Former addict comes into light after drug court graduation

We met him last week on NewsCenter1, and now he's putting his name with addiction recovery

RAPID CITY, S.D. – Alongside five other graduates of the DUI Court program, James Walz graduated from the Drug Court program Wednesday night at the Pennington County Administration Building.

Everyone in the room was on their feet as each graduate got up to tell their story and accept their certificate.

Last of all was James, whose story we heard on NewsCenter1 last Friday.

Originally, James wanted to stay anonymous to protect his kids.

“My kids, I wasn’t sure what they would have to say,” said James.

But after their support of his story, he says he wants to just help more people with their struggles with addiction.

“From just the start of the program, he’s made incredible progress,” said Hon. Matthew Brown, the judge overseeing Drug Court.

He’s now into his second year of sobriety for the second time.

James was 16 years sober but lost it all to methamphetamine addiction. His home, his family and his job were all gone. But it was losing everything that helped him gain it all back.

James says it wasn’t the sobriety that was the biggest challenge but instead, it was realizing the effects of not being sober.

“You know, staying sober wasn’t hard for me. It was picking up the pieces and taking a look at the mistakes in my life that I made,” said James. “I needed to clean up and you know, take care of those things. Be accountable.”

Having lost everything is why James’ story is so remarkable.

“It shows that an individual who is struggling with these types of addiction, and he mentioned his struggle with alcohol and methamphetamine addiction, you can gather yourself up with the proper tools and really put yourself back on track,” said Brown.

Drug Court is made up of a five-step program that combines sobriety with other goals that help maintain a structured lifestyle. It takes about 18-36 months to complete.

More importantly, it brings those who were once struggling, back to who they really are.

“This is the real James,” said Brown. “For many years when he was struggling with his addiction, I think James lost track of who he was.”

James said, “I just hope people look at me for who I am and what I’ve accomplished in the last two years. I’ve been there and done that twice. You know, I made a mistake. I’ve fallen from grace but I’ve picked myself back up and I just want to do amazing things.”

James plans to stay involved in the DUI and alcohol programs in Pennington County as well as volunteering at his church, all to help those who’ve felt his struggles.

For new graduates, taking life one day at a time may present challenges. That’s why there is a newly formed alumni group for those who’ve graduated DUI and drug programs.

“You still need that outlet to be able to talk to somebody who understands what you’ve been through, so that’s where we will come in as a support group for one another,” said Tessa Curley, one of six members of the alumni group.

Categories: Local News