When Lindsey Staymates started the road to sobriety, it was like a moment of surrender.
The Westminster resident has been alcohol- and drug-free since March 8, 2018, and on Wednesday, she joined eight others in the 29th graduating class of Carroll County Drug Treatment Court. The program puts participants through a strict course for a minimum of 13 months that is designed to pull people out of addiction, according to program coordinator Dena Black.
“I call it a surrender moment,” Staymates said, less than an hour before her graduation. “I had been running from the police for a long time and I had overdosed. I was so sick and tired when I woke up. I realized that I didn’t want to be alive when I woke up.”
Staymates went to jail, entered treatment, and attended 12-step meetings. After struggling with addiction since she was 13, Staymates started listening to the advice of others.
The first and possibly pivotal step for her was admitting she was powerless, she said.
“It’s sort of like you surrender to your disease, you’re willing to do anything at that point,” Staymates said.
Nineteen months later, Staymates, now 31, found herself not only graduating from drug treatment court, but receiving the highest recognition for doing so — the Hon. Michael M. Galloway Distinguished Graduate Award. Past recipient and graduate Kevin Wright described it as the award for someone who goes above and beyond in their treatment, someone who does more than what’s mandatory.
While in drug court, participants must meet with a case manager weekly, attend court biweekly to talk to the judge about their progress or relapse, attend four self-help meetings per week, meet with a peer recovery support specialist, and undergo a minimum of two drug screenings a week, according to Black.
The Hon. Fred S. Hecker, who oversees drug treatment court, shared graduates’ achievements. Staymates started drug court Sept. 18, 2018 and finished Oct. 16, 2019, Hecker said. In those 390 days, she had perfect attendance for 18 court hearings, submitted 106 drug screens, and attended 319 self-help meetings, Hecker said. What’s more, Staymates became the manager of a sober home, became a sponsor, and got a job as a behavioral health technician, according to Hecker and Staymates.
“What these folks have accomplished is really remarkable,” Hecker said during the ceremony at Carroll Community College.
The Carroll County Drug Treatment Court program began in November 2007, according to Black, and graduations occur twice a year.
Drug court participants can take years sometimes to complete the program, and the average time for the 29th graduating class was 508 days, according to Hecker. Five men and four women, with an average age of 39 1/2, graduated Wednesday, he said.
Among those was Sarah Cook, of Finksburg.
The 29-year-old has struggled with addiction since she was 14, Cook said in an interview prior to graduation. She was in and out of jail, attempted drug court, tried rehab, but nothing stuck. Years went by, and Cook said she did not fully commit to recovery until she lost someone she loved.
While Cook was in jail, her uncle died. He was an alcoholic and diabetic, she said. One night he drank too much, his blood sugar dropped, and he died, Cook said.
“I got the news while I was in jail. I couldn’t go to his funeral,” Cook said.
After that, Cook’s grandmother asked her to promise to stop using. Cook has been clean since July 17, 2017, Hecker told the crowd.
“I wanted to make something of myself,” Cook said.
Cook is now a server at a restaurant and is in baking and pastry culinary school, she said. Cook also came out to her family and has a loving partner.
“I never thought I’d have any of this," Cook said.
For her, drug court was like a “second chance,” she said.
As Hecker called graduates forward to receive their certificates, he invited them to offer comments. Some chose not to speak in front of the crowd of roughly 100, while others publicly thanked those who helped them and also encouraged others.
“If I can do it, anybody can do it,” Stephen Jolly said.
“There is a light at the end of the tunnel,” Kathrine Metcalf said.
Robert Scheel turned to Hecker and thanked the judge for his support.
“I believe this is a lifesaving business that you’re in,” Scheel said.
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“I get a lot more out of drug court than I put into it,” Hecker replied.