“It was no longer a, ‘God, if you get me out of this, I'll be good,’" Shaw said. "That was what I call my God moment."
Then someone told her about sobriety court.
Holland’s 58th District Court Sobriety Treatment Program offers second-time drunken driving offenders an alternative to a year in jail. But it comes at a price.
Those who apply and are accepted into the program must agree to random around-the-clock spot checks by probation officers, daily drug testing, community service work, mental health counseling and alcohol monitoring devices. They might even have to write an essay on tardiness mandated by the judge.
But the award-winning program – which lasts up to two years – can give them a fair shot at a new life.
These are two journeys of successful program participants.
Lori: “I was more afraid of living than dying”
Shaw didn't grow up in an alcoholic home. She was adopted by non-drinking parents who kept her involved in church activities at the Mountain Home Air Force Base in Idaho where she grew up. But Shaw discovered her biological mother had given her up due to her own alcoholism.
Her first drink didn’t come until she turned of age and went away to college, but that was the beginning of her downward spiral. She couldn't understand why she became addicted because she had always been able to overcome almost anything life brought her way - except alcohol.
She couldn’t stop drinking.
"The inward struggle was unbearable at times since my upbringing was so contrary," Shaw said.
She started working at Herman Miller in 1996 and met Carlton Shaw, whom she would later marry. She tried to keep her drinking a secret and restrained, but it only escalated and she didn’t know how to stop. Shaw checked herself into a 90-day treatment program with Carlton’s support. After several months she drank again.
In 2002, Shaw lost her job and her drinking took a serious turn. She checked into Harbor House and this time Carlton left her. He couldn't relate with her struggle with alcohol and felt he could not stay with her. After treatment, Shaw managed to stay sober for nine months, but admits she still didn't understand the 12-step program she was taught. She could help anyone else, just not herself.
After a few rounds of treatment centers and jail, Shaw hit bottom.
"I got to the point where I was more afraid of living than dying," she said. “I never thought I would hit that point because of my faith in God. But the only thing that kept me from committing suicide was my faith."
She made a choice to live.
She found her path to sobriety by completing 24 months of sobriety court. She also decided to go back to college, having previously dropped out of college in her senior year due to the progression of her alcoholism.
"I blew a lot of my parent’s money away," Shaw said. "I wanted to give back to them and to myself."
In May of 2013 she graduated from Cornerstone University with a master’s degree in business. Reunited with her husband, she and Carlton volunteer time renovating and developing exhibits at the Center of African-American Art and History in Holland.
Shaw has been sober since Feb. 12, 2006.
Rondo: “They didn’t give up on me”
Rondo Begay had his first drink when he was a third-grader living at the Navajo reservation in Gallup, New Mexico. He remembers seeing a lot of alcoholism on the reservation, including his dad, a practicing alcoholic during Begay’s childhood years.
Begay met his wife, Delilah, when he was 16 and had his oldest of three children by the time he turned 20. At age 21 Begay became a binge drinker, which lasted for the next six years.
He had a serious black-out from drinking while watching the Golden Gloves boxing show in Grand Rapids, and got into some one else's car. Police arrested him for being drunken and disorderly, and a judge sentenced him to three months probation. Begay said he stopped drinking for a period of time after that incident.
His first relapse happened in April 2004 when he obtained an occupancy permit and moved his family into their newly constructed home.
“I wanted to celebrate the occasion, so I had a drink,” Begay said. “I wasn’t a daily drinker. In fact, I went for long periods of time, even months, where I didn’t have a drink. But when I had one drink it would always lead to another. I drank excessively every time.”
On Christmas Eve of 2004, Begay’s drinking resulted in his first DUI charge. He would stay sober for almost a complete year, but then drank again on Nov. 2, 2005. That episode resulted in a second DUI. Both instances landed him in jail.
“The times when I picked up and drank, life really got bad and the relationship with my wife was pretty rough,” he said. “I just knew inside that whatever this was, it was beyond my control. It wasn’t something I could fix on my own. I had a problem in front of me that truly had me up against a wall and I had no idea how to solve it.”
Begay was sentenced to sobriety court on Dec. 1, 2005. He chose to commit to the program versus spending a year in jail, but he admits he still wasn’t fully aware of the problem. He thought if he could muster up enough willpower and discipline, plus have the court as his accountability team, he would finally be over his problem with alcohol.
In December 2006, while still in the program, Begay had another relapse.
“I was in a good place in my life,” he said. “Life was great and I just wanted to celebrate with one glass of wine.”
Instead he woke up in jail the next day.
“I was passed out in a cab; the driver couldn’t wake me up, and called the police,” he said.
The whole sobriety court team and his wife expressed surprised at his relapse. They knew how hard he had been working at trying to stay clean and sober. Begay spent time in jail and said he felt extremely guilty, shamed and full of remorse.
The court gave him an opportunity to work through it and pushed him into more counseling and the 12-step program.
“They didn’t give up on me,” he said. “I’m extremely grateful for that.”
He listened to what he was told about the disease of alcoholism, and followed the 12-step program. He now works, plays golf and is pursuing his Bachelor’s degree from Michigan State University,
He hasn’t had a drink since Dec. 16, 2006.