Newburgh celebrates Drug Court graduates

By: Lina Wu
Posted 10/2/19

One by one, each person stated their personal connection to each letter of recovery. For Ashley Wydra, recovery meant she can “start living, not just existing.” Wydra is one of seven …

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Newburgh celebrates Drug Court graduates

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One by one, each person stated their personal connection to each letter of recovery. For Ashley Wydra, recovery meant she can “start living, not just existing.” Wydra is one of seven graduates of the Newburgh City Drug Treatment Court program.

The Newburgh City Drug Treatment Court program is a court-supervised program through the Newburgh City court for defendants who face non-violent misdemeanor criminal charges and who also have a drug/alcohol addiction. The court also offers a veteran track for veterans struggling with drug abuse.

For graduates, last Wednesday was not merely a celebration of the completion of a long tedious drug treatment program, it was also a celebration of National Recovery Month.

This past September was the thirtieth celebration of millions of Americans recovering from substance abuse in the United States. Raymond Rodriguez is one of many Americans in long term recovery. Rodriguez hasn’t had a drink of alcohol of ten years.

Rodriguez was the guest speaker during the graduation ceremony. For years, drinking was an uncontrollable coping mechanism for Rodriguez. Rodriguez drank more and more as he felt loss of stability. Rodriguez recalled his first suicide attempt on the Bronx crossway. “I was just so lost,” said Rodriguez.

For a moment Rodriguez found stability in adulthood as he started a family and became a real estate agent. After the real estate market crashed, he hit a low again. “In 2009,” said Rodriguez. “I decided it was time for me to leave this earth.” After going through therapy, Rodriguez began to find stability again. Rodriguez has not only struggled with addiction; he’s also struggled with on and off occurrences of Lyme disease.

Rodriguez stood in front of the audience of graduates, their loved ones, and current attendees of the drug treatment program with a big smile on his face. Lying in his shadow was his past.

“I am so proud of each of you for doing this,” said Rodriguez to graduates and current attendees of the program. “It’s a daily effort and you can do it .” Rodriguez emphasized that self-care and self-discipline are the most important things in life. “When you find your pain,” finished Rodriguez. “You can leave and find your purpose.”

All seven graduates stood in front of the audience listening as their charges were dropped. Stephanie Carson stood in front of the audience tearing up in excitement. Carson, like many, joined the program as an alternative to serving jail time. But as time went by, Carson realized this program meant more to her than a “get out of jail free” card. Her program became a lifeline for her.

“My addiction really fell into a deep downfall, when my son’s father came into my life,” said Carson. “I became a really bad heroin addict. I had two children by him. I was arrested for petty larceny and lost custody of my two children.” Her arrest was the first time Carson experienced any criminal charges.

Carson was given the choice of the drug treatment court or jail; she chose to join the court. She did well for a while but relapsed last December. She ended up being sent to jail. While incarcerated, Carson gave birth to her daughter. In order to retain custody of her daughter, Carson chose to go to rehab.

Stephanie Carson, and her daughter, Aaliyahna.
Stephanie Carson, and her daughter, Aaliyahna.

As of September, Carson has been clean for 22 months. For Carson, the Newburgh City drug treatment court was the first step forward from a long dark time in her life. Her family left her life when her addiction became worse. Her father and brother recently entered her life.

“It really hit home when those charges were dropped, because now I can apply for jobs and go to school without having something on my criminal record,” Carson said. “I was really trying to stay calm the whole time but when they said those charges were dropped, I lost it.”

As another class of drug court graduates leave, Judge E. Loren Williams hopes that more people will learn about the program and its success. Williams believes the graduates will go onto do great things and come back and visit occasionally. Hearing back from graduates over their successes means “we’ve made an impact,” said Williams.

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