Wednesday, June 22, 2022 - by Mitch Talley, Whitfield County Director of Communications
The Conasauga Circuit Drug Court is celebrating its 20th year of helping participants turn their lives around.
To mark the occasion, the staff is asking some of the past graduates to talk about how Drug Court has made a big difference in their lives.
Drug Court will also hold a 20th Anniversary Party on Sept. 21 at the Stage 123 Rock Bridge Church, 123 W. Gordon St. in Dalton. The public is invited.
Richard Morrison Jr., who entered Drug Court in December 2016 and graduated on May 23, 2019, shares the uplifting story of what the program has meant to him and his wife, Trista.
"Coming into Drug Court, all I had ever known was a life of drug addiction and chaos," Mr. Morrison said. "I grew up in a house of drug addicts and alcoholics. Constant arguing and physical fights were normal occurrences in my everyday life in my childhood. I was not shown any other way to live and had no idea how to show any other emotion besides anger.
"I was molested by my stepfather from the time I was nine until I was 14. A chaotic life was normal to me, and from then on I used drugs and alcohol to numb the pain that I had no idea how to deal with.
"After 10 years of selling drugs, doing drugs and in and out of jail, I finally was facing nine years, no parole for habitual violator for drug possession charges I received in August of 2016.
"I had never heard of Drug Court until my lawyer mentioned that it may be an option. He said it was not going to be easy. Other guys in my cell told me not to go into Drug Court if I was not going to take it seriously.
"Knowing my children would be almost adults in nine years I was willing to try anything. Coming into Drug Court, I was not used to any kind of structure, but I knew I needed it. In the beginning I struggled with wanting it and doing the work that was required and asking for help when I needed it was the hardest struggle.
"My first week I was sanctioned to 24 hours in jail for being late. Halfway into the program I had been put onto contract, meaning I wasn’t opening up and doing the work I needed to be doing in order to grow and learn. This was my turning point. I began talking to Marshall and RosaFaye about my sexual trauma. I then began opening up in the group setting. This allowed me to begin asking for help and more importantly, offering help.
"Towards the end of the program, I found my church, was baptized and became an active member in the church. Right before my graduation I had gotten my credit restored and was able to purchase my first home.
"During my time in Drug Court, my girlfriend at the time, Trista, who is now my wife, also was put into a rehab program called the Women’s Outreach down in Rome. She was sentenced to complete a six-month inpatient program there, which she did successfully. Once she completed her program, Drug Court also started working with her so she could be reunited with me and our son, Richard Morrison, III (aka Big Boy), in a healthy family setting.
"December of 2017 the no contact order that we had was fully lifted and she was allowed to come back home to live with us. May 13, 2018, we got married and just celebrated our fourth anniversary. I am coming up on six years clean in August and she was five years clean in January.
"My main goals while in the program were to learn how to be a better man, get our family back together, fix my credit to buy a house and continue to better my career with Shaw. I have since transferred to Shaw Plant SI/SP when I completed their eight- to12-month technician trainee program and became a Reliability Tech C.
"I accomplished every goal I had set. Drug Court really was a life-changing experience for me. The staff care, and if you put in the effort and work, there is an amazing life waiting for the next drug addict that chooses it!
"Every time I am asked how I am doing, I now answer, 'Better than I deserve.' Had I not entered this program, there is no doubt in my mind that I would be dead or in prison. Instead, I am here as a husband, loving father to three amazing children, and a hard worker.
"I have recently gotten custody of my two children from a previous marriage. Kelsey is my 17-year-old daughter and Logan is my 12-year-old son. They live at home with Trista and me and our son Big Boy, who is nine.
"I am still learning and we still have struggles, but I am grateful that now we know how to face them and live our lives."