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posted: 2/1/2012 5:00 AM

Celebrate successes of drug court

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  • Beach Park resident and counselor Wendy Mabbett is a graduate of Lake County's alternative sentencing program after overcoming a 30-year addiction to drugs.

      Beach Park resident and counselor Wendy Mabbett is a graduate of Lake County's alternative sentencing program after overcoming a 30-year addiction to drugs.
    Gilbert R. Boucher II | Staff Photographer

The Daily Herald Editorial Board

It's the stories of people who overcome adversity that tend to inspire us the most: The small boy who makes a name for himself on the football field; the girl who loses a leg but toils to get back on the soccer field; the man who writes symphonies while deaf.

But do we celebrate when a drug addict who has wasted years on destructive behavior, stealing for the next fix and spending time in jail, finally gets clean and finds a job? Hardly.

Perhaps it's time we should. Or at the very least, ease up.

Addiction can be as debilitating as just about any disease you can name. True, unless you were born addicted to drugs or alcohol or were somehow predisposed to it, you likely played a role in making yourself an addict. But the will to suppress or overcome that addiction and the effort to pull oneself out of hell surely must be inspiring.

There is something about drug and alcohol abuse that makes people shy away, to pretend it doesn't exist. We urged parents a week ago to be mindful of their children's habits and moods and not to ignore potential warning signs of early substance abuse.

Today, let's cast aside negative opinions of what puts people on the path to addiction, whether it be trauma or weakness of spirit or self-confidence or intellect. Today, let's acknowledge and support efforts to help those with problems to overcome them and not spend the rest of their lives behind bars.

Staff Writer Robert Sanchez wrote in Monday's Daily Herald about the successes our suburban county drug court programs have experienced.

He tells the story of Wendy Mabbett, who spent decades using cocaine and heroin, went through several treatment programs, relapsed time and again, committed crimes for drug money, landed in jail numerous times and essentially lost her family in the process.

But in 2005, she was given the chance to participate in Lake County's drug court, where nonviolent offenders with substance abuse issues can undergo a rigorous regimen of treatment, monitoring, testing and court appearances as an alternative to prison. Mabbett was one of Lake County's first drug court graduates in 2008. She's been clean ever since and now counsels others who have the same kinds of problems she had.

What a tragedy had Mabbett been consigned to a life in prison. What hope people like her bring to those still struggling.

Drug courts have been mandated since 2009, but Kane's goes back to the 1990s.

"There will be failures. I am a realist," said Dan Wallis, trial court administrator in McHenry County courts. "But I have seen firsthand what happens with these programs. I have seen people who have succeeded. I have seen parents get their children back."

That, surely, is something to celebrate.

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