BY O.J. EARLY
Dr. Stephen Loyd was losing the battle in his fight with drug addiction. That was demonstrated when he hit his self-described "low point" and stole pain medication from a dying cancer patient.
"That's low," Loyd said. "But that wasn't me. Addiction took me there."
Loyd is the associate chief of staff for education at the U.S. Veterans Affairs Medical Center at Mountain Home in Johnson City and an associate professor of medicine at the James H. Quillen College of Medicine at East Tennessee State University.
He's also a former narcotics addict who has been drug-free for nearly a decade.
Mixing intensity, compassion and humor, Loyd brought his be-careful-whom-you-allow-in-your-life message to two graduates of the Greene County Drug Court Program this week at the Greene County Courthouse.
"We don't have many happy days in this courtroom," said Greene County Sessions Court and Juvenile Court Judge Kenneth Bailey Jr., who leads the program. "But graduation days are very happy for us."
The two graduates -- one man and one woman -- became the most recent persons to complete the nine-year-old program on Thursday, and both were surrounded by family, friends and supporters of the drug court.
Loyd had a message for the grads: Be diligent about whom you allow in your life.
"This is the end of the beginning," Loyd said. "You are going back into the world now."
Many people are available to support you, Loyd told the two graduates. But many others are out to harm you, he added.
"Knowing who to run from and who to run to" is key, he said.
Build a trustworthy support system, composed of people that care, and you will stand a much better chance of experiencing long-lasting victory over drugs, the medical professor said.
What happens if you mess up? Run swiftly to your support group.
"I trust these people," Loyd said about the county's drug court team. "Get to them quick if you mess up."
ABOUT DRUG COURT
Former General Sessions and Juvenile Court Judge Tom Wright began the drug court program in 2004.
Some of the requirements of drug court include: a minimum of 12 months in the program, no failed drug tests in the six months prior to graduation and obtaining a high school diploma or GED.
The drug court team has nine members, and consists of area law enforcement, court officials and healthcare workers.
Bailey has overseen the program since 2006.