MARIETTA — Cobb’s DUI Court celebrated 10 years this week, and during a special commencement ceremony, seven new graduates spoke openly about the difference sobriety has made in their lives.

The court was founded in October of 2008, and Tuesday’s ceremony marked the program’s 36th commencement. In the last decade, more than 525 repeat DUI offenders have entered the treatment court and 391 of them have graduated, according to program coordinator Darcy Kamau, whose brother Jonathan was killed in a DUI-related wreck. The afternoon ceremony, held at the senior center along Powder Springs Road, included speeches by the latest graduates, DUI Court Judge Eric Brewton, several of the program’s founders and Georgia Supreme Court Chief Justice Harold Melton.

Melton encouraged the graduates to remain strong, likening their journey to sobriety to a rocket leaving the Earth’s atmosphere for space.

The majority of energy, the chief justice said, is spent escaping the planet’s gravitational pull. And while the graduates still have a long way to go, the most difficult part of their journey is behind them, he said.

Among those who completed DUI Court was 29-yearold Matt Truesdale, a Woodstock resident who grew up in Kennesaw.

He thanked his parents and girlfriend for sticking by his side throughout his treatment, telling them he never would have been able to get sober without their support.

“I’ve struggled with drugs and alcohol for as long as I can remember,” said Truesdale, who paints and remodels houses. “Over the years, I’ve hurt the people who wanted nothing but the best for me and did whatever they could to help me out.” He said addicts lie, cheat and steal, often manipulating without remorse anyone standing between them and their next fix.

“Addiction is not a choice… It’s a disease,” said Truesdale, fighting back tears during his emotionally charged speech. “Being an addict is not something I planned for myself as a child. In grade school, when the teacher went around asking what we wanted to be when we grew up, I didn’t raise my hand and say I wanted to be an addict. But I am and I will be for the rest of my life.”

Now, Truesdale has been

off heroin the last four and half years and he hasn’t taken a drink in 455 days.

“My life is the best it’s ever been,” he told the packed the room that included his family, members of the DUI Court and staff from the treatment facility that helped him get clean. “My sobriety means everything to me.”

According to the court, there are more than two million drivers with at least three DUI convictions in the United States and each year, more than two-thirds of alcohol-impaired fatalities involve a driver with a blood alcohol content of .15 or higher.

A study conducted by the Governor’s Office of Highway Safety Study shows that two years after graduating DUI Court, participants are four times less likely to have a new DUI arrest than non-participants.

Cobb’s DUI Court operates through a combination of county funding and state grants and participants must pay $75 a week.

To qualify for the program, a participant must have two DUIs within a 10-year period or three in their lives, according to Kamau.

Cobb also has a drug treatment court for residents repeatedly arrested on drug possession charges as well as a veterans court aimed at helping U.S. vets struggling with addiction.

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