Drug court grads reflect on journey

Published 12:05 am Friday, September 30, 2011

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Circuit and drug court Judge Lillie Blackmon Sanders leads a pledge during the Sixth Judicial District Adult Drug Court graduation ceremony Thursday afternoon at Alcorn State University’s Natchez campus.

NATCHEZ — Alicia Willard never thought she would be at the point in her life when it came her turn to sit on the front row with the other graduates at the Sixth Judicial District Adult Drug Court graduation.

“I never did,” Willard repeated.

Willard, who gradated from the program with four others Thursday evening in an auditorium at Alcorn State University, said she stumbled when she first entered the program three years ago.

“I couldn’t get it right,” she said.

ERIC SHELTON | THE NATCHEZ DEMOCRAT Jermaine Albert, left, and C.J. Wright pray during the Sixth Judicial District Adult Drug Court graduation ceremony.

“I lost my family and everything and gained it back because Judge (Lillie Blackmon) Sanders sent me away to learn my lesson, and I promise, I learned it.”

Willard entered a boot-camp type program after she failed to comply with drug court rules.

Guest speaker the Rev. Paul Southerland told graduates to be sober and vigilant as they move forward with their lives.

“(Sober doesn’t) mean don’t drink, (it means) be levelheaded and use some common sense,” Southerland said. “Your worst enemy you folks have out there is your friends.”

Southerland said while many people consider a number of people to be a friend, some of those people are not their friends and will lead them down the wrong path.

Judge Forest “Al” Johnson told the graduates to be careful about people, places and things.

“Be careful of the people you’re with, be careful of the places you go and be careful about the things you have in your life,” Johnson said.

Southerland also spoke about the meaning of vigilance.

“Set yourself a plan and stick to it,” Southerland said.

Judge Sanders, who started the program in 2004, read a poem to the graduates.

“Watch your words; your words become action.

“Watch your action; your action becomes your habits.

“Watch your habits; your habits become your character.

“Watch your character; your character becomes your destiny,” she said.

Drug court graduate Roosevelt Rogers said it took him three years to complete the program, which is designed to last 18 months.

“It feels great,” Rogers said.

Rogers said although he has completed the program, he will continue to keep in touch with his sponsor and attend meetings.

“One day at a time,” Rogers said.

Anthony Thompson, who entered the program in 2008, said the program was not easy, but he learned to cooperate in order to avoid consequences.

“I learned how to work with the program instead of doing what I wanted,” Thompson said.

Southerland told the graduates that while the devil might not wear a red suit and carry a pitchfork, people representing him will constantly entice them back to their former ways of life.

“When you surrender yourself to God it’s a 24-7 job,” Southerland said.

With the addition of the new graduates, 54 former drug or alcohol abusers have graduated from the Sixth Judicial District Adult Drug Court.