Rising from the ashes of drug addiction

Soon after Ray was entered into the Superior Court’s Drug Court program after his arrest in 2016, he was so determined to graduate that, when he had no car to get to his drug tests, he would walk all the way from San Vicente to Susupe to make sure he made the tests’ cutoff time.

He never missed a drug test and not once did he ever test positive for drug use.

Last January, Ray’s mother saw him graduate from the Division of Customs 7th Cycle Academy. Last week, his case was dismissed and his mother was present for another graduation, this time from the CNMI Drug Court Program.

When Jesse was arrested in 2016 for possession of methamphetamine, he was confident he could win his case in court. He later realized that winning the case wasn’t the victory he wanted.

He wanted to rebuild his life, mend his relationship with his older children, and become a father to his four young children. That has been his frame of reference since joining the CNMI Drug Court Program in December 2016. Since then, he has never had a positive drug test.

Now gainfully employed as a driver at the Northern Marianas Trades Institute, Jesse had his biggest victory when he finally regained custody of his four young children.

Last week, his case was dismissed and his children witnessed his graduation from the CNMI Drug Court Program.

Jesse said his determination to be with his children made him complete the program.

“We just gonna have faith in God,” Jesse said in an interview.

Once homeless and struggling with drug addiction, Ray and Jesse are the first graduates of the CNMI Drug Court Program. They were both accepted into the program on Dec. 22, 2016.

Under the program, participants are required to attend a set number of hours of recovery or self-help meetings weekly and random drug testing three times weekly from Day 1 until graduation day.

Drug Court caseworker Jaclyn T. Mendiola said that Ray’s mother was why he was so determined to face the uphill challenge of recovery and abide by the stringent Drug Court program structure.

Mendiola said that Ray started off with nothing but the clothes on his back when he was arrested and his deep love for his mother.

Prior to his arrest, Ray was homeless. He lived out of his car, which later broke down. At that time, he was still dealing with the passing of his father.

Mendiola said that for one year, two months, and 14 days, they were part of Ray’s team and knew he was bound for success.

Ray attended the ABC’s of credit workshop by the Commonwealth Development Authority; was involved in Drug Court activities such as the Walk for Recovery and beach cleanups; he volunteered his time at Marianas Behavioral Health International Inc., a non-profit organization; completed the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library Motheread Fatheread Program and workplace basic computing skills training; and attended the Department of Labor Workforce Investment Agency workshop.

Ray also became actively involved in faith-based activities.

Mendiola said Customs director Jose Mafnas believed in Ray’s ability to perform and supported him in undergoing the Customs Cycle Academy.

Ray is now a full-time government employee and is pretty much settled with establishing his career as a law enforcement officer.

In the case of Jesse, Mendiola recalled that, during her initial meeting with him, he stated all he wanted was to change his life as he has four young children who need him. At that time, Jesse was homeless and needed a lot of resources to stabilize. Mendiola said she knew that Jesse had a difficult journey ahead of him. He started his journey of recovery by nurturing his faith and finding his strength in God. Jesse leaned on his church family to grow spiritually.

Jesse entered the Drug Court program as a skilled man with work experience and certification but without a high school diploma.

Jesse participated in the Drug Court Recovery Month activities such as the Walk for Recovery, and Cash for Trash Beach Cleanup. He completed the Joeten-Kiyu Public Library Motheread Fatheread Program, and the workplace basic computing skills. He attended the Labor Workforce Investment Agency workshop.

Mendiola said the NMTI management and its chief executive officer, Agnes McPhetres, saw Jessie’s potential to be a great employee and student.

Jesse is now a driver at NMTI and a student in its auto mechanic program. He is expected to graduate from NMTI this September.

Mendiola said Jesse now fully provides for his four young children as a single father.

“He is 422 days sober and ready to live the rest of his life as a law-abiding member, father and a role model to his children and ongoing Drug Court participants,” Mendiola said.

Ferdie De La Torre | Reporter
Ferdie Ponce de la Torre is a veteran journalist who has covered all news beats in the CNMI. Born in Lilo-an, Cebu City in the Philippines, De la Torre graduated from the University of Santo Tomas with a bachelor’s degree in journalism. He is a recipient of many commendations and awards, including the CNMI Judiciary’s prestigious Justice Award for his over 10 years of reporting on the judiciary’s proceedings and decisions. Contact him at ferdie_delatorre@saipantribune.com

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