The Final Days
Drug Court Graduation Speech
I am 2792643, I am a328326. I am a heroin addict, I am an alcoholic, I am a felon, I am a criminal, I am a menace to society, I am Corey Richman and today, I complete drug court.
For the past 10 years I have been chasing death, like the late summer nights chase after the crisp kiss of autumn’s foreshadowed changes. Running at its heels, tormenting and tempting him to dare to turn around to face me. For the past 10 years I robbed my family and anyone that ever loved me of anything and everything that mattered most to them, from my friends, I robbed friendship and trust. From my family I robbed time, I robbed love, I robbed dignity and comfort.
As my parents sat in social circles people one by one bragged about their children and their accomplishments and their goals, as their sons and daughters were becoming doctors and lawyers and parents, my family sat quiet. I robbed them of the pride of being a parent, Their son was a junky, a low life, their son was dying. While most parents attend graduations and weddings and baby showers, mine were attending court dates and vistiting days. While most parents went to sleep with satisfaction and a feeling of accomplishment and peace about their children’s future, mine stayed awake, fighting over the outcome of my life, they stayed awake begging and pleading with God to help. My mother sat awake, next to my bed sobbing softly as I lay in a bed one more time screaming and crying in agonizing pain, begging for her help, begging for help she couldn’t provide, help from pain, she couldn’t quell. I stole the best parts of her heart. There were moments she would pick me up from my ever crumbling and surrounding grave with tears running from her eyes she would tell me that “if I could take all of this from you, all of this pain, all of this addiction, all of your demons, and put them on my shoulders, I would do it, Corey I would take all of it.” And she I know she would have. I robbed my mother of the most amazing love she could give, the kind of love that only a mother can have for her baby boy. My father who swore he would never step foot in a jail after he lost his mother in a homicide, sat crying on the other side of visiting glass to see his son, the son he only wanted to love and protect, as a pile of skin and bones, a criminal like everyone he had grown to despise, helpless and lost. A sister who never had brother to protect her, a sister who never had a big brother worth loving, who had to stand and watch the burning remnants and ashes of her family as the walls of love came down behind the destruction that her brother created inside the fortress of the family that was forged with love and care.
Grandparents who were filled with so much love, robbed of significant peace of mind, and the comfort of a big piece of retirement, wasted on bail, A grandma who couldn’t understand how this happened, and what went wrong, a sick grandpa who went to sleep without his pain medication. A grandpa who on a daily basis taught me what it means to be a man and the responsibility of love. A grandpa who never got to see his grandson sober. Grandpa I watched, I listened, I know and I try my best to live what you taught me every single day I know I fall short but ill spend the rest of my life showing you that I was watching. Ill make you proud.
So when you ask what my life looked like before drug court, what life? Everything significant and everything beautiful that this life had ever tried to provide for me, I trampled, I broke and I lost including The most important thing of all, time.
Today I graduate from drug court, am I proud, sure, I guess. But more importantly today I realize I was wrong. This whole time I thought I was running this race to complete drug court, only now I find myself at the finish line and I was wrong, I was so wrong. There is no finish line, there is no escape and there is no rest, there is no haven, there is no comfort, there is only a hand off point of a relay. This was just the first leg, that it never mattered how fast or slow I ran, the only thing that had mattered this entire time was who had run before me, who will continue to run after me and who ran along side of me as death ran menacingly at our heels. The tables have turned, the same death I once chased feverishly, the same death that I mocked incessantly, the same death I tempted daily with half committed mutters of suicide and reckless games of Russian roulette, now chases me, chases us. We die. The same game of chicken I used to play so recklessly now becomes so much more than apparently real. How could I be so blind.
Who in this room knows somebody that death and the reality of this disease caught up with? What separates us from them? Are we any farther from the same fate? None us think it will be us, we are different, not us.
Why not us?
Nothing I have done up until this point matters now, the only thing that matters now is what I do today.
So am I proud of completing drug court, this is just the first leg of the race, there is no completion when it comes to this disease, I see that reality on every face of every person that has lost someone they loved to this disease.
Where were we?
Where are we when one of our own is suffering and struggling, are we too busy running this race for ourselves that we don’t see the others falling behind, are we too distracted by our obstacles and our progress that we sit and watch as others struggle over each obstacle burdened and tormented by the devils of their past and crippled by the paralyzing fear of their future, all with a false sense of pride that we are doing better? Do we not think to ourselves in the quiet and dark of our minds better them than us?
Where were we?
Where are we when someone leaves this program and begins to slip, where are we when we see a new comer sitting and suffering in a chair like their own deserted island with no way to save themselves, where is our hand and what happens when it doesn’t reach for them? For too long I have been hypnotizing myself with the idea the only person I can help is myself when the reality is that the only way I can ever help myself is by helping everyone else along the way. For too long have I fought this battle alone when the only way to ever find peace is through the love of the people who fight next to me.
We are not 50 individuals just trying to clean up our records and gain back the trust of our loved ones,
We are drug court. We are family. We are one.
It is by helping each other through every leg of this race that we are able to find the solace that we seek and the peace that comes when we lock eyes with the person next to us and know that they have peace as well.
If you’re sitting here today and you’re thinking drug court is your answer, you’re wrong. Drug court is not the answer; rather it is the question; how hard are you willing to fight and how far are you willing to go for the love you seek from this life?
When I entered drug court I thought I was here to save my life.
Until I realized that no matter what I am going to die,
Some of us quickly, taken by this disease or slowly by the hands of father time. But whether I’m racing towards that line or inching closer every single day, the reason I made it into drug court, is not so I could just simply save my life, its so that I could finally realize that the only moments that will ever truly matter in my lifetime are the moments I find myself surrounded with the people I love and the moments I spend fighting so that someone else can have them.
To my fellow participants, I beg you, to fight. Fight for the parents who thought we were lost, fight for the kids who need their parents, fight for moments we lost and fight to create the moments that matter. Fight for love. Fight like today is the last day you’ll ever spend on this earth, fight because that could be true, fight so it isn’t. Fight hand and hand with the people who surround you here today, fight for one another. When the final moments of this life come knocking subtly on the door to our lives be ready. Ready yourself, not with the accomplishments that brought you so much pride for they will be meaningless, not with the material success for it will be worthless, ready yourself with the only thing you will ever have, with the only thing that will ever matter, the moments of love, the delicate string of moments that we cherish. The love we create will be the only thing that will ever matter.
I am 2792643, I am a328326. I am a heroin addict, I am an alcoholic, I am a felon, I am a criminal, I am a menace to society.
I am a son
I am a friend.
I am a brother
I am Corey Richman and today, I complete drug court.