Charles Gray freely admits that if nothing had happened between him and his self-destructive pattern, he would be in prison now.
Or, worse, dead.
Instead, Wednesday Gray celebrated his graduation from the mental health treatment program at 41-B District Court. Along with fellow alumnus, Jessica (who did not want to use her last name), the couple were the first to graduate from the program, which began in Clinton Township Court in early 2019.
“It feels really good. It feels really good,” Gray said. “It took a lot of work, but it was worth it.”
Gray and Jessica shared the stage with three other DWI (Driving While Disabled) alumni. The timing coincides with December as National Disability Driving Prevention Month. 41-B District Court is the only Macomb County court to have four treatment courts (DWI, Mental Health, Drug Court, Veterans Treatment Court), designed to assist those with drug/alcohol dependence/mental illness. According to the National Center for DWI Courts (NCDC), the 41-B DWI court is one of more than 700 DWI courts in the United States.
All five had emotional stories of drug and alcohol abuse, only to reclaim their lives to reach sobriety and celebrate it.
Gray was arrested in 2019 for using pepper spray on the mother of his child in a household dispute. After his history of drug and alcohol abuse, Gray faced a year in county jail or going to sobriety court. chose the latter. He admits it was tough, taking drug tests regularly and meeting with counselors and a judge once a week.
In February 2020, he relapsed and was discharged from the treatment program. In addition to drinking again, he started eating foods full of fentanyl. Exacerbated his problems with the mother of his son.
In October 2020, the Harrison Township resident left a bar drunk, drove 80 mph on a 21-mile road, nearly hit a police car, before being stopped and arrested for a DUI. With an injunction issued for his abstention from the treatment program, Gray was thrown into Macomb County Jail for 14 days. He then spent 30 days in rehab before being sent back to a mental health treatment program and had to start over. He had hit rock bottom and missed opportunities.
Special Court Coordinator Kara Hartmann said Gray became eligible for the mental health treatment program through his dual diagnosis as someone in need of not only drug and alcohol treatment but also needing help with mental health and anger issues.
“These are the people who are most at risk, and they need it most,” she said. “We do comprehensive evaluations, and then they go to therapists for further evaluation. Those are the people who are really struggling.”
Finally, Gray decided he needed to make serious changes.
“I went to Zoom court and had to rethink my decision, and my decision was to change my life and go to rehab. I stopped drinking completely. My life was going downhill,” he said. “I have a two and a half year old son. I’d hate to see me grow like this. I’ve missed a lot of time with him because of my selfish ways.
“Going to rehab was the best decision I ever made. I am grateful to be here.”
Hartmann said the mental health treatment program had about eight other students who did not graduate, either because they ran away, had other medical conditions, or in two cases died. Hartmann said officials were beginning to have doubts about whether the program would work. Now, with Gray and Jessica, the program’s first alumni.
“It gives us hope. We feel we are finally getting into the groove of helping these people,” Hartmann said.
“He (Grey) really pulled himself in. When someone wants you, you can see him, and Charles wanted that,” added Hartmann. “When you see this transformation, it’s the most rewarding thing you can do.”
Each year, Hartmann said, the Remedial Court holds a graduation ceremony. The program has an 82% graduation rate of students who live sober lives once they leave the system.
Gray hopes to become a recovery coach himself, to help others who encounter similar demons.
“I want to help young people, especially those who had a rough childhood like me,” Gray said. “I say to anyone who joins the program – take it seriously, because you will see a difference in your life.”