LACONIA — Melissa Winsor and Crystal Boisvert finished a two-and half-year long quest to get sober when they graduated together from Recovery Count yesterday.
But with their certificates and their sobriety, both move forward knowing their fellow students, the community, and all the people who donated their time to the state's only non-government funded "drug court" program will be there with them.
"Melissa, Crystal," said keynote speaker Alida Millham of Gilford, "You are to be congratulated."
Millham, a former state representative and chair of the Belknap County delegation, said she's seen a lot of changes in her years and Recovery Court is one of the best of them.
"This will prepare you for the next steps of your life," she said.
Millham told them that the five key things she has seen them show is "opportunity" to take advantage of a program that could help them changes their lives, "commitment" for participating and making though the hard and challenging times, "responsibility" for owning up to their past lives and embracing their new lives, "patience" for persevering knowing it wouldn't be easy, and "resiliency" for facing their lives ahead knowing all the road blocks it will bring.
Piloted by 4th Circuit Court Judge Jim Carroll, Public Defender Jessie Friedman, Laconia City Prosecutor Jim Sawyer, and Jacqui Abikoff of Horizons Counseling Center in 2012, Recovery Court was soon embraced by other members of the corrections community including County Attorney Melissa Guldbrandsen, the Department of Probation and Parole, Belknap County Corrections Supervisor Daniel Ward, Genesis Behavioral Health, Brian Loanes of Restorative Justice and other community partners.
To qualify for Recovery Court, a person has to be charged with a serious crime and admit that drug addiction has led them to their low spot. If they complete the program the underlying charge is wiped clean.
Winsor is the mother of four who began the Recovery Court when it began and learned she was pregnant. Judge Carroll said she had her setbacks along the way but each time brought herself and her son James back to the group.
"I'll miss you and James," said Carroll as he held James, now a toddler, while Winsor accepted her certificate from Abikoff.
While she was too overcome to speak, Boisvert wasn't.
"This was one of the hardest things I ever had to do," she said.
"I'm not proud of some of the mistakes I've made but now I like myself and who I am today," she added.
Boisvert will continue as a mentor, occasionally teaching a class to other Recovery Court members about cognitive behavior.
Abikoff said that early on Boisvert slipped but soon got back on the road to recovery. She was asked to create and teach a class about congitive behavior for when she returned to the group session the next week.
"She came back with a plan, a back-up plan and a back-up plan for the back-up plan," said Abikoff, noting she had also outlined three different ways to teach her assigned subject to her peers in case the first two ways didn't work.
A special recognition was also given to Judge Willard "Bud" Martin who has helped recovery court financially.
Carroll asked for people in the community to consider Recovery Court as part of their own mission. He said volunteers are welcome, contributions are needed, and for those business people who can, he asked them to consider Recovery Court graduates for jobs.