Pubdate: Fri, 27 Nov 2009
Source: News-Gazette, The (Champaign, IL)
Copyright: 2009 The News-Gazette
Author: Noelle McGee
Bookmark: (Drug Courts)
Bookmark: (Treatment)


DANVILLE - When Chris Seyfert reflects on her blessings, several
people come to mind.

Friends and family who supported her through her long journey to stay
off drugs.

Her Prairie Center Health Systems counselors who gave her the tools to
stay clean.

Even a judge, who sent her to jail a couple of times when she

Without those people, she insisted, she likely would be dead or in

"I'm thankful for my sobriety and that I'm alive," said Seyfert, who
has been clean for nearly five months after years of drug abuse.

Chris Seyfert, right, shakes the hand of Vermilion County Circuit
Judge Michael Clary at a drug court graduation ceremony on Wednesday,
Nov. 25, 2009. Seyfert, along with David Webber, Kandi Archey and
Robert Atkinson, graduated from the special probation program, which
aims to help people break their drug and alcohol addictions and become
productive citizens. By Noelle McGee/The News-Gazette

Seyfert, 50, of Oakwood, was one of four to graduate from the
Vermilion County drug court program on Wednesday. The others are David
Webber, 36, of Rossville; Kandi Archey, 39, of Georgetown; and Robert
D. Atkinson, 26, of Danville.

Prairie Center counselor Issac Galbert congratulated them on their
hard work, but warned them it isn't over. "This isn't the end," he
said. "It's the start of a new life where you're on your own. You have
the tools. You have the power to get through the ups and downs."

Counselor Dorothy Penry urged them to stay on the right track. "We'll
always be here," she said of the drug court team. "We're part of your
support system. We care."

Drug court is a special probation program that uses a team approach to
evaluate, provide extensive treatment to and monitor certain
nonviolent felony offenders with long histories of drug abuse. Since
it started in 2001, 40 people have completed the program, and only 14
percent have re-offended and gone back into the system.

This year, the program received a two-year $200,000 grant from the
U.S. Department of Justice to provide more monitoring, supervision and
"wrap-around services," such as counseling, transportation housing
vouchers for participants. Prairie Center also hired a case manager to
help participants with transportation, child care and other things
that can be barriers to their recovery.

Seyfert was 14 when she took her first drink of alcohol. "It made me
feel more at ease with people," recalled Seyfert, then a shy girl who
desperately wanted to fit with "the cool crowd."

Drinking led to smoking marijuana, then using cocaine. After
graduating from high school, she married her boyfriend, who abused
alcohol and drugs.

"That's when it started," Seyfert said. "Cocaine was my drug of
choice. But I was one of those drug users who would use anything you
put in front of me."

Over the next three decades, Seyfert was involved with a string of
men, who mentally and physically abused her and abused drugs. She used
drugs to numb her pain and because they were readily available. During
that time, Seyfert managed to earn an associate degree, hold down jobs
and raise two sons. She even got clean a few times - the first time
after her firstborn, Jacob McCoy, accidentally drowned at age 8.

"I knew what I was doing wasn't how I wanted to live," said Seyfert,
who quit cold turkey, got counseling and concentrated on raising her
younger son, Timothy Seyfert, then 1.

After eight years of sobriety, Seyfert met someone whom she married
six months later.

"The night we got married, his best friend handed me a crack pipe,"
said Seyfert, who had a good job, her own home and no debt. "Two years
later, I was $57,000 in debt."

Seyfert got sober again. But two months later, she tried
methamphetamines and eventually began making them. That led to a 2005
arrest for possession of meth-manufacturing materials and a 2006
conviction, for which she received two years of probation.

Later that year, she was caught with cocaine and sentenced to drug
court for violating probation. She reluctantly entered the program in
July 2008.

"It was either that or go to prison," she recalled.

Seyfert went through residential treatment in Chicago, then outpatient
treatment through Prairie Center. When she relapsed twice, Circuit
Judge Michael Clary "pretty much read me the riot act. He said a
person my age should know better," said Seyfert, who was put in jail
for two weeks the first time, then one week the next.

"I was angry at myself, but I accepted the sanctions," she said. Each
time, she was more determined to succeed.

"Through the program, I came to understand I was an addict," said
Seyfert, who also learned self-acceptance. "I used drugs to cover up
the pain, to not feel the pain and to be socially accepted. I know
today I'm a good person, and I don't need drugs to make me feel good
about myself.

"I'm going to continue the 12-step program and counseling," continued
Seyfert, who still has one more year of probation. "I'm seriously
considering going back to school and getting my bachelor's degree to
become a drug and alcohol counselor. If I can keep even one person
from going down the same path I took, it would be very rewarding. It's
just been the life of hell." 
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