fOh my goodness, I absolutely loved reading this posting about the Drug Court/Incarceration System that is currently available. I am a well educated woman with 3 beautiful sons and a wonderful, sober, significant other. However, I am an addict and have been fighting my addiction for years. I was arrested for possessing an empty bag of heroin in my car and I am currently an active participant in a Drug Court and feel as if I have absolutely no part in the decisions made about my life. In some ways, Drug Court has helped me but it has not remained helpful. They helped get me into treatment, pushing my medical through and helping me get medicaid so fast I couldn’t believe it! They have the power to help people into the Medicaid program who clearly wouldn’t otherwise qualify. They were fast about helping me into treatment and even allowed me to be on maintenance which has been a vital part in my being sober for any amount of time. It wasn’t until I accepted that maintenance is a tool to be used as part of my getting sober that I could actually collect any amount of clean time and moreover, I got my life back. All was well in Drug Court until, I received my first sanction and realized that any slip, any absences from treatment, any refusal of everything they want from me, meant that I would have to detox in jail for whatever amount of time they would decide to impose a sanction.
I was completely relived by your comment about how sanctions are pretty much “mandated withdrawal”. I couldn’t agree more. I am on maintenance through a caring medical professional who keeps a close eye on me, on buprenorphine to be more specific. There have been a few occasions where I have missed appointments with my mandated outpatient and as punishment, I had to serve the 1–2 week sanction. During my sanction, I was forced to detox from my maintenance drug and couldn’t wait to be released and seek relief. Of course, during my sanction, I’d miss appointments with my maintenance doctor and would have no buprenorphine when I was released so I would end up seeking the fastest relief I could find. I would feel like such a failure after using, just completely depressed and down on myself, thinking “how could I have done this”. But in the throes of sickness, the decision wasn’t that hard to make. It just takes me to a place where all common sense goes out the window, hence the addiction. Then of course I end up chasing it again until I am either skipping drug out of fear of detoxing in jail or i’m showing up and detoxing in jail. Either way, I end up in withdrawal in jail, losing my maintenance doctor and ending up at square one over and over again, feeling as if i’m set up for failure and that i’ll never be able to get better. This is not the only part of Drug Court that needs some attention.
I have been in the Drug Court for 4 years, by my own doing. From running and not being compliant. Finally, after being allowed maintenance, I began to heal and able to begin a life I never imagined i’d be able to get back. It took me being pregnant for the jail to allow me maintenance. I turned myself in and went on maintenance and that is what started my first bout of sobriety in years. But why did it take me being pregnant to receive help? I jumped through the hoops. I went to rehab, outpatient after that, doing whatever the Drug Court officials wanted, happily, because I was thankful to finally be clean. But after 15 months of sobriety, I had regained all kinds of new responsibility, have my children back, an apartment to upkeep, my family relies heavily on me again and I have become quite productive. I asked Drug Court when they were looking at releasing me and the response I got was that “you need to either be in school or be working to complete drug court”. Don’t get me wrong, I think that it’s great to encourage people to do those things, but the fact that it’s a necessity in order to graduate should be on a case by case basis. I am a mother of 3 sons, 2 of which have hemophilia and require regular care at home which I provide. They frequent Children’s Hospital for complications regularly. I am pretty much their nurse. My significant other works and supports us financially, and I stay at home and take care of the house and the kids. My youngest is only a year old and we can’t afford day care as the costs would outweigh what I would bring home. Also, until I complete Drug Court, there is a misdemeanor charge on my record which makes it even harder to find employment. I have to work around my significant others job schedule, seek and pay for daycare for my baby, and find nurses to come to the house to care for my 2 hemophiliac sons and it’s more than what a job is worth at this juncture. I have an education, an associates degree and paying for school is not an option at this point either. As you can see, they have put a great stressor in my life as they are holding me back from graduating unless I do exactly what they would like me to do with my life. I feel as if I haven’t a choice as to how I would like to conduct my sober life. Drug Court has helped me get to a point where I am capable of making healthy, drug free decisions, now it’s time to let me move on and continue growing, but that is not what they have in mind for me.
I feel that I should have some say in what I do next as I have proven to be a functioning part of society. I am appreciative of what they have done for me and don’t want to complain, but I feel as if the bad is beginning to outweigh the good. I am once again afraid to return to Drug Court because I haven’t done what they wanted. I have missed Drug Court in fear of a sanction that will cause me to detox in jail and be thrown back into the throes of sickness and addiction after being clean for so long. I am now sober, but still avoiding appearing in Drug Court and have a warrant. When does it end? When will they stop hurting the progress that they have helped me work so hard to achieve? The threats of sending me back to the brink of death by making me detox in jail again are outweighing all of the positive they have done. It’s punishment enough to sit in jail for a few weeks and accept the consequences of not complying with their silly rule to work or go to school, but they are threatening to send me back into addiction! Of course, if I mentioned this to them, it would be chalked up to “you’re an addict making excuses to use”. I am an addict, yes, but I do not want to use. But if I am taken off of my maintenance for any period of time and not taking my meds as prescribed for a week or two, I feel as if my choices are limited. I can say to myself a million times that i’m not going to use when I get out, and try my hardest and really mean it, but off of my maintenance and in withdrawal, I know I will be thinking differently.
It’s just nice to see that someone who is not an addict, still sees and understands opiate addiction for what it is, a mental illness that is most of the time too hard of a battle for one to fight on their own without the help of medication. I myself thought I was trading one addiction for another until I personally had a positive experience with the use of a maintenance drug. I now know that in my case it is a necessary part of my sobriety. It is nice to see that someone else understands that although Drug Court is a very helpful tool in helping addicts, it is not perfect and could use some work. After all, if merely threatening an addict worked, we’d all have been clean and sober and not in the predicament where Drug Court were necessary. Thank you for your research and understanding. It is rare in society to find those who have any compassion for a struggling addict, let alone any humanity. It is already tough enough of a struggle in itself and even harder walking through life with the stigma of it. To most, we are not even human and are treated less than. I am more than an addict. I am a mother, I am a daughter, a fiance, a nurse, a guitar player, a painter; I am loving, I am kind, I am sympathetic to those from all walks of life. Thank you again for seeing that I am human.