Two graduate First Circuit drug court program
Between them, Wendy Hamilton and Jim Roth have been sober for more than 1,000 days, more than a year of which was spent participating in the James Valley Drug and DUI Court.
When they graduated on Thursday afternoon at the Davison County Public Safety Center, both did so without having relapsed once during their time in the program — something which Chris Giles, the judge who supervises the court for the First Circuit, said was especially impressive.
"Although I'm not proud of the circumstances that brought me here before you all today, I'm proud of the things that I've accomplished over these past 16 months," Hamilton said. "465 days ago, I was asked to simply show up, be honest and try. And that's really my only secret to success. That, along with a one-day-at-a-time mentality and an overwhelming sense of gratitude."
Since her time in the James Valley Drug and DUI Court began in October 2017, Hamilton has married and had a son.
Roth, who has been in the court since August 2017, said things recently began to fall into place for him. He entered DUI Court after going to prison for drinking and becoming frustrated with a system that simply put people in jail when they got in trouble and had them sit in a cell until their time was up.
Hamilton and Roth bring the court's total number of graduates since its 2013 inception to 25, according to previous reports from The Daily Republic.
The small crowd that gathered in the courtroom for the graduation was addressed via the court's video system by the first participant in the Brookings County Drug Court, Tiffany Heyduk.
Heyduk said she started doing drugs when she was 14 and used meth for more than 30 years, going through multiple treatment programs, relapses and a stint in prison before drug court.
"The drug court was harder than prison was, but they taught me more than prison ever did," she said.
Having first attempted to get treatment more than 10 years ago, when she said meth addiction was addressed significantly less, Heyduk went into a program in Belle Fourche, where all the other participants were there for alcohol use. She said she initially didn't plan to stop using meth, but instead wanted to learn to use it responsibly, as many are able to do with alcohol.
At one point, Heyduk was using the connections she'd gotten from years in the drug world to help someone traffic meth, even bringing multiple ounces of drugs onto planes.
"I put my life on the line. I didn't pay for those drugs, but I paid for those drugs with my life," Heyduk said. "I knew I had to change. I knew something had to change."
Now having completed the drug court program, Heyduk has been sober for about two years. She spoke Thursday about her new, more stable life, including financial stability and the multiple trips she's made out of state to visit family members within the past year — trips she previously would have to get permission from the court system to take.
"If there's anything you're hiding or trying to cover up, let drug court help you," Heyduk said, addressing the court's participants. "It truly changed my life."