IRONTON — After 18 long months in Judge Andy Ballard’s drug court in Ironton, Jarrod McKnight, Christopher “Drew” Gooodwin, Brianna Mills and Josh Harmon are prepared for a journey that hopefully will last them for the rest of their lives.

The four are the first of what Ballard hopes will be hundreds to graduate from the Nexus Recovery Docket in Lawrence County Common Pleas Court. All four drug court graduates were recognized Thursday night at Ironton’s Christ Episcopal Church during a ceremony attended by some 100 people.

McKnight’s problems with meth, heroin and painkillers led him to a point “where it was a spiritual rock bottom.”

After being arrested for drug possession, he spent four months in the Lawrence County Jail and then four more months at the STAR Community Justice Center in Scioto County. After that, he was arrested again.

At that point, McKnight, 36, made a decision to take action to try recovery instead of more drugs. After a second stay at STAR as part of a recovery program and 18 months in drug court, he is ready for a second chance at life. He is studying to become a drug counselor and help others out of the problems he dealt with.

McKnight is counseling others now in drug court.

“By helping them, I’m helping myself,” he said. “I know this is just a beginning. Nothing is hard with willingness.”

Harmon went through nine overdoses, but it was the fatal overdose of his brother, the help of his parents, his older brother and the employees in drug court, and Ballard having a heart-to-heart talk outside his jail cell that helped him change.

He now has his own home, a car and custody of two of his daughters, Harmon said.

Ballard, who spent three years getting the drug court up and running, said he was overwhelmed with the outpouring of support from the community toward the drug court.

“These people have started a journey with sobriety that will last them the rest of their lives,” Ballard said.

Pete Thackston, a Proctorville resident who has been sober for 29 years, served as the main speaker at the graduation ceremony. Thackston, a Huntington High School graduate with a 95 mph fastball, started partying in college and ended up with a $10,000-a-month cocaine problem.

“We in recovery have a responsibility,” said Thackston. “I know the difficulties. We are warriors. As addicts, we are all out or all in. Be all in. When you set your mind to it and work, you can’t be defeated.”

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