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Have to be 'willing to change,' says drug court grad

Mark Drapeau speaks about his journey through the James Valley Drug Court program, which he graduated from on Wednesday. (Ellen Bardash / Republic)1 / 2
James Valley Drug Court graduate Tanisha Jeno holds her daughter on Wednesday morning while talking with fellow graduate Robert Stubber and court services officer Tim Moon. (Ellen Bardash / Republic)2 / 2

Mark Drapeau didn't leave the James Valley Drug Court having only gained sobriety. During the time he participated in the program, he also earned his GED, got a driver's license for the first time and, as he said at his graduation, regained the trust of his family and friends.

"You've got to be willing to change," Drapeau said. "Otherwise, this program isn't going to help you. Like they say, you've got to change people, places and things, focus on yourself, and don't try to help those who don't want it. I got my life back in order thanks to this program."

Drapeau was one of three Drug Court graduates honored Wednesday morning at the Davison County Public Safety Center. By that time, Drapeau, Robert Stuber and Tanisha Jeno had accumulated a total of 1,211 days of sobriety between them, and the three of them brought the number of people to graduate since the court was formed in 2013 to a total of 24.

"I think this program was easy for me because I really wanted it. I was sick and tired of trying to get high just to get through the day," Stuber said. "I just wish this program was available to me without getting in trouble first."

Both Stuber and Jeno got through the program by staying motivated to get out of the cycle of addiction and to be involved in raising their children.

"The last time I relapsed, it wasn't good," Jeno said. "Things had changed. It no longer feels normal to be high. I'm going to try to remember that night and how much I regretted using and try to stay sober and raise my kids."

Judge Gordon Swanson, who presided over the James Valley Drug Court from its inception in 2013 until he was appointed a judge in the state's Fourth Circuit in 2017, delivered the keynote speech at the graduation ceremony.

"Today is especially important to me because of my inside knowledge of some of your journeys," Swanson said to the graduates. "I sat on the Drug Court bench when all three of you were at a crossroads, at the time when your addiction was probably at its worst and had its strongest hold."

Swanson said that while the graduates' accomplishments may seem routine to some, they aren't for those who have addictions that make everyday tasks difficult.

"It wasn't so long ago that a person routinely received a penitentiary sentence for nothing more than being mired in addiction and coming through the system again and again. Drug courts have provided a new path with an entirely different mindset."