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Four graduate from James Valley Drug and DUI Court

Quartet has now combined for nearly 2,000 days sober

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Ashley Dorzok speaks about her experience with the James Valley Drug and DUI Court program Thursday afternoon at the Davison County Public Safety Center. (Ellen Bardash / Republic)

For the four people who graduated from the James Valley Drug and DUI Court program on Thursday afternoon, the end of 2019 marked the end of a full year of sobriety.

At the time of their graduation, Jazzmin Jennings, Ashley Dorzok, Steve Rath and Richard Jimerson had a collective 1,955 sober days, with each of the four logging more than a year of those days.

"It's been around 20 years, at the age of 14, (since) I can say that I've been sober from both drugs and alcohol for this long. When I first started this program, I didn't want to be here. All I wanted was for it to be over and done so I could use again," Dorzok said. "... To those of you just starting or fairly new in the program, trying to figure out if you can do this and want this, it's OK, because you don't have to want it right away. The want will come with time."

Jennings said she hadn't wanted to live when she first started the program, but she's now employed and has a residence and car of her own, and Jimerson and Rath both said they've had to learn to distance themselves from people who might affect their sobriety.

"One thing I have learned in this program is that it's taken me 62 years to admit that my cure-all for all my pain, both physical and mental, was my problem," Rath said. "I've also learned in here that life is just life until you start living it, and I'm proud to say today that I'm now present in my life."

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Jimerson, who is originally from New York, said he wasn't expecting to stay in South Dakota in 2009, when he got his first DUI in Pennington County. While serving a prison sentence and going through treatment, he said he continued to think that he wasn't an alcoholic. He was ordered to participate in the DUI Court program when he was convicted of a DUI in Davison County.

"It kept running through the back of my mind, thinking that I was just in the wrong place at the wrong time when I got pulled over," he said. "But this program taught me that that wasn't the case. I learned that I am an alcoholic, and I can't just be a social drinker."

Davison County Sheriff Steve Brink spoke about his own experience with alcohol addiction during his keynote address at the graduation.

"You have the tools, you have the resources, and I truly believe that you have the desire to make your lives better by kicking that addiction to the curb and living a clean and sober life," he told the graduates. "Is it an easy road to travel, to get rid of an addiction? I think we all know the answer to that question. Getting clean and sober and staying clean and sober is probably one of the hardest things that we, or I, have ever done. But you have a great start."

Related Topics: CRIME AND COURTS
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