Most people who have never gone through Judge Russell D. Kegley’s Drug Court most likely have no idea of the work involved, and the transition from who that Drug Court graduate was when he or she entered the program to where they are today.
On Thursday, family and friends gathered in Kegley’s courtroom to learn.
Phillip Whitely, who won the middleweight class of the West Virginia Toughman contest, had been a year and three months “clean and sober,” when he approached the podium.
“I was broken, I played the victim, I was out of control. I was a loser. I made excuses,” Whitely said. “Overall, I did everything I hated, but the tables turned — God intervened and set me on a spiritual correcting road of recovery.”
Whitely cautioned those present, some of which are currently going through the program – “It didn’t happen all at once,” He said. “It happened gradually, like every meaningful thing in life.”
Whitely credited a stint in jail which he said led to his involvement in the program, and credited the program with being the man he is today.
“What started out as a joke, turned into a gift from God, and that’s just what it is,” Whitely said.
Jessica Livingston thanked everyone involved in the program and even added — “Each one arrested me when I needed arresting,” Livingston said. She credited her family — “for not giving up on me when they should have.” Livingston said, if each of them had not intervened when they did, she would be dead now.
Aaron Bradley said in 2015 – “my life was a wreck.”
“I’m truly glad I stayed,” Bradley said. “Today, I say from the depths of my heart that I’m truly grateful for the program. I can be a father to my kids, a loving and caring boyfriend in my relationship. I’m also working and paying bills. I’m proud of the house I have, my kids, and I am able to buy them nice things.”
In addition, Aaron Montgomery, Terry Rafalowski and James Workman all graduated.
Kegley reflected on how he feels after seeing six people graduate Thursday.
“It is just self-evident,” Kegley told the Daily Times. “You don’t need any emperical studies. You sere the folks who are in this room today. Every one of them either transformed or are in the process of their transformation, and it seems the more we do this, the more successful we seem to be. We’re not losing as many people as we did early on.”
Each person came forward and received his or her certificate, and Kegley’s sentiments were simple yet profound.
“I’ve got to tell you this is just kind of an overwhelming experience for me,” Kegley said.
Reach Frank Lewis at 740-353-3101, ext. 1928, or on Twitter @franklewisPDT.