On the day her son was born on June 13, Rebekka McNeil of Columbus made a promise to turn her life around.
McNeil, 18, completed the first step toward her goal on Tuesday as one of eight graduates of the Muscogee County Juvenile Drug Court program.
“It’s amazing,” McNeil said after the 4 p.m. ceremony on the plaza level of the Government Center. “I feel like a brand new person.”
Juvenile Court Judge Warner Kennon said the program averages about a year for youths who take part in screenings, group sessions and therapy to steer youths from drugs. The program started 14 years ago after officials realized that more than 50 percent of the Juvenile Court cases have some drug component.
Drug Court holds graduations three or four times a year with about eight students at each event. “It’s is a lot of work,” Kennon said of the graduates. “We commend them and their parents. It takes a lot of effort.”
McNeil ended up in the program after she was involved in a car accident. A drug screen revealed she had used drugs.
After accepting her certificate for completing the program, McNeil told more than 100 at the Government Center that she started off as a typical “pothead,” smoking marijuana but it quickly led her to cocaine, crack and meth amphetamine. Heroin is the only illegal drug she hasn’t abused but felt sure it was coming next. “I was headed straight to hell,” she said.
McNeil didn’t realize that she had a problem with drugs until she started sessions in the Drug Court program in October 2012. That's when she learned that she was truly sick.
“I was addicted to the lifestyle,” she said. “I honestly decided to take a first step.”
McNeil soon saw a different side of reality. “While working on my steps, reality slapped me in the face,” she said. “How could she continue to use drugs with a precious baby boy on the way?”
Her son, Ayden, is now 6-months-old. McNeil graduates from Jordan High School next year and plans to go into nursing school. “Without Drug Court, all the dreams would have been shattered,” she said. “I would have died.”
McNeil said the program is a process which challenged her at every point. “It pushes you to your limits, but it is worth it,” she said. “If you didn’t, you wouldn’t be successful in life.”
The teen has a message for others who are struggling with drugs. “It’s not worth it,” McNeil said.