|5 graduate from Drug Treatment Court |
By MIRANDA LA ROSE Friday, July 11 2014
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FROM ZERO TO HERO: Valedictorian Michael Forde recounrts his life on the streets as he holds his graduation certificate at the inaugural graduation of...
The valedictorian of the local Drug Treatment Court (DTC) never knew an adult life without drugs, but today his drug tests are negative and he is thankful to the justice system that is helping his recovery from drug addiction.
Valedictorian, Michael Forde in his address at the graduation ceremony of the first batch of five graduates from the San Fernando Magistrate’s DTC at the Trinidad Hilton, St Ann’s, thanked Chief Justice Ivor Archie for introducing the programme and all those who worked with him and the others in their recovery. His advice to current and future participants of the DTC is “Let not this opportunity be a chance to get away from prison. Let it be a chance to change your whole life.”
When he joined the programme last year, Forde, in his early fifties, said a man told him “You so smart, you don’t want to go to prison. You just riding the DTC bandwagon.”
He told the man, “You don’t understand. I come to the realisation that that life (of drugs) don’t make no sense.”
Asked to tell his story by Archie, Forde said the graduates were all recovering addicts whose lives were controlled by drugs.
About himself, he said, “My whole life, all I know is drugs. I don’t know nothing else. It is nothing to be proud of, but it is real.
You know I grow up in a ghetto in Roy Joseph Scheme where everyone is either smoking or drinking, and seem to be having a wonderful time.” What was strange to him, he said was, “I never worked anywhere, but I was never no bandit.” He washed cars, cleaned yards and did other menial jobs to get money, mainly to subsist, and to buy drugs. “Drugs to me was never a problem. Until passing through this course, I realised it was such a problem,” he said.
Recalling the day he was arrested for drugs, he said he thought he was “bad lucky, but it was actually a blessing in disguise.”
Telling his story, he said “You know I live at that time in complete vagrancy, sleeping on the pavement, getting up looking for drugs. That day I was not studying food. The only money I worked for, so hard, I went to buy drugs. I always buy drugs. This day this boy (another person) buy drugs, and I get arrested. What kind of thing is this I asked myself, not realising it was a blessing in disguise. It was the beginning of a change.”
Forde was taken to court. “For some reason I get bail. I don’t know how. I had no collateral, but I had to go to court another day,” he said. On the court day, he remembered getting up from the pavement and saying to himself, “today is court boy, and I have no clothes.” He went to the Salvation Army, and was given some clothes, but they had no shoes to give him so he went to the San Fernando Magistrates’ court bare feet.
The magistrate, he said asked him how he attended the court so dirty. “I said, it looks dirty but this is what they gave me at the Salvation Army,” Forde related. Because it was not the first time that he was in the court, he said he pleaded guilty. He told himself that, “according to street language, ‘I would pick up this jail so fast’ and be back on the street again to be able to smoke, and what I think, was to have a wonderful time.” When the magistrate saw his previous convictions and questioned how he was in and out of prison, he asked himself how such a learned person like her could say that, when it was people like her who send sick people to prison.
So he told her, “When you say I in and out of prison, is people like you have people like me in and out of prison. I need help and none of all yuh helping me.”
He was prepared to go to prison, he said but the magistrate then said that she will help him, but there was a process he had to undergo.
He was introduced to the DTC programme which started in January 2013.
He started the programme, but did not stop smoking. “You see what happens to addicts, you does feel like you want it. You does need it. You do anything to get it,” he said. His remark, “Thank God, I never used to do anything” made the entire audience break in laughter. Through his addiction, he said he always thought there must be a way out, but still he tried to con the system when tested to see how he was progressing.
As Wednesday was testing day, he would smoke on Wednesday night, but could not stop in time to be clean for the following Wednesday. The staff working with them, he said were smart, and also knew his tricks, so he was always found out. “When I realised you can’t beat the system,” he said he thought, “Don’t matter how hard it is out there, it is harder in prison.”
At that point, he decided, he would take “the opportunity and clean out.”
He would not do it for the court, “because the court will still be there. I will do it for myself.” He gave into the programme and after a lifetime of drugs he has now been tested negative for substance abuse.
“The DTC gave me the help. Plenty of us need help on how to stay clean. I am holding onto that,” he said. Now he walks the street and sees addicts who need help. They would tell him that they are not committing any crime. To try to help them, he decided to take a counselling course. “So I am doing that course right now,” he said. Forde is now employed at a business in San Fernando.