Two McNairy County residents graduated from the McNairy County Recovery Court Thursday, marking the addiction rehabilitation program’s first-ever graduates.

Chelsea Bowen and Douglas Britt Jr. both graduated the recovery program after undergoing twelve months of guidance, community service and support.

The graduation was as much a celebration of the two as it was a joyous exclamation of success for the deeply empathetic and vital program.

“I am thankful to be a part of this program,” said Derek Bodiford, pastor of the local Lakeview Church and leader of the program, as he introduced Bowen and Britt Jr.  “I feel called to it…I love doing it.”

“There is absolutely no difference between anybody that’s using drugs, and me,” he continued. “Absolutely no difference. And because there is no difference, they need someone to kind of point them in a direction, and open a door, and let them choose to walk in.”

As one of 82 recovery courts across Tennessee, the local program offers non-violent individuals with substance-use disorders a structured, safe treatment plan that works closely with legal and clinical personnel to end addiction.

The ceremony featured a light luncheon and sizable crowd inside the Latta building, where county officials, law enforcement officers, excited family and supportive friends all gathered to wish their congratulations to the hard-working duo.

Judge Van McMahan opened the ceremony with words of congratulations for the two, as well as an explanation of the program and a deep appreciation for Bodiford.

“It’s a whole lot better now than it was before,” he said, speaking on the Recovery court program’s evolution from what was the county’s former rehabilitation service, which he called the “poor man’s recovery court.”

Recovery Court now exists as a year-long, three-phase program, with “a whole lot of drug screening!”

“The number one reason we started this recovery court was to help people get them away from the addiction of drugs and to better their lives,” McMahan said. “We want to get people drug free. And in doing that, it’s going to help a lot of other things.”

“It’s a great resource, I think.” 

In praise of Bodiford, McMahan couldn’t say enough.

“He is a god-send,” he said passionately. “There is no better person on the planet to run this recovery court than Derek.”

He continued, saying “He puts everything together. And he’s the key to holding all of this together.”

A keynote speaker also took the stage—Joe Thorson, staff member of the Adult and Teen Challenge, with his story of inspirational recovery.

“I’m so proud of you, Doug and Chelsea,” he said, glowingly. “I know that you’re going to get through this thing.”

Thorson compared their continuing journey to CPR—but instead of standing for cardiopulmonary resuscitation, in this case the acronym stood for persistency, consistency and resolute—the key terms Thorson attributes his sobriety too.

“This is really just the beginning.”

Similar determination could be seen in the attitudes of other rehabilitation program attendees, one of which who is also eyeing graduation from Recovery Court within the coming months.

“Nobody’s recovery is ever by itself. It takes a team,” Bodiford concluded, echoing Thorson’s words. “When that door was opened to (Bowens and Britt Jr.), they chose to walk through it. And they’re continuing too—their journey’s not over. It’s just the beginning.”

The Independent Appeal wishes Bowen and Britt Jr. the best on their new chapter.


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