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 Since starting Toole County Drug Court in March of 2017 Stephen Cadotte has changed his life around, going from partying and in trouble to employed, sober and engaged to his girlfriend and main supporter, Kendra Berg, who he is looking forward to marrying at the end of this upcoming summer. 

Addiction, at some point in our lives it touches all of us, whether it is you personally battling it, someone you love, or just someone you know. May is National Drug Court Month, celebrating a program that has helped many overcome their addictions and changing their outlook from “addict,” to “recovering addict” and changing lives. In some cases, such as in soon to be graduate, Stephen Cadotte’s, it saves lives.

“Drug Court saved my life,” said Cadotte. “I was in a pretty dark hole and was not seeing any light at the end of the tunnel, until I got into this program.”

Cadotte started the Drug Court treatment program on March 16, 2017. He had three felonies and 16 misdemeanors, all related to choices while made under the influence of drugs and alcohol. Cadotte shared that he initially started drinking at age 13, and it continued from there throughout his teenage years. But Cadotte can pinpoint when his addiction spiraled out of control to the point he was committing crimes and finding himself in jail.

“At that point in my life I was just there for the party and the party just kept on going,” recalled Cadotte. “My drug use, which was horrific, led me to steal things, like cars. When my brother, Jack, committed suicide, it got way worse. It was intense. I got into a lot of trouble.”

Cadotte was only two months in to Drug Court and had stopped using when he suffered another hard loss, that of his lifelong friend, Josh, just nine months after his brother.

“I was two months into Drug Court when we lost Josh,” said Cadotte. “And I started using, again. Instead of giving up on me, Drug Court sent me to treatment.”

When Cadotte returned home from treatment life was still rough. He admits that even after treatment he had a few slip-ups, but then he started contacting Dave Watson and Brooke Rogers, the Drug Court coordinator.

“I started using my resources,” said Cadotte. “I was calling Dave and Brooke a lot, attending NA, going to classes, talking to counselors, following the program.”

While the program is a life changer, it is not an easy one to follow. Cadotte not only had NA to attend a couple times a week, but also self-help meetings, counselors, classes, reporting for UAs and being in court every Thursday to appear before Judge Olson.

“At one point I had to do five classes, which came out to attending 10 a week,” said Cadotte. “To do this program you pretty much have to stay sober, make it to your UAs, it’s not easy. It’s not a ‘go when you want’ type of program. You have to go, and you have to want to be there. I took the tough road for awhile, then I decided to comply.”

Cadotte is grateful for and credits the tenacity and dedication of Rogers, Judge Olson, and his probation officer at the time, Cody, for helping him achieve what he has today. He shared that they never gave up on him and that without their help and belief in him, he would have never made it.

“Without those three I wouldn’t have made it,” said Cadotte. “So many times I thought they were kicking me out, but they kept my stubborn ass in there.”

His girlfriend, now fiancé, Kendra, also was a huge support in his road to sobriety. In November of 2017 his son, Kooper, was born, giving Cadotte even more reason to stick with the program and stay sober. If Cadotte needed any more reason to stay sober he got one when 13 months later baby Keaton joined the family.

“Kooper and Keaton helped motivate me,” said Cadotte. “I didn’t have a father around in my life and I wanted to do what was best for them. Since I’ve been in Drug Court I’ve gotten engaged, had my two sons and have held down the same job for over a year. I’m able to hold down a job now, I don’t call in all the time like I did when I was using. I have a nice vehicle, a house, all things I didn’t think I’d ever have.”

Those things did not come easy or without a lot of hard work. Cadotte is proud of his progress, and has every right to be. He has realized that he is stronger and smarter than he had ever given himself credit for. It took Drug Court and the lessons and tools it provides, for him to find those things out about himself. While it wasn’t easy, Cadotte is a firm believer in the program and encourages anyone who is entering into it to stick with it.

“The beginning is the hardest part,” he said. “It sucks. But as you get further into it, it gets easier. You might cry a lot, I did, but it does get easier. If they tell you to do something, just do it. Just stick with it, it’s definitely worth it. Way worth it.”

After two years of making his way through the program, Cadotte is happy, sober and will proudly graduate from the program on May 23, with his family and friends cheering him on. 

“While drug court can offer education, guidance and support to each participant, it is up to them what they take from this experience,” said Drug Court coordinator Brooke Rogers. “Stephen has chosen to embrace a new way of life. He has done the hard work. Through any obstacles he has chosen to show up, deal with it and grow from the experience. He has grown so much, he is now a peer mentor for our Drug Court. He offers his experience and knowledge to help other people, he devotes a lot of time helping other people and he is an incredible role model.

He came into the program at a hard time in his life, but he is leaving sober with a great job, which he works hard at, he’s a devoted father and soon to be husband. He’s been a bright spot for our Drug Court and while it is sometimes hard to say goodbye to our participants, I am so excited to see what else he accomplishes in life. I know I speak for our entire Drug Court team, when I say, I could not be more proud of Stephen.”

These days, instead of partying, Cadotte can be found working 12-hour days, going to meetings and spending time at home with his family. He is looking forward to marrying Kendra at the end of this upcoming summer and at some point the family plans on relocating. But in the meantime, Cadotte will continue to work on his sobriety, and hopes to also help others with theirs, while enjoying the life he has now.

“I’m looking forward to living a sober life,” concluded Cadotte. “Spending time with my boys and my family, going to movies, and out to eat once in awhile. Being around to watch my boys grow up, that’s what’s important, that’s what I enjoy now, the little things, the good things in life.”

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