MANATEE -- Adina Bridges, like many, had a challenging time in drug court.
Then came unexpected news: She was pregnant.
"I was going to have an abortion so I could keep getting high," Bridges said.
Placed in the Mothers and Infants Program, a residential addiction recovery effort in Sarasota, she continued her pregnancy but soon found herself thinking of ways she could still get high after she had her baby. Her daughter, however, was born drug-free in a water birth.
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Then came her epiphany, she said.
"After two or three weeks, she only wanted me, she only wanted me," Bridges said. "It was that that made me think for the first time ever I needed to stay sober."
A courtroom was filled Thursday morning to honor the 2015 graduates of the 12th Judicial Circuit Drug Court program at the Manatee County Judicial Center.
Drug court allows defendants arrested on felony drug charges and identified with a substance addiction to enter a recovery program rather than face the possibility of time in prison. The program combines treatment and court supervision requiring clients to report to the judge and submit to regular drug screenings.
With her daughter sitting beside her, Bridges, a 2011 graduate of the program and Thursday's guest speaker, talked of how the program and those who run it helped her change her life.
"Today I am back in school ... doing my master's in social work, so I'll be back in drug court on the other side," Bridges said.
The ceremony marked the 18th anniversary of the
12th Judicial Circuit Drug Court Program.
"Everybody is a perfect drug court candidate, because there is no perfect person," Manatee County Drug Court Director Alfred James said.
Some participants were given special awards:
Amanda Kelley was presented with a special gift of diapers, a stroller and car seat traveling system. Kelley is now clean and pregnant.
Stacey Lagasse was told her GED diploma costs were all paid.
Shining stars were Russell Adams for Sarasota County, and Bridges for Manatee County.
As of December 2014, there were more than 3,800 drug courts nationwide, according to James. The first drug court program was in Miami 20 years ago.
"Drug court isn't just an American movement. It's an international movement," James said. "We understand we can't just keep putting people in jail who have substance abuse problems. We have to deal with those problems because if we just keep putting them in jail, they will keep coming back and we will continue to have deal with those same people over and over."
Jessica De Leon, Herald law enforcement reporter, can be reached at 941-745-7049. You can follow her on Twitter @JDeLeon1012.