SYCAMORE – Tara King relapsed about a week after she graduated from DeKalb County Drug Court in 2010.
Her mother called drug court coordinator Marilyn Stromborg, and King had to face Stromborg, DeKalb County Presiding Judge Robbin Stuckert and the rest of the drug court team one more time. She admitted it was tough to see Stuckert again in those circumstances.
"I went back to using for about two months," King said. "It's humbling to get through the program and relapse, but I needed that one more time just to understand that I'm an addict."
Now, as president of drug court's alumni group, King tells other drug court graduates not to give up the support system they found in Stromborg, Stuckert and each other.
Ten people graduated Friday from the drug court, dubbed CLEAN Slate for Choosing Life and Ending Abuse Now. It's an intensive program that offers criminal defendants reduced or dismissed charges in exchange for completing a rigorous rehabilitation program. So far, 71 people have graduated from DeKalb County's program.
“We ask them to change everything about themselves, and they have done that,” Stromborg said.
But graduation can be both exciting and scary, King said. Even before the class graduates, King said she talks with them about the changes they've made and the ones they need to continue making.
“Part of what we do is getting to know new participants, if they have questions or need to talk, to be mentors to them,” King said.
The alumni meet the second Wednesday of each month.
"We spend about half the meeting just chatting," King said. "Everyone has something to talk about, something they are struggling with. ... If we don't talk about experiences and our struggles, we can forget that we're addicts. I've learned that I have to remember that every day."
King and Julie Cummings, another 2010 drug court graduate and alumni organization vice president, also say they appreciate the opportunity to give back to the community. The alumni volunteer to assist The Salvation Army with basket distribution for Thanksgiving and Christmas. They also have shared their experiences as speakers at DeKalb High School and the Youth Service Bureau in the hope of keeping area youth clean.
“We would like to speak with more student groups, get into more high schools,” King said.
But the organization isn’t all work. Members get together to camp, bowl, have fun and be there for each other.
“We like to get alumni involved with the organization," King said, "so they learn you can have sober fun.”
More information about the county’s drug court program and the alumni is available online at dekalbcounty.org/drugcourt.