Eighteen months ago, after years of drug addiction led him to lose family and hope for his own life, Robbie Craig thought his life was over.
"I was going away one way or another, either to prison or in a box in the ground. Either way, it had to end. It had to finally be over," Craig said. "But little did I know, that was the beginning of probably the most enlightening 18 months of my life."
On Thursday afternoon, with 426 days sober, Craig concluded those 18 months by graduating from the James Valley Drug and DUI Program. He's the 26th person to graduate from the program since its inception in 2013.
After being prescribed medications from a young age, Craig said his addiction escalated toward alcohol, pain pills and heroin. He was able to conceal his addiction from loved ones for a while, but it eventually got to a point where he got in trouble with law enforcement.
"Most people, when they say they hit rock bottom, they have nowhere else to go but up. But for me, I just kept digging deeper," Craig said of the years prior to entering drug court.
Craig said he was initially skeptical of the program, having gone through rehab multiple times already, but that he went into it with an open mind.
"He wanted sobriety in his life, and he knew the difference sobriety would make," said Judge Chris Giles, referencing the difference between Craig when he first entered drug court and when he graduated.
Judge Cheryle Gering, the keynote speaker at the graduation ceremony, said that by Craig going through drug court rather than being sent to the South Dakota State Penitentiary for five years, taxpayers saved about $93,000.
Gering said that while Craig is leaving the tight-knit support system he developed while in the drug court program, he'll now have the entire community as his support system.
Craig said while the requirements of drug court were beneficial, he believes the support of the court's staff is what makes participants successful.
"Thank you to the drug court team, for not just doing your job, but for really caring about my success," he said.