ceremonies held each year by the college staff who provides the courses at Cherry Hospital's Drug and Alcohol Rehabilitation Treatment, or DART-Cherry program.

About 60 family members attended the completion ceremony in the auditorium at Wayne Community College, and eight of the men received certificates for completing their GEDs.

The college teaches different courses at all of the prisons in Wayne County, the Seymour Johnson Federal Prison, Neuse, Wayne and the program at DART-Cherry. Other DART programs throughout the state are limited to the prison population, but DART-Cherry also accepts men from the community. The men come from the prisons on parole and from the community on probation after a judge offers it as an alternative to spending time in prison.

Facility Manager Jim Jackson told the family members "the men will need your support when they leave."

Each time a man stops using alcohol or drugs, he says it's going to be different when he stasrts again, "and it is," he said.

"It's worse."

The keynote speaker, David Smith, finished the DART prison program 13 years ago.

"I know what you're feeling," he said. "There is excitement, but some fear. The closer you get to your home county, the more you're going to feel that fear. It's natural. It's part of the process."

He urged the men to slow down their thinking and not try to do too much at once. He said he caught himself trying to catch up on the things he had lost. It's best to put recovery first and take small steps, he said.

One of the graduate speakers, Stephen Samuel III, struck the DART Cherry staff as a Clark Kent -- mild mannered until he coordinated meetings between the men in his building. The men in his group had "powerful and dynamic personalities," staff member Ed Weston from his building said. Weston didn't think the men could be brought together.

But Samuel did it. Weston introduced Samuel as "Superman, Stephen Samuel III."

Samuel said the time spent on him was much needed. The men are ready to meet the challenge of going back into the world and staying sober, he said. But he said "we never expected to bond."

The bonding with others like him is the first thing Danny McClain, 36, of Taylorsville is going to look for. Cocaine and alcohol use brought him to the program. He failed a couple of drug tests given by his probation officer.

"I was glad someone saw something in me to send me here rather than to prison," he said one day while he was still at DART-Cherry.

Today, he gets to go home.

"To me this is a second chance program," he said. "It's a wonderful program."

McClain said he sold drugs and wrote worthless checks and forgeries to support the habits. The one or two grams a day of cocaine cost $200 to $300 a day, too much for the salary of a certified nurse's assistant working at his family-owned nursing home.

He spent two years in prison for the bad checks and forgeries and simple possession.

He got out of prison.

He used again.

The next time he came before a judge was in 2003. The judge gave him three years probation. He stopped using and went back to school and earned an associate degree in drug and alcohol counseling.

He stopped going to meetings. He said he felt he had everything in order.

"I got comfortable," McClain said. "The bills were paid. I got to thinking I can do it myself. I found myself getting complacent."

He celebrated graduation by using. Then, he got stressed and used. He started hanging out with the same people with whom he used to hang out.

"I found myself right back where I started," he said. "This is an ongoing process. It's like diabetes. You have to continue with the insulin."

He said his insulin is the meetings.

The men at DART-Cherry have meetings every night and discuss their problems.