FAIRMONT - Grace Bryant remembers the fear she felt on March 12, 2012.
"I was arrested in Jackson County for selling meth," she said. "I spent two nights in jail ... It was like I had blinders on. People ask me things like, 'How many cops were there?' But all I can remember thinking was what was going to happen to my kid. I knew I messed up."
Bryant was one of four Faribault Martin Jackson County drug court graduates recognized this week. The others were James Mohwinkel, Bruce Ganzer and Jacob Schweiger. The group of four helped the FMJ drug court reach its 50th graduate since the program began in 2006.
Grace Bryant, right, with Martin County Judge Robert Walker was triumphant as one of four drug court graduates this week. The group marked the 50th drug court graduate for Faribault Martin Jackson County drug court since it began in 2006.
"Nineteen and a half months ago, everything important to me was lost," Bryant said during her graduation ceremony. "Eighteen and a half months ago, I was in drug court and hated it. Today, I see drug court's given me a sense of being and an opportunity to become a better person."
Bryant admits she used meth in the late 1990s but had kicked the habit herself. However, when tough times came around, so did the addiction.
"I was laid off from my job. I was a single mom. I was hoping to make some money," Bryant said. "My first time out [selling] and I was busted."
Because it was Bryant's first offense, she was offered the opportunity to try drug court. But for Bryant, there was a stumbling block.
"I told them I wasn't an addict, and the only way to be in drug court was if you were an addict," she said. "I honestly didn't realize until 19 and a half months later by watching a show about the Minnesota Teen Challenge that I was an addict."
Bryant went into drug court, but was far from accepting of the program.
"I hated being there," she admits. "They put up with a lot of crap from me; I hated nearly everyone. But one day I realized that they weren't there to see me fail. They're using their expertise to save the life of me. They don't hate me, because they saved me from prison. It took a few months for that to sink in and not to be so angry with everyone."
But as every drug court participant can testify, it's no easy task.
"It's so demanding," Bryant said. "It's, 'Be here. Do this. Do that.'"
For many, it means giving up most of their old friendships along with their addiction.
"I have some friends, but no one I hang out with," Bryant said. "I have drug court or work friends, but I don't care. I like my 'me' time. And the stuff is still out there, everywhere. It's too easy if you're out partying or hanging out after work."
Bryant still remembers the expensive price she paid when she lost custody of her daughter, who is now 9 years old.
"In its own way, it was a blessing in disguise," she said. "Drug court gave me the opportunity of a lifetime because I would have lost it all, and I honestly thought I did. It took me a few months to realize I didn't. I still had my house. I still had my movies and things. I did get my kid back and got a different job. Anyone who chooses drug court over prison, I bet drug court is tougher. You get to keep your freedom, but you have to work to keep that freedom."
As much as Bryant resisted drug court at first, she now sees it as her life saver.
"I think in about 90 percent of my journal entries I had to keep, I was saying 'thank you' to everyone, because I was so grateful and thankful," she said. "I owe a lot to drug court; I can't thank them enough.
"What they are willing to do and the time they're willing to give is remarkable. We're drug addicts and criminals, and they're still taking their time to help us ... They become like your friends, knowing all that they do about you, yet they give you the benefit of the doubt and are still there as your mentors, counselors. They're there for you more than anyone else."
As for future plans, Bryant simply wants to stay on the right path and be there for her daughter.
"I still have three years of probation, but that's fine," she said. "I'm glad I didn't let this opportunity pass me by."