The Back Page with Bruce Steinberg
I saw the online finishing and split times. I saw the race day photo – looking good, healthy, happy, joking, short sleeves. I bragged on her to other lawyers, private and public defenders. Smiles and congratulations – what great news!
Of course, I had to tell the drug court judge and staff about her, about the ongoing success of one of their own former drug court participants. When I entered the courtroom, it wasn’t crowded, just a case or two left. It seemed the case at the bench would take a while and the prosecutor who knew her and who had always expressed good things about her even when she drove us crazy, was at the bench, too. I started writing a note for the prosecutor about the triathlon.
Then the judge called my name and asked in a friendly voice whether there was anything I needed. I said, no, I was just leaving the prosecutor a note about one of the drug court participants who finished drug court almost a couple years ago, but I can just say it. I said the woman’s name and then said she had trained for and completed a triathlon last Sunday.
I expected it. I really did.
Instead a court-staffer said, “Wasn’t she the one who lied about going to Europe for college, just so she could finish drug court early and not have to wait for the official graduation?” Then the judge expressed relief that this staffer said this first, because the judge was thinking the same thing.
I said, “Wait a minute. A recovered drug addict, two years after leaving drug court on satisfactory terms, trained for and completed a triathlon!” In response, the judge said it probably wasn’t true. I said, “I saw the results for myself online – she did it, trained for it and finished.”
Even with what I said about independent proof, I received a sis-boo-hiss of silence. The prosecutor, who happens to be a great guy, didn’t join in. But all these people are people I’ve liked, in a courtroom dedicated to helping drug addicts achieve recovery.
My client was, while a participant, a free spirit, and still is. She had, in fact, lied to drug court staff during her time in the program. So many drug court participants lie along the way – because they’re addicts, right? I knew what happened to this young woman and her experiences in Europe after leaving drug court. Terrible trouble ensued with her family and living arrangements, which I had confirmed with her mother. She came back to the States, fell in love and got married.
A triathlon, including a sprint triathlon, is a big deal in any circumstance. Doing a triathlon two years after leaving a drug court program, five years after the last illegal drug use, is a joyful success.
I cannot explain the attitude of some of the people who were involved in her fight, assuming her intentions about Europe were lies without doing any factual research. To me, any drug court finisher, no matter how aggravating along the way to sobriety, who completes a triathlon as part of a healthy life attitude, is deserving of praise. What assumed lie, after all, is so horrible that direct proof of ongoing sobriety must be greeted with such a negative response, especially from some of the people who had a hand in getting her there? They left me wondering whether they doubted my former client’s continued sobriety, and I’m left proving a negative.
The documented finish, the picture, the smile, the obvious health and attitude of a person with a mindset of pursuing such a challenging silent sport – no illegal drug use, or abused legal drug, leaves a person looking THAT healthy, or training for and completing a triathlon.
I had plenty to say, but instead left the courtroom. Direct contempt of court is never on my radar screen. It’s just hard to figure people out sometimes, even good people. My client wants this story told, but prefers no names or identifications. Besides, when it comes to a drug addict who, instead of drugs, pursues silent sports for the love of silent sports, the message should be loud and universal: