Drug court graduate celebrates with a musical finish

Tonya S. Grace|Kentucky New Era

Christian County Circuit Court Judges John Atkins (far left) and Andrew Self (far right) stand in the Christian Circuit Courtroom with recent Christian County Drug Court graduates Andrew Hale (second from left), Heather Meacham, Stephen Ochs and Katina King.

Standing before her peers, family and supporters in the Christian Circuit Courtroom, Katina King belts out the lyrics to singer Miley Cyrus' "The Climb."

The effort represents the fulfillment of a promise for King, who vowed to sing if she completed the program and made it as far as the graduation ceremonies.

"Singing in front of people is one of my biggest fears," said King, a Hopkinsville resident who was among four individuals graduating Wednesday from the Christian County Drug Court. Other graduates included Heather Meacham, Andrew Hale and Stephen Ochs, all of Hopkinsville.

King said she learned a lot from drug court, which offers an alternative to participants, helping with their drug-related offenses instead of sending them to jail. Among her own lessons: how to prevent drug relapses and cope with her struggles, how to let things go and how to forgive herself for past mistakes.

King expressed gratitude for drug court; she'd been scared when she first joined the program and eager to find a path apart from the drugs she'd been pursuing.

She also thanked Christian County Circuit Judge Andrew Self, noting that he had faith in her and saw something in her that she didn't see in herself.

King noted that it had been a really, really long road to graduation.

As she sang, she admitted how "super nervous" she was, but King ended her promised performance to applause from the crowd gathered in the courtroom.

Hale, another graduate, thanked everyone who had been a part of his sobriety, noting particularly that his mother and children were a huge part of his efforts.

He described his situation as an "active addiction." He was looking for a way out, he said, and found it with the help of drug court and the Pennyroyal Center.

The Pennyroyal Center, he noted, is where he attended meetings for drug court.

Hale said he now has hope and gratitude and anticipates a better way to live his life. As he moves forward, he wants to give back to the program that contributed to his recovery and show its newcomers how to grow through the offerings.

Hale's mother said the drug court graduation ceremonies represented a time of thanksgiving for her; two years ago, she watched as Hale's addiction was taking him away, but Self gave him a chance through drug court, she noted.

"I am one thankful mama today," Kim Williams said as she observed how God has restored her son's smile and his relationships with family and friends.

"Truly, he lives with a purpose," Williams continued.

Meacham said she has mixed feelings about what the graduation means.

It signals that a cycle has been broken and that she no longer has to hurt herself, her family or anyone else, said Meacham, who noted that she will get up each day now and take things one day at a time as she strives to be free of her addictions.

She thanked Self and the Pennyroyal Center, among others, for their part in her recovery, and Meacham noted that she was thankful to God.

"I have to thank God for my success in this program," she said. "I wouldn't be standing here today without him."

Ochs said he has a lot of gratitude for drug court, which he described as an opportunity that helped him grow spiritually, mentally and emotionally.

Two years ago, he was a lost soul, he said, a black mark on the community.

But today he has attributes like kindness, patience and compassion.

Ochs credited Meacham for helping him along the way and showing him the right way to handle things. He said he feels like he is a part of the town now.

"I can walk down the street with my head held high," he said.

Christian County Circuit Court Judge John Atkins said his first impression of Ochs when he saw him in his courtroom had more to do with envy of Ochs' facial hair:

"I thought, 'Man, why couldn't I be able to grow a moustache like that.' "

But Atkins said he learned that Ochs' ability to grow facial hair was not the best quality he brought to the recovery process. Instead, he showed everyone what recovery was all about, Atkins said, describing Ochs as a real credit to drug court.

Having seen the results of drug court, the judge is a firm believer in the program and is proud of everyone who succeeds with it.

"Some things in my job I've struggled with," said Atkins, who's been with the local program since its inception, "but drug court is not one of them."

Drug court graduates were introduced by a friend or family member on Wednesday, someone who's seen them during their struggles and in the program.

In addition to Hale, King was introduced by her aunt, Bettina Shank; Meacham by her friend,Tracey Lewis;and Ochs also by his mother, Evelyn Kay.

Reach Tonya S. Grace at 270-887-3240 or tgrace@kentuckynewera.com.

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