For many people with addictions, the process of a recovery is rocky at best and includes honest introspection and support.
None of these things are lacking for participants in the Weld County Drug Court recovery program.
On Thursday evening, three graduates of the program sat front and center in a jury room in Greeley to receive congratulations from the program’s officers, support system and alumni.
“This is a huge day, a big day and an important day, but this is not the end,” probation officer Carl Miller said during the graduation ceremony.
While the celebration marks a milestone in James Timpe’s, Lisa Strang’s and Andrew Smithey’s recovery, the journey to this day began two years ago.
In order to reach graduation, they had to complete the five phases of Weld’s Drug Court Program.
The first involves the most supervision through frequent check-ins and court appearances.
The second phase scales court appearances back to once per week.
The third phase has recovering addicts check in at court every three weeks.
Phases four and five include community service with program supervisors, said problem-solving court coordinator Heather Patterson.
Without the help of the program, the three who graduated would have faced a combined minimum of 15 years of prison time, Patterson said.
Instead, Timpe, Strang and Smithey did community service with Habitat for Humanity, donated and distributed gift cards to flood victims and organized a car wash, among other activities.
But it was the support within the court system and outside it that made the real difference for the graduates.
The program encourages those in recovery to reach outside of the court system and put support systems in place for after graduation, Patterson said.
That support comes from multiple sources, many of whom provide housing to graduates while they look for jobs and appear at hearings prior to graduation.
In fact, the alumni of the program play one of the most pivotal roles to recovery, she said.
In addition to showing support at events and court appearances throughout the program, alumni spent the year leading up to the final ceremony raising money to create custom commemorative coins for the graduates.
The coin celebrates the group’s entrance into DREAM, the alumni sober-support group.
The group offers valuable perspective on what the program’s students and graduates go through during their recovery process, Patterson said.
“The program gave me a chance to live,” alumni Bobby Pendry, one of the 39 previous graduates, said during the ceremony.
Ultimately, the willingness of the graduates to continue to fight addiction will determine their success after the program.
“I won’t relax. I won’t relax until two years from now because I know that if I relax, it won’t work. I won’t fail,” Timpe said.
The graduates have gone from entering the program to holding jobs in management, Judge Timothy Kerns said.
Many speakers during the ceremony cited admirable qualities and the drive of each of the graduates as reasons for their success.
This drive contributed to Stang getting married a month into the program, Smithey’s dedication to his family throughout the program and Timpe’s technical skills and desire to learn, Miller said.
Despite tearing up during the ceremony, the graduates emoted an undeniable feeling of pride and positivity throughout the speeches and photo slideshow set to “Highwayman” by The Highwaymen, a song picked by Timpe and Smithey.
“This is an awesome program for people who want to get help,” Timpe said.
The only critique of the Drug Court program came from Smithey, who said he wished they would publicize it more to those in the community who truly need recovery in their lives.