It started with marijuana at age 14.
By age 18, Marlon Smith was consuming copious amounts of alcohol and snorting cocaine.
“I felt like I was at a party every time I had it [cocaine],” he said. “As I got older, I started getting into problems. I couldn’t hold a job or have a relationship. I got more frustrated and used drugs and drank.”
When Marlon’s cousin died in 2010 from probable drug use, Marlon was scared straight …. or so he thought.
“When he passed away, it changed my life,” he said. “I enrolled in school and started working …. but I couldn’t stop. I’d stop cocaine for two weeks and then go right back.”
“It was hurtful,” said Marlon’s mom, Eula Smith. “While he was going through it, he was taking us [the family] through it. I was there for him, but I couldn’t do much - it was up to him. So I just kept praying.”
In the end, prayer — and jail — made Marlon decide to kick his habit once and for all.
“I just started praying one night,” he said.” I told God I was tired of this … life. In six days, God answered my prayers. I got locked up for a probation violation.”
And that’s where Marlon learned about Troup County Superior Court’s Drug Court. A two-year, voluntary program that helps high risk, high need addicts get clean and sober — and stay that way.
“They go to prison, they come out, and they’re still addicts,” said Program Coordinator Leann Murphy. “The underlying trauma is still there.”
Which is where Murphy and the Drug Court team step in, getting addict’s lives back on track. While in a voluntary program, all participants must sign a contract in Troup County Superior Court acknowledging they’re joining the program. Then the real work begins — and it’s not easy.
According to Murphy, the Drug Court conducts random drug screenings three times a week. The 50 participants must also attend self help meetings, individual, and group therapy also three times a week. They have an 8:30 pm curfew, are subject to home checks, go to court every other week, plus must get their GED. Participants must also hold down a job.
For some, Drug Court is their last chance before being sentenced to jail.
“It’s real, it’s going on, and we’re changing lives,” said Murphy.
“Today is the first day of the rest of your life,” said District 69 State Rep. Randy Nix. “Your future is not ahead of you, it’s within you.”
Nix was the guest speaker at Thursday morning’s Drug Court ceremony. Nine graduates, including Marlon Smith, walked across the stage and graduated from the program. A two year battle with addiction and a struggle to stay sober, now replaced with heartfelt speeches from family members, a diploma, a new outlook on life, and a determination to move forward on a positive path.
“It’s hard work,” said Murphy. “But it’s a celebration. We’re proud of their accomplishments. It’s a big deal.”
“I feel great. I feel like a new person. I feel like I have a reason to be here and a purpose,” said Marlon.
Marlon even sang at the ceremony. It was a song that helped him through his darkest days. His mom responded back in song, a touching duet that celebrated the end of a long journey and a road of new beginnings.
“I’m proud of him and the rest of the graduates,” said Eula. ” I pray they stay on the straight and narrow and keep moving forward with their eyes on the prize.”
For Marlon, that means raising his two sons, new job opportunities, and even re-enrolling in school to get a degree in Business Management.
And, of course, staying sober.
The Troup County Drug Court is looking for volunteers, mentors, and even interns. For more information, contact Leann Murphy at 706-298-3752.