Steve Semro wants to stay sober. He also wants to be a chef.
Those were two points he drove home through a collage and essays Wednesday at the Kane County Drug Rehabilitation Court's first Fine Art and Written Word Extravaganza. The show at the Kane County Judicial Center featured more than 80 pieces and nearly 100 poems and essays from recovering addicts in the intensive 30-month program.
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"Expressing myself was very hard to do," said Semro, 41, of Pingree Grove, who plans to resume culinary school in January. "It helped me express what I always hid."
More than half of the 185 people in drug court volunteered to put their work in the show and those that didn't helped serve refreshments to a stream of judges, attorneys, court personnel, and family members who turned the first floor juror lounge at the St. Charles courthouse into an art reception for a few hours.
Judge Patricia Piper Golden, who oversees drug court, credited Probation Supervisor Randy Reusch for coming up with the idea for a show.
"We're hoping to do this every year," Reusch said. "The best thing about it is it brought everyone in the program together."
Drug court is an intensive program for nonviolent drug offenders to avoid jail and possibly have their records cleared if they follow a 30-month program of treatment, counseling and pass random drug tests.
"It's a hard program, but it's wonderful to see the changes in (participants)," Golden said.
Kane County State's Attorney Joe McMahon was pleased with the turnout and the venue for recovering addicts to express their sobriety.
"It reinforces the message that if people are willing to try and help themselves, they'll get support not only from the community, but the court system," McMahon said.
Some participants wrote about how it was good to live a "normal life," working a legitimate job and paying taxes and bills. Others wrote about how drugs like heroin at first were their friend but were really their worst enemy.
Perhaps an author only known as "Mike S." summed it up best in his short essay called "The Journey."
"Life is a journey with a beginning and an end (and) the most important thing is what happens in between. We are given chances and opportunities as we go through life. Success is not final and failure is not fatal," he wrote.