WILLIAMSON - Mingo County Circuit Court Judge Miki Thompson said completing the Drug Court program was no easy task for three graduates who were submitted to more than a year's worth of counseling, community service and random drug testing.
However, all of those steps were easy compared to the hard work the graduates have ahead of them: maintaining their sobriety and not returning to the court system.
Mingo County Drug Court celebrated its first graduating class Thursday, issuing certificates to three people who completed the program's three phases. Thompson recognized the three graduates for their dramatic transformations and for exemplifying the skills needed to graduate the program.
"I've truly witnessed a miracle," Thompson said.
Francis Missy Williamson of Williamson, Paul "Spike" Varney and Natosha Varney Sartin, both of Red Jacket, received a standing ovation after receiving their certificates of completion. Each graduate gave a speech, thanking the program for having saved their lives and helped return their families.
Williamson said she was a drug addict for more than 15 years, something the program's intense therapy helped her realize. Before she got clean, Williamson said she was drifting apart from her adult children and her teenage daughter was practically raising herself.
"I was supposed to be her support system, and I failed her," she said.
Now that she has completed the program, Williamson said her family is back, and she has an opportunity to prevent someone else from making the same mistakes as her.
Sartin said completing the program helped her realize her purpose in life is to help other addicts. She completed a recovery coach program and wants to begin working to help others. Before coming into Drug Court, Sartin said she did not know what direction her life would take. Drugs had caused her to turn away from her son and family, she said.
"I will forever be thankful for this program," she said.
Varney said having to talk to his children from behind bars made him realize he had a serious drug program. The program gave him his life back and showed others a new side to him, he said.
Varney said he now takes pride in himself and the opportunity to inspire others.
"I was thinking a lot about what I represent, and I now realize I represent my family, my home and my community," he said.
Mingo's Chief Probation Officer Tonya Webb presented each graduate with a photo of themselves before entering substance abuse treatment. The purpose was to remind them of the long journey they've taken and to never return there.
The three graduates will keep in regular contact with Drug Court representatives to help them maintain sobriety and transition back into society.
Travis Crum is a reporter for the Williamson Daily News. He may be reached by phone at 304-236-3539.