Patty Shadle said she will have a "happier ending" today than the one she was headed towards two years ago before she was sober.
"I'm strong enough now and sometimes.....I amaze myself," Shadle, 54, of Cedar Rapids, said with a big smile on her face before she joined four others in receiving graduation certificates from the 6th Judicial District Drug Treatment Court Monday. "This was my last stop before going to prison. I was scared when I first entered drug court but I was determined not live like this anymore."
Shadle, who admitted to being an alcoholic, said she started drinking after losing her husband, the man she married at 18, to pancreatic cancer in 2000. About five years later she lost her sister, then her father and mother. Her children were growing up and she was alone.
"Everything just kind of slammed me," Shadle said. "I was lonesome and drinking made me numb."
Shadle decided it was time to grow up after being arrested for several drunk driving incidents that led to jail and probation time. The turning point came when she went into jail for 43 days and her grandson was only crawling but when she got out he could walk. She decided then not to miss any more time with him and her other grandchildren.
Shadle and four others graduated Monday out of the current class of 39. Each of the offenders enter the program at different times so not all graduate at the same time. They usually complete the program in two years.
To be eligible for the program, offenders must have committed a non-violent felony or aggravated misdemeanor that stems from substance abuse and be sentenced to two years probation. A six-person team consisting of a judge, probation/treatment/mental health coordinators, drug treatment counselor, defense attorney and an assistant county attorney assesses and selects participants for the program.
The program is designed not only to treat addiction but give the offenders tools and resources to be successful in their lives after they leave the program.
Sixth Judicial District Judge Fae Hoover-Grinde told the graduates "it's about the journey and not just getting to the finish line" that counts.
Chief Judge Patrick Grady congratulated the five, calling them "courageous" for taking this step to improve their lives.
The four other graduates through tears and laughs thanked Hoover-Grinde and the other team members for helping them to stay strong, face their addictions, mend their family lives and gain employment.
Shadle and others had the benefit of a federal grant through Goodwill of the Heartland that helped the offenders prepare for jobs and identify their individual skills for the job market. The grant allowed job coaches to join the team to help offenders with resumes and prepare for interviews.
Glenda Brislawn, a vocational counselor with Goodwill, said some of the offenders were hired for jobs at Goodwill like Shadle, who is a receptionist at the company, and others had "work site assessments," which are similar to internships, that help identify skills and needed improvements.
Hoover-Grinde said a criminal record is a barrier to employment, so this grant was a valuable tool. The bad news is that the grant just ran out, so the program team are searching for additional resources to provide employment help because being employed is an important part of recovery for the offenders.
Cathy McGinness, the district's community treatment coordinator, said 92 offenders benefited from the grant over the four year period and 81.7 percent were employed six months after enrolling in the program. Some gained new jobs or better jobs, and others started skills training or continued their education.