Drug court graduate hopes to give back

Published 12:00 am Sunday, February 21, 2010

NATCHEZ — It was by the grace of God and the Sixth Judicial District Adult Drug Court Program that Robert Bailey was able to stand behind the lectern at Zion Chapel African Methodist Episcopal Church and declare his thanks.

“I want to thank all of you for seeing something in me that a lot of people didn’t see, something I didn’t even see,” Bailey said. “But today, thanks to God, I am sober three years.”

Bailey was one of four graduates from the drug court program Thursday, and he was the first to admit it wasn’t easy.

“It wasn’t fun, and it wasn’t always nice,” he said.

Drug court is a voluntary program that functions as a hyper-intensive probation program. While in drug court, participants are able to work, but they have to meet tough standards, stringent drug testing and constant checks from drug court administrators.

And it isn’t always easy.

Two of the other graduates talked about having to spend time in jail, and another spoke of having to earn the love of his family over time.

But the end result is that the participants get to leave a life of addiction, and the court expunges the drug offenses that landed them in jail from their record.

That makes drug court a silver lining to the cloud of addiction that hung over their lives, Circuit Court Judge Forrest “Al” Johnson said.

“Whenever they got to the point that precipitated the action that brought them here, it was a blessing in disguise because it brought them to drug court,” Johnson said.

For Bailey, it was a long, soul-numbing road to drug court. The first step, just like the 12-step addiction programs teach, was admitting he had a problem.

“Most of my adult life, I was on drugs,” he said.

“After seven years of active addiction, I could admit to myself I had a problem.”

And looking back, he was robbing everybody blind, but not monetarily — he was robbing them of the love and attention they deserved.

“I have never stolen anything in my life, but I stole from my family, I stole from my kids,” he said. “I couldn’t be a child to my parents, a father to my kids.”

For the first two years of drug court, he kept the rules, never failed a test and fulfilled his obligations despite some problems in his personal life.

But he didn’t feel like he was alive, Bailey said.

And that is when the second step to the 12-step program, recognizing a greater power that can give strength, helped him.

“When you quit drugs, it leaves a hole, and you have to fill it with something,” Bailey said. “I won’t tell you what to fill it with, but I found Christ.

So with the support of his family, and a trust in God, Bailey said he’s facing the future.

But this isn’t the last time Bailey will be in drug court.

That’s not because he’ll commit another offense, though.

It’s because he wants to help others in their struggle through drug court.

“I have never been addicted to drugs, and I don’t know what that’s like,” Circuit Court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders said. “But (the graduates) do.”

“This afternoon, I was speaking with Robert, and he said he will be back. He said, ‘I will be back to help you.’”