Perry County drug court graduates celebrated for changing their lives


Spring 2022 Drug Court graduates

By Submitted

Some of Perry County’s spring drug court graduates found themselves in addiction through tragic circumstances. For others, their path was a little more predictable. But for each of one them, the road to recovery started with a choice backed by strong will and tremendous support. 

Instead of serving a jail sentence and coming out with the same addiction problem that landed them there in the first place, Judge Dean Wilson of the Perry County Municipal Court gives drug users a chance to better themselves through New Direction Drug Court. 

While the program is designed to last one year, it’s not uncommon for participants to take a little longer due to relapses and other roadblocks, but the treatment team and court staff are prepared for such setbacks and continue to support participants on their recovery journey. 

Two years ago, Angela Reed never would have expected to be a drug court graduate living a productive life. 

For so many years, the only thing that mattered to the 34-year-old New Lexington woman was getting high. 

Angela’s addiction began with tragedy at the age of 21 when her husband died in a car accident. “I just didn’t process that grief real well,” she said. “I turned to pain pills.” 

After seven years, the pain pills turned into a methamphetamine addiction until the day she was arrested in 2020 for permitting drug abuse and possessing drug paraphernalia. 

She was given the option of getting treatment and completing drug court. 

“I was sick of it,” Angela said. “It had been 10 years.” 

Throughout that decade, she only remembers making it a handful of days without getting high. 

During her short amount of time in jail, Angela detoxed and came to the conclusion that it was time to get clean for good. 

She said it was like the fog had been lifted and she realized that she had been numbing everything for the past 10 years without knowing what she had been missing. 

So Angela went to treatment for the first time in her life. 

“I had had no plans on stopping before,” she said. “This is where I needed to be.” 

Frequent drug testing and meetings helped keep her accountable during the earlier, more vulnerable times. 

“The relationship that I’ve made with the treatment team and the probation [department] and the judge has been beneficial,” Angela said.

She explained that they stuck their necks out for her to give her a good name in the community, which led to a couple of business owners taking a chance on her — Jeremy and Danielle Seals. Angela now works for Seals Flowers and Gifts in New Lexington where she has found a lot of success. 

“She went above and beyond,” Jeremy Seals said. “She’s going all the depositing. She’s handling all the payables, receivables and managing the finances.” 

Now she has the keys to the business. 

“She proved she could be trusted and she worked really hard to earn the trust,” Danielle Seals said. 

The couple said Angela has been a godsend to them. She always arrives early for work and dresses for success. 

Angela now has a nice car and is living with her kids again. 

“I proved a lot of people wrong. I proved my old self wrong,” she said. “I never thought I would be here.” 

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Angela Reed

Sonya Dillinger, of Crooksville, also defied the odds and turned her life around after overdosing in 2020. She was found with methamphetamine in her possession and requested to attend drug court. 

“I didn’t think people had faith in me, which basically only heightened my choice to do it.” But after just a few months in the program, the 38-year-old mother relapsed. 

She was placed into inpatient rehabilitation and given another chance to achieve sobriety. It was actually her 17th treatment attempt, but something was different this time. After nine months, Sonya was afraid to go home. 

“I was worried about whether I was strong enough to be able to handle myself in this community without relapsing,” she said. 

But the support she garnered through drug court kept her on the right path. 

Sonya overcame the doubt she had in herself and gained the confidence to achieve success in her life. 

“I thought that I had too much baggage to work through,” she said. “You can’t undo 20 years worth of addiction overnight, so I knew I had my work cut out for me.” 

With persistence, a strong mindset and a lot of work, Sonya now has her driver’s license and own car, she is fully insured and raised her credit score by almost 150 points. 

“I have literally accomplished every goal I have set for myself,” Sonya said. 

Most importantly, she has restored her relationship with her family. 

For so much of her children’s lives, Sonya was high.

Her addiction began at the age of 13 when she was prescribed pain pills for endometriosis. She turned to cocaine and acid at 16 and by the time she was 23, she was taking handfuls of pills at a time. 

She would wake up the next day unable to remember anything. 

“My 20’s are a blur,” Sonya said. 

She has to see pictures to remember moments with her children. 

“I missed out on so much of my kids’ lives,” Sonya said. “It’s time you can’t get back.” But she can change the future for them. 

“Every day that I remain clean is a day that I can be involved in their lives,” she said. 

Sonya missed the birth of her granddaughter because she was in jail and doesn’t want to miss out on any more milestones again. 

“I made a vow to myself, to that little girl, to my children that none of them would ever see me high again,” she said. 

Sonya is proud to put drug addiction behind her. 

“You’re always worried about getting caught,” she explained. “My stress was finding heroin. My stress was finding meth. Once you’re clean, you look at everything completely differently.” 

Looking back at all she has accomplished, Sonya sometimes has to remind herself that it’s all real. “It’s hard to imagine where I’ve come from,” she said. “At the same time, I’m also never quick to forget it.” Her next goal is to get certified as a chemical dependency counselor assistant to help others in addiction. 

“Everyone deserves second, third, fourth and 10th chances,” Sonya said. “Drug court changed my life. They believed in me when nobody else would, including myself.” 

Sonya Dillinger

A total of 9 graduates were celebrated during a grand graduation event at Backwoods Fest in Thornville. 

They include: Eric Degarmo, Sonya Dillinger, Donald Green, Hayley Large, Greg Mildenstein, Angela Reed, Mary Stanley, Dusty Starner and Colton Wilson.

Judge Wilson and the drug court staff go above and beyond for their graduates by providing them with a dinner, plaques and personalized recognition before special guests including their families and elected officials from across the state. 

“It’s important from my standpoint for their families to see the success that they’ve achieved,” Wilson said. He wants to ensure his graduates are honored for their great achievements. 

“It’s a sense of fulfillment,” he said. “For a lot of them, it’s the first thing that they’ve successfully completed in their adult life.” 

The accountability doesn’t end with graduation. An additional follow-up component has been added to drug court to ensure graduates maintain their recovery after three participants died of overdoses. 

Judge Wilson keeps their obituaries on the bench with him in his courtroom to remind him of his purpose for changing lives. 

“You are family, whether you like that or not. I love each of you,” Wilson told the spring graduates. “I cherish the success that you guys have had with regard to this.”