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April 10, 2014     Shelton Mason County Journal
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April 10, 2014

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Page A-28 - Mason County Journal - Thursday, April 10, 2014 - Graduate: Would not ; gradaated without support of others continued from page A- 1 Betsch started using marijuana when he was a teenager, and eventu- ally began using methamphetamine. Since then, he tried and failed six ad- diction treatments, including three inpatient rehabilitation programs. "I've always identified with people who use drugs -- I always fell down that ladder," he said. But this time was different. Betsch said he decided the pain of continuing to use meth was worse than the pain of working through his problems to conquer his addiction. "At first I dealt with a lot of fear," he said. "I didn't know if I was going to be able to be happy and be sober." Betsch attended 12-step meeting and enrolled at Olympic College. The MRT therapy, which teaches addicts to analyze their behavior, taught Betsch to be accountable. "I never accepted responsibility for my behavior -- I was always a vic- tim," he said. "If you're a client, you refuse to be a victim any longer. I think that's hard for a lot of people in the program." If a client does not meet all of drug court's requirements, or does not pass random drug screening, they are ex- pelled from the program and return Journal photos by Natalie Johnson Program administrator Harris Haertel, left, spoke about Mason County's drug court during Benjamin Betsch's graduation March 31. to jail or prison to complete their sen- tence. If a participant successfully com- pletes the program, their conviction is vacated and the charges are dis- missed. "This program was greeted nation- wide with skepticism," Byrd said. "I was one of those skeptics." Byrd joined the drug court team in 2006. Soon, he said, the success of the program erased his skepticism. Drug court reduces recidivism, or a person's likelihood to reoffend, and is cheaper than incarceration, he said. "Drug court is harder than jail," he said. "I like to call it a boot camp for addicts." Even offenders who do not com- plete the program successfully are benefited by the it, Byrd said. "The longer they are in drug court the more successful they are in the future," he said. "They learn how to identify triggers ... they learn coping mechanisms." Byrd said 35 percent of all par- ticipants, including those who do not graduate, leave the program more ed- ucated than when they started, and 18 percent of all participants leave with a driver's license. While committed to change, Betsch said he might not have graduated without the support of other addicts in drug court. "If you're ready to change your life, you'll be willing to do anything it takes," he said. With a year of college completed, Betsch now plans on earning a two- year degree and becoming a drug ad- diction counselor. "My values have changed so much in the program," he said. Now Betsch volunteers in the community, attends regular 12-step meetings, takes his nutrition seri- ously and sees his 5-year-old daugh- ter often. "I have a great relationship with my daughter," he said. Drug court team members gath- ered March 31 to congratulate Betsch and wish him well. Laura Cole, from the state Depart- ment of Corrections, said she had known Betsch for a "long time." "I was especially happy to see that you had the opportunity to be a success," she said. "You are the man you are today because of the amazing qualities you have inside you." Mason County Superior Court Judge Amber Finlay attended Betsch's graduation and recounted the decade she had seen him try and fail to beat his addiction. She ended by giving Betsch a hug and wishing him luck. "This is a great moment, but it's only the beginning of your life," she said. Mason County. Superior Court Judge Amber Finlay congratulated Benjamin Betsch March 31 for graduating from Mason County Drug Court after struggling with drugs for 20 years.