A McMinn County resident was among the most recent group of 10th Judicial District Recovery Court graduates last Tuesday.

Recovery court is an approximately 18-month intensive outpatient rehabilitation program for people with substance abuse and/or mental health issues.

The graduation ceremony was hosted by McMinn County Circuit Court Judge Andrew Freiberg, who noted this ceremony was the first formal recovery court since March 9 due to COVID-19. Anna Presley was the local graduate from the program.

“Today is a blessed day, it is graduation day, but I want to take a moment to recognize not only our graduates but everyone here for recovery court. We talk about this being a wholistic change change program about bettering our lives and how we cannot stop life events ... It is a matter of whether we are internally strong enough to withstand life’s adversities,” said Freiberg. “You all have gone through and overcome adversities during this pandemic ... I really think you all deserve a lot of praise for that.”

Participants in recovery court took part in virtual sessions instead of in-person groups due to the pandemic.

“You went from being in a location with your peers with a support system 2-1/2 hours a day, three days a week, to basically calling in two to three times a week for 10 to 15 minutes,” he noted. “All of that was adversity, all of that created hardship for everyone. I think the biggest blessing was reopening things back up from a treatment perspective.”

Freiberg stated the program holds a 22% failure rate.

“That is amazing. That means that 78% of the time, if you are here, then you are going to make it,” he exclaimed. “Of that 22% failure or elimination rate, 80% are people who have new arrests, new criminal charges or just don’t show up and those are things that are in your control.”

Freiberg also had praise for McMinn County resident Presley.

“Anna has zero unexcused absences during her recovery court program. She did have a lapse, but she was open and honest about it and she recovered quickly and with grace,” said Freiberg. “Anna grew in confidence as time went on, first being somewhat shy about being a writer but eventually sharing her writings with others.”

Other changes she has made consist of performing podcasts and movie reviews.

“She is a wonderful mother to a young daughter and a wonderful daughter to her parents,” he stated. “Many in this program consider Anna a great friend and role model. She is enjoying her life of sobriety and I have no doubt she will continue to flourish in the future. You really have so much creativity, grace and the sky is the limit.”

Presley voiced her thoughts to those in attendance after receiving her plaque for graduating.

“This is such a bittersweet moment. It felt so far away when this journey began last year,” Presley said. “I became close to so many people over the nights in this program, people I consider to be lifelong friends, and that is the beautiful thing about drug court. You meet people who have the same goals and ambitions as you do.”

Presley then thanked her friends and family for their love and support.

“I think every one of us has always longed to be a part of something much deeper than what we made for ourselves in our previous life and I believe we are on the right path to getting just that,” she expressed. “I wish everyone who is still in the program the best of luck and I want to see everyone succeed.”

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