WILMINGTON — The first person to enroll in a specialized recovery court docket became the program’s first graduate Friday — an event met with an audience of about 100 — which the judge presiding over the program called an “answered prayer.”
“Today, we celebrate David (Key’s) graduation as its first graduate,” said Clinton County Common Pleas Judge John W. “Tim” Rudduck. “It’s more than a celebration of David’s personal U-turn. It’s a celebration of the current participants in the program and the progress they’re making in turning their lives around. It’s a recognition of the members of the community who have stepped forward and who have helped changed people’s lives. And it is a call to other civic-minded citizens to join us in making our community a better place to live.”
Key, for his part, shared his story of addiction, recovery, the elements and people that helped him recover, and “the miracle” of it all.
He thanked his probation officers, the judge, the treatment team, his counselor, his parents and his spiritual community, among others.
“Life is not perfect,” Key said to the other You-Turn Recovery Drug Court Docket participants, adding that his wife was in the hospital for an infection. “Even though that stinks, the miracle of it is I didn’t think about using drugs or drinking beer or smoking pot. I said, ‘Lord help me. Lord help my family.’”
“That’s the miracle of what this program has done for me, what the people who I’ve been introduced to have done for me,” Key said. “They strengthen me.”
Gary Mohr, director of the Ohio Department of Rehabilitation and Correction, also praised the drug court program as a way of diverting low-level drug offenders from prison, and a sign of a community addressing a drug problem.
“We’re working hard, and our mission now is to reduce recidivism and to help turn people back better, not to incarcerate and lock up and incapacitate” Mohr said. “Prison is not the answer for so many people.”
Mohr said he respected Key’s commitment, discipline, and the pain he endured, and said he believed in Key’s future.
“I’m here most of all because of you (David Key),” said Mohr. “I respect the people that love you, that have stood by you, that believe in you and continue to support you, and I believe in your future. … I’m here because I believe in you and I want you to be here and I want you to smile.”
Rudduck and Key also retold the previously reported story of how Key entered the drug court.
Key said he visited his biological family at a young age, about 11 or 12, and was given several orange juice glasses with beer. He went onto Cincinnati to join the Job Corps at age 15 and he hung out with the wrong crowd and made wrong choices. Later, he joined a gang and continued the line of bad decisions.
Key said he made excuses – he blamed where he lived, the cops or his situation for his problems. It wasn’t until later, when he was sober for a few years, that he took responsibility for his actions. But then, he relapsed and the life he rebuilt fell apart.
Rudduck said Key had 28 days left on a nine-month sentence and was on probation when he relapsed. Rudduck offered to send him to jail for 28 days, but Key, who said he knew he needed some accountability to get better, asked to be the first entrant into the drug court program.
After a positive heroin test and a positive marijuana test, Key, who had done a few days in jail and 40 hours of community service, admitted to Rudduck that he drank a beer.
“When you came up on your own and voluntarily admitted that you had a beer, I thought ‘We’re making progress,’” Rudduck said. “Since that incident, David has thrived with the support of his family, his friends, his faith-based partners, his supervision officers, his counselors.”
Rudduck said Key also gave Rudduck one of “most gratifying moments of the last 19 months.”
“When you stood up in drug court in front of everyone and had your son there in the back,” Rudduck said. “I could see how proud you were to be able to look him in the eye and say, ‘I’m different.’ You were proud of him, and I could tell he was proud of you.”
Rudduck said Key now has the tools to face stressors in life, and he and Mohr called on him to support others in the program.
“You’re a vital cog, David, in the You-Turn family,” Rudduck said. “It’s really my privilege to award the first plaque of graduation for the You-Turn Recovery Drug Court Docket to what I would say is my friend, David Key.”
“I want you to know that people care about you,” Mohr said. “I believe that what you do in this program, in You-Turn, and the leadership that you have in that program and how you handle yourself upon release, how you move into the community, how you take care of that beautiful baby, how you handle yourself as a neighbor, as a parent, as an employee, will dictate more and more of these programs.
“Your success will grow success,” Mohr continued. “It’s not just about you and the people that love you – it’s about the people that come behind you.”
Reach Nathan Kraatz at 937-382-2574, ext. 2510 or on Twitter @NathanKraatz.