Drug court saved Tyson’s life

"I was ready to give up."

Legal Aid AB
November 19, 2019

Tyson says drug court saved his life. Growing up on Saddle Creek First Nation, Tyson first tried alcohol at 8 years old, and was addicted by age 10. He grew up in a family where addiction was prevalent and trauma, death and loss were extensive. He dropped out of high school at age 16, and by 19 was addicted to crack and about to become a father. “I needed to support my family, so I went to get a job,” he says, which also helped feed his addiction.

Tyson moved to Edmonton in 2011 looking for better opportunities, however, by 2014 he developed an addiction to meth. “I had a job, a house, raising kids, and then it all just fell apart.” He ended up living on the streets.

“I was ready to give up and I was telling myself I’d drink and do as much as I could.” Tyson, LAA client

Tyson entered guilty pleas and faced 24 months in custody.

“I reached rock bottom at the time, and my lawyer brought up (drug court) and said it would help me.”

Since he entered the program, Tyson has completed 61 hours of volunteer work in the community, over 40 drug screens and attended over 100 recovery meetings. Tyson has attended residential treatment several times. He is actively involved in ongoing programs and psychological counseling. His goal is to be more involved with his culture, obtain custody of his two daughters and continue his education. “I’m making better decisions and getting my life back in order. My kids are back in my life and I want to go to school and become an addictions counselor.”

An important thing for Tyson is the fact he reconnects to his Indigenous culture.

While attending Poundmakers, he helped build a sweat lodge, and became a group advisor and mentor to others in the program. This is something he said wouldn’t have been possible without drug court. “My life depends on it. With drug court, I’m on the right path. The staff [is] so supportive and I can’t speak more highly of them. I’m optimistic about what I can do. There was none of that before.”

The Edmonton Drug Treatment Court Service is an intensive one-year (minimum) court-supervised drug treatment program aimed at helping participants break the cycle of crime and addiction. The program sees participants completing drug treatment rather than being incarcerated. Successful graduates return to the community with access to secure housing, employment or schooling, as well as the tools to continue in their recovery.

The success of the drug court program is evident through its graduates, who are at a much lower risk to re-offend. Albertans who complete the program participate in a graduation ceremony in the courtroom where their success is celebrated with friends, family, mentors, former graduates and stakeholders who play a part in supporting them through their journey.

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