• Graduation day marks a drug-free new start
    By Eric Blaisdell
     | May 07,2013
     

    BARRE — While others were in the courthouse for custody hearings and guilty pleas to crimes, two men were being congratulated for the hard work they did in kicking their drug addictions.

    Larry Briggs, of Montpelier, and Thomas Lamson, of South Barre, graduated Monday from Adult Drug Treatment Court at the Washington County criminal court in Barre.

    Briggs was convicted in 2011 of burglarizing Katie’s Jewels in Montpelier. He said he has no memory of the incident in September 2010 because he was on alcohol and pills at the time.

    Now Briggs, 37, is proud to say he hasn’t touched a drop of alcohol for over two years and is starting to live his life.

    “When I’m drunk and when I’m high, I’m not there for anybody,” Briggs said in an interview, adding he has a daughter. “I’m not there for her when I’m messed up. I’m supposed to be her role model.”

    During the graduation ceremony, Briggs told others who are still in the program that he now has an apartment he has lived in for two years, which is a big deal because when he was using drugs he wouldn’t stay in one place for more than a month or two, characterizing himself as a nomad. His advice, even though he admitted it was a cliché, was to take things one day at a time. If you do that, Briggs advised, life does get better.

    Lamson was convicted of possession of marijuana in 2011, but he said he also had a problem with opiate drugs.

    Lamson works for the music label and promoter Big Heavy World and is the host of a local TV show called “My Electric Kingdom” in which he interviews and records musicians from around the country. He said if not for the court program, or some other kind of support like rehabilitation, he would not have his job today. Instead, he’d be getting by on odd jobs or by illegal means, he said. Now he can move on with his life in a more positive way.

    “I wanted to be able to do something without having to worry about opiates, without having to worry about withdrawals or having to find (the drugs) or the money for (the drugs),” he said in an interview.

    Judge Thomas Zonay told Lamson and Briggs they represent why treatment court is important.

    “We have two young men who engaged in conduct who now recognize there are things to do to get the help you need for substance abuse issues,” he said.

    Zonay’s advice to the men as they move forward in their lives came from an ancient source.

    “The philosopher Seneca was quoted as saying, ‘Luck is that moment in time when preparation meets opportunity.’ You have prepared and you will have plenty of opportunities. If you both do what you have shown that you can do, you will be very lucky in your life. Good luck.”

    Howard Hood, the clinical coordinator for the treatment court, said the court has been in place since 2006 and consists of three phases. Phase one is about showing up for appointments and making an honest commitment to staying off drugs. Phase two involves getting into treatment and learning coping skills to stay clean. Phase three is when the person focuses on his or her ongoing recovery and reintegrating into society drug-free.

    Hood said some participants don’t make it to phase three because things fall apart for them and they end up relapsing, abusing drugs and alcohol again. Hood pointed more happily to the success stories: In the last year three people, including Briggs and Lamson, have graduated.

    The program, which is a collaboration between Washington County criminal court and Central Vermont Substance Abuse Services, currently has 11 participants.

    @Tagline:eric.blaisdell

    @timesargus.com

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