QUINCY -- David Ray was ready to graduate from the Adams County Drug Court program last November, but he missed a drug test the week before graduation, which meant he had to remain in the program.
Earlier that month, his grandfather died. Ray said his grandfather single-handedly saved his life when he was at his lowest.
Ray said he is thankful he missed the drug test.
"I wasn't ready to graduate at all," he said. "I had just gotten out of a relationship, and I had just lost my grandfather -- my rock, my superhero.
"I was well on my way to a relapse."
He thanked the Drug Court team for saving his life that day.
"I really tried to be mad I wouldn't graduate last November, but it was one of the best things that happened to me," Ray said. "I don't know where I'd be right now had they cut me lose at that time."
Ray, 30, has been clean for 892 days. He was one of five people to graduate from the Adams County Drug Court program Thursday in a courtroom full of friends and family.
"A lot of things have changed in my life, but one thing that has remained constant was my clean date -- Dec. 20, 2015," Ray said. "This is the day I took my life back."
Amber Kaufman said she relapsed soon after completing a stint in rehab and didn't think she deserved her spot in Drug Court.
"I remember trying to think of every way possible to try and mask my (urinalysis)," Kaufman said. "I was in fear that with my mistake I lost it all. These feelings were all just a way of my heart telling me I didn't want to live my life in misery."
She immediately told Drug Court probation officer Anthony Foster about her relapse.
"He didn't look at me any different, and for that, I am forever grateful," Kaufman said. "Anthony truly has been a major part of my recovery. Without his guidance through this program, I wouldn't be writing this essay."
Now clean for 373 days, Kaufman set goals to get a driver's license, find her own housing and enroll in school. She's completed each of her goals.
Drug Court is an intense version of probation that requires those in it to submit to frequent drug testing, court appearances as often as weekly, substance abuse treatment and self-help meetings.
"In the 2 1/2 years that I have been the Drug Court judge, I've seen people sent to prison, released and then returning into our criminal justice system," said Judge Debra Wellborn, who oversees Drug Court. "Drug Court is the program that endeavors to break that cycle, and we strive to provide each person with the individual tools that they need to be a productive member of society and supportive and nurturing family members to their families."
The Adams County program was certified by the Illinois Supreme Court in March. All programs in the state must now receive state certification.
Also graduating from Drug Court were Christina Allen, Jonathan Perkins and Thomas Gooding.
Wellborn said she hoped one of the things graduates would remember is that she always tried to start off court with a smile.
"Smiles reduce stress, and I selfishly wanted you to come back for every review whether it was positive or negative and were willing to try to succeed in our program," she said.
Foster noted that all participants in Drug Court volunteer for the program, whether at the request of their family or attorney, to seek help from their addiction, or to avoid to prison.
"These five have persevered through ups and downs of recovery and have successfully completed the requirements of the Drug Court program," Foster said.
The Adams County Drug Court program has had 98 graduates since it started in 2006.