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Addiction in Franklin County

Drug court bought him time he needed after years on run

Mike, of Greenfield, says Greenfield District Drug Court gave him the time to examine his life and helped him pick up tools like Alcoholics Anonymous that have helped keep him sober after years of intermittent problems.

Mike was willing to get sober, and had done so before for periods as long as seven years ... and it was during a period of sobriety that he returned to Franklin County.

He had left the county about 15 years ago, with his third DUI hanging over his head. He said a couple of recent heart attacks and bypass surgeries probably played into the decision to leave before the trial. About seven years ago, he said, he got sober again in Florida.

“And (I) decided after three years of sobriety that it was time to get this over with, do the right thing and get it over with,” he said. “I came back to Massachusetts and turned myself in.”

A six-month sentence began with three months in “Howard Street,” the Hampden County Sheriff Department’s minimum security addiction treatment facility in Springfield, then it was on to the Soldier On program in Northampton, which provides services for homeless or addicted veterans. Mike is a Vietnam-era veteran. He then had a brief relapse with cocaine. The relapse was a violation of his probation, and with the option between jail and drug court he chose the latter.

Mike said he wasn’t reluctant about sobriety.

“I’m 63 years old, I’ve had several heart attacks and I did cocaine, how much sense does that make?” he said.

“I realized when I did that I still have a problem; it doesn’t stop, it doesn’t rest.”

Nevertheless, he was initially withdrawn.

“Nobody wants to be told what they have to do, and the drug court program is pretty consistent and very specific about what it is they want you to do,” he said.

“I pissed and moaned about it just like everybody does that’s in there, but slowly and surely you start to look at the other side of things, you can say ‘Hey look, I’m clean and sober.’ It works.”

The extended monitoring — it took him 13 months to graduate — gave him enough time to take a close look at what he was doing and why, he says.

Continuing to fill his free time with AA meetings, as drug court forces participants to do, in September he will have been sober for two years since the relapse that landed him in drug court.

And it’s still one day at a time.

Related

Treating addiction as an ailment not a crime

Tuesday, April 29, 2014

So, how are the courts coping with heroin? While drugs account for relatively few criminal charges — the Greenfield Police Department logged 47 drug violations and 68 DUIs in 2010, in contrast to 215 break-ins or burglaries and 388 assaults, sex crimes and intimidations — local courts acknowledge addiction or substance abuse as an underlying factor in as many as … 1

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