7 More Changed Lives Recognized By Conasauga Drug Court At Graduation

Monday, November 29, 2021 - by Mitch Talley
Conasauga Drug Court Treatment Provider Rosafay Lawson holds up the plaque that was presented to Jimmy, the first recipient of the Prudence Byers Finish Line Award
Conasauga Drug Court Treatment Provider Rosafay Lawson holds up the plaque that was presented to Jimmy, the first recipient of the Prudence Byers Finish Line Award

Add seven more changed lives to the ever-growing tally for the Conasauga Drug Court program.

The latest graduates – Bobby, Hannah, Holly, Jason, Jimmy, Keith, and Sherry - were recognized during a ceremony at Edwards Park, receiving their diplomas from Judge Jim Wilbanks after successfully completing the intensive 24-month program.

Not that it was an easy road for any of them, including Jimmy.

“I had been a criminal since I was 13 years old,” he admitted, “so my criminal thinking kicked back in a few months after I entered into the program and I broke my no-contacts and was sent to PDC. I was mad. I didn’t understand why God had let me end up back in a place like that, but God’s ways are not ours and He had a plan.”

Jimmy found his way back, though. “I did everything the program asked and then some,” he said. “I realized the more I did what Rosafay (Lawson, Drug Court treatment provider) asked me to, the better I felt inside. So, I started chairing meetings, going to Highland Rivers and speaking, and reading every book I could get my hands on. The more I did, the more I wanted to do.”

In fact, Jimmy was so dedicated that he became the first recipient of the Prudence Byers Finish Line Award, which honors her legacy. She was a participant herself in the Drug Court program and went on to become the case manager before passing away last year.

“Prudence would always go above and beyond to help others and had an impact on the entire program and the recovery community,” says Jordana Swanson, case manager. “Jimmy received this award because of his interest in the Drug Court program and his positive attitude. Some of Prudence’s family members were present at the graduation.”

Like all participants, Bobby found the program tough, too. “Early recovery was challenging,” he said. “I was expected to dig up things that I’ve buried from my past, express my feelings, connect with people I didn’t know, follow rules, hold myself and others accountable, and completely change my way of thinking. All of which were foreign to me.”

Hannah was also looking for a way out of her “rock-bottom” life. “What was once a home was no more,” she said. “My family was torn apart, I became unstable for my children, and my marriage was ruined. I was tired of living a life of misery. I was tired of using, but I couldn’t break free from the drugs nor the vicious cycle of abuse and toxic behaviors with my husband.”

Completing the program, as Judge Wilbanks has said for years, will likely be the hardest thing the graduates will ever do, but now that they’ve made it through and come out on the other side, these seven participants are grateful for the opportunity to meet all the challenges thrown their way.

“Today I’m in a better place than I have been in for years,” Holly says, joining a chorus echoed by the other graduates. “I have two years clean which is the longest I’ve ever stayed clean. I have my own apartment. My children are back living with me. I have a great relationship with both of my children. I bought a new car. I have a checking and savings account. I pay my own bills. I’ve become independent. I have a good job. I have healthy friendships. I’ve learned how to set healthy boundaries. I’ve learned to deal with feelings and emotions in a healthy manner.”

Now that Jason has graduated, he offers this advice for others who might be in the same predicament he once was: “Let go of your past, and invest in your future. Take suggestions from staff because they genuinely have your best interest at heart. Things will seem unfair, but eventually you’ll wake up and see the benefits of all your hard work. Have faith in God and believe in yourself. You’re worth it.”


Drug Court Judge Jim Wilbanks (right) presents a diploma to Keith, one of the seven people honored during the 84th graduation ceremony
Drug Court Judge Jim Wilbanks (right) presents a diploma to Keith, one of the seven people honored during the 84th graduation ceremony

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