‘I don’t have to ask to go on vacation’: Drug court grads experience ‘freeing feeling’
Published 8:34 pm Monday, August 28, 2023
Tiffany Taylor is relieved her days in Drug Court are behind her.
Taylor is one of nine individuals to participate in the 14th Circuit Drug Court graduation Monday.
“I was in the program three years, eight months and 25 days,” Taylor said. “It feels amazing to graduate. I don’t have to ask to go on vacation … it’s freedom.”
Becky Kemph spent six years in the program and marked her graduation Monday.
“It was a struggle,” Kemph said. “I feel a little nervous, but it’s a freeing feeling.”
The nine graduates sat in the courtroom in the area normally reserved for jury members. Approximately 16 people were present as guests of the graduates. Another 60 or so people filled the courtroom gallery, with several standing around the sides. They are part of the 250 men and women still enrolled in the program.
Circuit Court Judge Michael Taylor addressed the graduates and told them this was just a milestone in their individual journeys.
“Not everyone winds up in the same place, but y’all wound up in the right place,” the judge said. “This isn’t the end — this is just a stage in your recovery. Where you go from here is up to you.”
“The commitment to do what you’ve done is not easy,” Drug Court coordinator John Douglas said. “Everyone that comes to Drug Court doesn’t make it.”
Douglas reminded the participants that some of the people who help run the program don’t get paid to do so, including Judge Taylor. He also recognized and thanked Assistant District Attorney Brendon Adams; bailiff Larry Jointer; Brian Cavin, the newest Drug Court officer; officer Clay Woolley; Judge Taylor’s court reporter, Laurie Chassion; and public defender Jason Barrett.
“But the important time is the time you put in,” Douglas told the participants. “That commitment is what it takes.”
Judge Taylor said the graduates shouldn’t automatically think their recovery is over.
“The science says up until 18 months is stabilization,” he said, with actual recovery starring afterward, and lasting as long as five years. “Change happens in the self-reflection. There’s nothing you need that you are leaving here.”
With the assistance of Jointer, Woolley and Douglas, Judge Taylor called each graduate by name and presented each with a certificate after making positive comments on their progress. Douglas presented each with a coin to mark their achievement.
After the applause and a few private photos, Kemph and Tiffany Taylor lingered behind. Both expressed special thanks to those who helped them through the program, especially Douglas, Woolley, and Judge Taylor.
Kemph said she was very happy to finally have full custody of her son.
“I’m trying to open my own business, and I hope to help others,” she said.
Taylor said she planned to continue her work with the ministry of Celebrate Recovery and help take the program to as many places as possible in Brookhaven.
“And of course, focus on my walk with God.”