At Thursday’s celebration for the latest cohort to complete Cayman’s Drug Rehabilitation Court, 13 people who are still in the program sat in the back of the courtroom to observe the graduation ceremony.
The purpose of having those people there, said Magistrate Valdis Foldats, was so that they could take inspiration from the graduates, who spent years trying to complete the program and get their lives back on track.
At the ceremony, Magistrate Foldats talked about some of the struggles experienced by the latest cohort, which comprised three men and two women.
According to the magistrate, some of the program’s participants started using drugs as young as 13 years old, and some have been smoking crack for more than 25 years.
One male graduate, who turned 50 years old in May, had 60 previous convictions before he entered the program. Despite that, he insisted: “I don’t have a drug problem,” said Magistrate Foldats.
Finally, when faced with either entering Drug Court or going back to jail, the man took the former choice.
At first, he was resistant to the program’s requirements, which include six months sobriety from illicit drugs, full-time employment, voluntary service or studies, stable housing, successful completion of all court-ordered treatment, and completion of all specialized probation terms. But after a while, he started to willingly participate in counseling sessions and other requirements.
Now, says the man, “I’m honest with myself, and as a result, at peace.”
The graduate’s initial resistance was a common theme among the participants, especially the men.
Another man also stated that he did not have a drug problem. After two relapses that led to seven-day remands – and two job losses as a result – the man finally admitted he had a problem.
“I learned from my mistakes and realize there’s no easy way,” he stated. “I worked hard to get back to this point again.”
For one woman, Thursday was her second graduation.
Re-entering Drug Court is no small choice, Magistrate Foldats said. In doing so, a person commits himself or herself to dozens of probation meetings, hundreds of phone calls, and more than 60 court appearances.
“Some people have to walk from West Bay or ride bikes to get to their appointments,” Magistrate Foldats said. “What we take for granted is a hurdle for them”
However, he said it was the right choice.
“When she relapsed, she came back to us. That’s what I hope everyone in this room does,” he said. “There’s no shame in relapsing. Even if you don’t have criminal charges, you can reach out to the people who helped you before.”
Another woman relapsed in the midst of the program. When she did, the court made her write an essay about her mistake.
“I made my mistake my teacher,” the woman stated in the essay.
Her reward for completing the program?
“I finally got my life back.”