Photo by Kathy Jefcoats
Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner presents a proclamation to Clayton County Superior Court Judge Albert Collier in honor of National Drug Court Awareness Month. With Collier (to left of plaque) are State Court Judge Linda Cowen, court administrator Matt Sorenson and Dr. Richard Highland with Associated Counseling and Evaluation Services. To the right of Turner is Todd Cox, who graduated from Drug Court Thursday night.
By Kathy Jefcoats
JONESBORO — Todd Cox is turning his lifelong drug addiction sideways with his pursuit of a career as a certified substance abuse counselor.
Cox, with 640 days clean and sober, graduated from Clayton County Drug Court Thursday night. He gave a short account of his life story at Tuesday night's Clayton County Board of Commissioners meeting but expounded on it Thursday at the courthouse.
Cox told other Drug Court participants, relatives, program officials and other supporters that he got off a middle school marijuana habit when he joined the Army but quickly discovered a substitute.
"Beer machines," he said. "Just like Coke machines but with beer. I realized for some in the military, alcohol use was not only not frowned on but encouraged. I acquired a taste for alcohol."
Then he got sent to the west coast.
"I discovered California weed," said Cox. "It was stronger than the weed I used before and I became hooked."
A positive random drug test got him court-martialed. Along with his first wife, he was introduced to cocaine in 1986, the year his son was born.
"I considered myself a functioning addict," he said. "My wife became a full-blown alcoholic and we divorced in 1994. I did not take it well."
Cox said his second wife introduced him to crack cocaine.
"Within a month, I quit my job and did crack full-time," he said. "I did crack for three years but kicked it by taking up methamphetamine."
In 1997, he was arrested for drug possession. He was on his third wife and had another son. For 11 years, Cox said he did as much methamphetamine as he could. He started selling to support his habit because "I sure couldn't hold a job."
Divine intervention came with another drug arrest, he said.
"I knew I had no future because I'd either be in jail or be dead," said Cox. "On Oct. 5, 2011, I joined Drug Court."
Cox said he had to do two things — put recovery above everything else and change everything he had been doing.
"That was easier said than done," he said. "But by working this program, I learned how to respond instead of react and learned how to do all things with integrity. I got custody of my 12-year-old son and I have a passion for recovery."
He thanked his parents, current partner Jessica, "for always standing by your man," Judge Albert Collier and the Drug Court team.
"I am 640 days clean and sober," said Cox. "I am living proof that this program works."
Collier oversees the Drug Court program, which has 21 active participants and three in resident treatment programs. He introduced Clayton County Commission Chairman Jeff Turner to address Cox and the group. Turner said Cox's story was "truly, truly inspirational."
"This is just the beginning," said Turner. "You gotta be very dedicated because the judge don't play that, do you, Judge? No one gets a free pass, it's strict and extraordinarily difficult to get through. If you get through this program, you've done something."
Turner told Cox to never forget he has support not only in his family but in the court system.
"The process is set up for success, failure is on you," said Turner. "You know what you're supposed to do and do it. Trust in the Lord, strive always to do what's right. That certificate is your ticket to change the world. Don't throw it away."
Collier told Cox his commitment to sobriety is "quite an accomplishment" before awarding him the certificate.