CODY – Zack Robinson had no desire to live. The drugs he was addicted to left him numb, rendering him emotionless, with no joy or pain to feel.
“I wasn’t alive or alive, I just existed,” he said.
Robinson, 43, is a recovering drug addict who recently graduated from the Park County Court-supervised treatment program. He has been sober for 427 consecutive days.
“It’s amazing what you’ve seen and done,” Jackie Fales said at her graduation in April.
Fales is a Family Program Facilitator for Cedar Mountain Center and Peer Support Specialist at Cody Regional Behavioral Health, herself a 2018 Drug Court graduate.
Robinson said the desire to escape trauma was what initially fueled his addiction, after seeing several friends murdered.
He said he turned to drugs to numb those haunting memories.
He said deflecting that trauma was what allowed his addiction to develop, but he views active addiction as a trauma in and of itself.
“You use drugs to cover up the trauma and the things you don’t want to deal with until the drugs don’t work and now you’re left with the pain and the trauma that you were dealing with in the first place, plus the pain and the trauma of addiction,” he said.
Robinson went from drinking alcohol at age 10 to using marijuana in college. By the time he threw his arm away while playing baseball in college, he had switched to a stronger substance in methamphetamine.
“I got pretty far pretty fast,” he said.
Robinson, a native of Powell, lived throughout Wyoming growing up and graduated from Rawlins High School. He moved back to the Cody area about eight years ago.
Robinson was convicted of felony drug possession in 2017. Although he attended Cedar Mountain Center in 2018, he broke probation twice in 2019. Even before trying to turn himself in for breaking probation , Robinson realized he had to change his life. He began reading literature while awaiting his jail term at the Park County Detention Center.
“I didn’t think I would ever be addicted to drugs,” he said. “I thought I was going to die this way.”
At the literal 11th hour, less than 60 minutes before his sentencing hearing, Robinson was given one last chance to turn around by voluntarily enrolling in the supervised treatment program, also known as drug court. It was an opportunity he did not take for granted, fully immersing himself in all the program had to offer when it started in February 2021.
“It’s a daily thing that you have to work on, that I have to work on,” he said. “If I’m not working towards recovery, I’m working towards active addiction.”
Drug Court is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to helping participants break the cycle of drug addiction and the crimes that result from it. Only those charged with a crime are eligible to participate and must go through a screening process that involves multiple factors, including drug and alcohol and risk assessments.
Shannon Votaw, program director for Drug Court, said if applicants are deemed eligible based on these criteria, the court is notified and it is up to the sentencing judge to decide whether they are permitted. to participate in the program.
Drug addiction court is designed to provide sentencing alternatives for non-violent offenders who have committed drug addiction. Participants must be admitted to the program and must either submit an admission of breach of probation or a plea of guilty or no contest for the offense with which they are charged. Completing the program typically takes 12 to 18 months, Votaw said.
There are 16 drug court programs statewide. As part of the government’s spending bill passed in March, $80 million will be dedicated to funding drug court programs across the country.
“They’re just the starting point for you,” Robinson said. “They just guide you to a better life.”
Within Drug Court, Robinson found a community he could call his own, which showed him love and happiness for life and a vision for a higher purpose. He made attending support groups an almost daily routine, which he continues to this day. Robinson spent his day off last Wednesday attending a drug court session.
“They showed me that there’s a different life you can live, but you need people for that,” he said. “I can have all the books in the world and all the knowledge, but if I don’t have my circle of support, I have nothing.”
While in the Drug Court program, three of Robinson’s friends committed suicide due to addiction.
He said that if he hadn’t sought treatment during these events, he would have “been dead or undead”, dependent on medication to deal with this trauma, but instead was able to see these losses of life. a healing perspective.
“They showed me the real thing and made me feel like it was a killer disease,” he said.
Robinson went through the program in five phases, moving from active addiction to recovery, becoming a role model for other participants. Registrants begin the program by attending four three-hour sessions per week, with each group offering a different focus such as relapse prevention and self-awareness. As they progress through the program, responsibilities are reduced, requiring participants to create their own structure.
“Once you take the meds out…you have to fill it with something,” Robinson said. “It becomes filling it with something positive.”
Robinson has fully embraced the service aspect of the program and speaks to the Cedar Mountain Center about her life story. He said he was touched when a patient approached him recently and asked if he would do step five with them. The fifth step in the recovery process is to admit to God, yourself, and another human being the exact nature of your wrongs.
“If I can say one thing that touches someone about my story or my issues and helps them in their recovery, then all of this pain and suffering that I have been through is truly worth it to reach a one person,” he said.
Robinson surrounds himself with people in recovery and support as a reminder of the task at hand, thanking others for the improved life he bears today.
“Everything that keeps me going, I learned in those places from those people,” he said.
For Robinson and other recovering addicts, their addictions will never be resolved, cured or repaired. It takes their constant dedication and resilience to live a sober life, holding themselves to a higher standard than most others in society due to the choices they made earlier in life. Robinson said not a day goes by that he doesn’t take steps towards his recovery and considers graduating from drug court the start of his “other life”.
“I am living proof that it works,” he told the tearful audience during his graduation in the Park County Circuit courtroom on April 1.
While graduating, Robinson was surrounded by friends, family and advisors, all of whom formed a strong support group that he would continue to rely on for the rest of his life, just as they did. will lean on him.
“Look at all the people in this crowd today – it’s a testament to what you’ve given back to the recovery community – that’s why this room is packed right now,” Votaw said.
Many don’t get a second chance like Robinson did. Often, repeat offenders will be sent to prison to serve their sentence. Robinson said while it is possible to recover while incarcerated, where some treatment and counseling services are provided, he finds it an unlikely scenario.
“I don’t think that’s a real way to recover,” Robinson said.
Drug Court has hosted a variety of community outreach events like an honor recovery celebration held at City Park last September and a free screening of ‘Tipping the Pain Scale’, a documentary about the opioid crisis, which s was held at the Big Horn Cinemas last month.
Poet and educator Joseph Green is featured in the film. Green visits elementary classrooms to help students better express their emotions and learn to deal with life’s challenges. Green and others in the film promoted the idea that by instilling these lessons in children, they will be less likely to turn to drugs to deal with trauma and adversity on the road.
Robinson plans to continue speaking at CMC and attending drug court sessions for the foreseeable future. With a new contingency of members enrolled in drug court, he said now is the time to continue making a positive difference in the lives of others.
“It helps me remember where I was at the beginning,” he said of working with the new members.
He said he would be interested in pursuing this profession throughout his life as a Unit Coordinator at CMC one day. Many of these unit coordinators are still in his life today.
“These people are amazing to me because they’re just trying to help people have a better life and they really don’t expect anything in return,” Robinson said.