Drug Court grad: I’m going to be OK

Published 1:20 am Saturday, January 21, 2017

By Laura Ashley Harper


“Life is one day at a time. I am going to be OK and move forward from here,” said Melissa Bulger upon graduating from Drug Court this month.

Though Bulger’s struggle with drinking and drugs gripped her for many years, she can now joyfully say that she is free from the heavy chains of drugs, and has found that there is a better way to live life. Bulger describes her journey as hard and lonely at times, but with support from her family, God’s help, and the assistance and encouragement from the people in Drug Court, she sees her journey in Drug Court as a positive experience and frankly, a blessing.

“Drug Court helped me become the person I am now. I am the happiest I’ve ever been. I am at peace. I know what I want out of life. You can’t put a price tag on peace of mind,” said Bulger.

She attributes much of her perseverance to her mother, Mary Ann Lewis. “She never gave up on me,” Bulger said.

Bulger said that initially, drinking and using drugs was done socially with friends, but after her parents divorced, she began to try more things. She admits that as she looks back at her life, “Using was a way of dealing with my emotions. That’s how it starts, then you’re in a trap, because by then you’re addicted.”

Bulger pled guilty April 1, 2014, and then began the Drug Court program.

In the program, Bulger learned that for her to stay the path of being drug and alcohol free, she would have to surround herself with those that were like-minded. She states that she had to “make her mind up to be strong.”

Bulger said her mother was always rooting for her. Lewis never gave up on her daughter, and encourages others that find themselves in similar situations with family members or friends to “never give up.”

Both mother and daughter give thanks to the Lord for seeing them through this journey.

Lewis said, “The good Lord can see down the road. He got Melissa through it, and He can and will get anyone through it. Money can’t get them through it. The Lord is the only one who can. I had to have a lot of faith. Now it’s like a celebration every day.”

Sabrina Cobb, drug court coordinator, also played a large role in Bulger’s success.

Cobb was in tears as Bulger graduated, because she had seen how hard she worked and how determined she was to stay the course.

Covington County District Attorney Walt Merrell also applauded Bulger.

“We strive to equip Drug Court participants with the tools they need to stay clean after they graduate,” Merrell said. “We know they will face temptation and tough times. What they learn during their time with us will help them withstand those tough times. Melissa has a bright future ahead of her, and we are proud of how far she has come already.”

Those who find themselves in Drug Court are most often first-time offenders who are charged with possession – not distribution – of illegal drugs, or they have been involved in a drug-related crime. In court they plead guilty, and the effect is a suspended sentence. It is then that an individualized treatment plan is developed.

Often the plan might begin with rehab, but the treatment plans always involves regular meetings with a case manager, frequent and random drug tests, attending required classes, and working with the court referral officer. They are also required to seek employment, obtain their GED if necessary, and pay fines. When the individual successfully completes all the above requirements, their charges are dismissed.

Presiding Circuit Judge Charles “Lex” Short is the Drug Court judge. He has seen more than 100 graduates from the program, so he knows their stories and how far they have come. He said sees firsthand that this program is well worth the time and effort put in by those in Drug Court, himself, and the DA staff.

Drug Court is in need of job placement opportunities for the Drug Court participants. The men and women in the Drug Court have the potential to be the best employees anyone can have because the Drug Court monitors the participants closely and those involved in the program know what is at stake. If you would like more information concerning Drug Court, or have job opportunities for Drug Court participants please contact the District Attorney’s Office at 222-2513.


Laura Ashley Harper is a contract worker for district attorney’s office.