Weekend parties offer opportunity to buy a little hope, too
Are we having fun yet?
I know I am. I’m speaking of the parties we’ve been throwing in honor of the Weekend section’s 15th birthday. The first, held in January, was at Two Doors Down; last month, we threw down at Smoky Mountain Brewery; Friday night, we’re at The Thirsty Turtle. This time around, we’ve got The Dirty Gunnz celebrating a new album; you can read all about that on page 10.
We’re honored to have been around for so long, and we hope you’re enjoying these righteous celebrations of local music and entertainment. But I want to take this time to remind you of the other part of our celebration: the raffle of all kinds of prizes to benefit the Blount County Drug Court Foundation.
Full disclosure: I’m on the board of directors for the foundation, but that shouldn’t come as much of a surprise to anyone familiar with my background. Addiction — or rather, recovery from addiction — is important to me, and the foundation helps the Blount County Drug Court with its mission if offering recovery to those who might otherwise languish in the Blount County Jail.
Some of you may not be aware of just what a statewide model that our local Drug Court program has been. It started in 1998 as a way to promote public safety by reducing the number of crimes committed by repeat non-violent offenders who have a history of drug and alcohol abuse. Overseen by then-Circuit Court Judge D. Kelly Thomas, the program was a joint effort of the district attorney general, the public defender and the Blount County Sheriff’s office, all of whom marshaled resources to provide intensive outpatient treatment, vocational counseling and referral to area treatment and recovery programs.
From the outset, finances posed the main challenge. Seed money came from an initial federal implementation grant, but since 2002, the program has faced periodic funding shortfalls. County and municipal governments rose to the occasion to meet those funding needs when they could, but by 2008, budget cuts meant the loss of the program’s director position. Newly elected Circuit Court Judge David Duggan pushed for restored funding for that position, however, and in 2010, current Program Director Amy Galyon was appointed.
Today, the Blount County Drug Court program continues to provide a valuable service to the community, but its reliance on local monies and state and federal grants means that its continued existence is contingent on the state of the economy. In early 2012, concerned citizens who recognize the program’s positive impact on the community as a way to reduce recidivism and provide those struggling with addiction a way to become responsible, productive members of society came together for the purpose of supporting it.
The Blount County Drug Court Foundation seeks to increase community awareness of the program’s goals and achievements, as well as the vital need for its continued existence. It is the belief of foundation board members that money invested in Blount County Drug Court saves taxpayer dollars on prosecution and incarceration, as well as providing a new way of life for many who were once trapped in the vicious cycle of addiction.
And believe me, it’s a vicious one indeed. This week, I marked 11 years clean. Eleven years without a drink or a drug. That’s 132 months ... 572 weeks ... 4,018 days. And that’s a miracle, considering there was once a time I couldn’t go more than six hours without a pill or a shot or a snort or a drink.
I remember well sitting in the lobby of Peninsula Hospital 11 years ago, preparing to go in for six days of detox. I’d shot up my last needle full of narcotics into my arm the night before, and even though it hadn’t been 12 hours, the creeping horror of withdrawal was snaking its tendrils throughout my shaking, feverish body.
For all practical purposes, I was a dead man walking. No matter how fast I tried to run from what was killing me, I couldn’t outrace it. There was no love. No light. No hope. Whatever spark that makes us who we was a dying ember shrouded in the darkness of my addiction. And as I trudged through those hallways stinking of bleach and urine and madness, I didn’t care if it extinguished altogether.
I’m grateful that it did not. I’m grateful I’m still here, and that the love of friends and family blew on that ember until it burst back to life. Today, my life is a raging wildfire of beauty and joy, and I thank God with all that I am that my fire still burns.
That’s what Drug Court does, and what the Foundation helps it to do: It gives those without hope and without a future a second chance. Every raffle ticket sold at Friday night’s party — and at our final one on April 26 at Waterfront Bar and Grill — goes to benefit the Foundation, which in turn supports Drug Court. They’re only $5, and they’ll get you in the running for some amazing prizes; Friday night alone, we’re giving away passes to the Rhythm N’ Blooms Festival in Knoxville coming up the first weekend of April, and a pair of season passes to the concert season at “The Shed” at Smoky Mountain Harley-Davidson, along with a whole lot of other stuff.
I hope to see you there, to say hey and thanks for reading. And I hope even more you’ll spend some money on a chance to win some prizes. And even if you don’t, you’re buying something in return: Hope, for those who have none and don’t believe it’s possible to ever get it back.
I’ve been there, and I’m grateful to be on the other side. I hope you can find it in your heart to assist our cause and help others do the same.
Steve Wildsmith is the Weekend editor for The Daily Times. Contact him at (email@example.com) or at 981-1144.