LIHUE — There wasn’t a dry eye in the courtroom Friday as Kauai Drug Court graduates received their diplomas.
“I remember sitting in jail two and a half years ago, wanting so desperately to turn my life around, but not knowing how to do it. Several times prior to this, I had tried so many times trying to get clean and sober, and I failed. I felt like a lost cause,” said Austin Ferris.
When he was inducted into Kauai Drug Court, Ferris promised himself he would follow the rules.
“With the help of my family and drug court, I have been clean and sober the longest I’ve ever been since I was 13 years old,” he said.
Ferris, who has been sober for 653 days, said since getting involved in drug court, he’s accomplished everything he’s set out to do, including getting a job, paying off traffic fines, buying a boat, getting a place of his own and adopting two puppies.
“But these are all material things. What really matters is the changes I made to my character and the way I think,” he said. “Before I came to drug court, I was a selfish, self-centered drug addict, but since I’ve been here, I learned how to think about my actions and how my actions will affect other people.”
The Kauai Drug Court Program, which began in 2004, offers incentives and rewards to clients who maintain sobriety and are either attending school or training or are employed.
The participants go through rigorous testing, including frequent and random drug and alcohol testing, mental health evaluations, random home visits, curfews and frequent review hearings before the Kauai Drug Court judge.
“We take in clients who are good people who have made bad decisions, and we try and get them on the right path,” said Judge Randal Valenciano, who presided over the drug court hearings. “When you started, the end of the road was just a small light. Now, you’re near the end, and your future is bright.”
On Friday, Jordan Young, another graduate of the 29th class, spoke of her hesitancy to join the program. “I came into drug court pretty much kicking and screaming. I used ice up until the day I had to report to the courthouse,” she said. “My biggest fear was how I was going to make it the last two years without getting high.”
She said her only goal was to graduate so she could go back to the life she wanted to live, which was getting high.
“I’ve been in outpatient treatment before for alcohol, but ice was different,” she said. “With ice, my guilt and shame disappeared, along with my morals, values and conscious. I had no desire to change. I was addicted to the darkness.”
Young, who has been sober for 655 days, said going to the gym helped her get out of that darkness. “I learned how to be a better daughter, sister and mother,” she said.
Sarah Reyes said she got into drugs at an early age. “I started smoking weed in seventh grade, and by the time I was in high school, I got introduced to meth,” she said. “Not soon after, I dropped out and started living at beaches and got into all sorts of trouble.”
While serving a six-month sentence, Reyes said she found out about Kauai Drug Court. “I realized I needed to change,” she said. “I learned so much on how to deal with issues, problems and feelings, all the while living a drug-free life.” Reyes has been sober for 1,122 days.