David Purcell

David F. Purcell successfully completed Shelby County Drug Court and his graduation ceremony was held on January 31, 2020.

It was time for David Purcell to say goodbye to substance abuse, even if he had to be the only one. Purcell was the lone graduate of Shelby County Drug Court at the Shelby County Courthouse on Jan. 31.

Purcell went through the Shelby County Drug Court program and graduated successfully.

Undoing patterns of behavior and responding in a less destructive manor takes time and effort. At the end of the ceremony, Judge Allan Lolie and State’s Attorney Gina Vonderheide dismissed the charges against Purcell and presented him with his diploma.

Purcell started the program in spring of 2018 and after two years had ran the course, fought the fight, and finished the race. Purcell addressed the court.

“I entered the drug court program on April 20, 2018, but the journey to who I am now started two years prior to that day,” said Purcell. “In 2016, I was exactly what you would picture if you thought of a full blown heroin junkie. I was 170 lbs, my eyes were glossed and sunken. I had scabs on my face from compulsive picking and I would rob you blind without a second thought.”

Purcell described himself as “a mindless, emotionless, numb, shell of a man running on heroin, chaos, with a little luck on my side.” Then Purcell was arrested.

“The beginning of my series of life-changing events was set off when I got arrested, back-to-back, in Macon County,” Purcell said. “I was arrested for burglary, which I sat for a few days, all the while thinking up ways to use somebody to get myself out of this situation and get back to my insanity. Within a few days, I had played the correct heart strings and was back into action.”

Less than a month passed and he was picked up again in Macon County.

“I had two bonds, Purcell said. “Before I could find the right combination of words filled with fake emotion, apologies and broken promises, I was sent to court, charged with two class 2 felonies and sentenced to two months jail time.

“I spent the first two to three weeks laying around dope sick worse than ever,” Purcell continued. “Once the initial physical and mental symptoms weakened, I used my time thinking from a somewhat clear-headed standpoint, which I hadn’t done at this point for seven-plus years.”

Purcell referred to his jail time as a “vacation” from how he had been living.

“During this vacation, I made a pact with myself, that no matter the circumstance, I would never again use heroin, Purcell said. “I finished my sentence for Macon and was transported to Moultrie (County), where I had another 7 days stayed time I had to serve.”

Purcell got a tattoo to seal his pact.

“I quickly got with my brother to give me a tattoo. I had him tattoo on me the words, “I will not bow” as my new tagline in my head, holding me to the pact that I will never again become the shell of a person I was, running off substances.”

No more heroin, but what happened was Purcell just changed substances.

“I wasn’t quite strong enough to quit completely, so I got back on suboxone,” Purcell said. “

From 2016-2018 he says he was stuck in a rut.

“I wanted a better life, I just wasn’t sure or wasn’t strong enough to get it,” Purcell said.

In 2017 and 2018 he had a few more arrests for burglary in Cole County and Shelby County.

“I thought for sure they were the nails in my coffin,” Purcell said. “I had attempted to take drug court two times prior to this, but fell short, before I even got entered in.

“During my final trials, I was denied drug court and had a prison offer. I can’t remember how or why, but before I accepted the prison deal, drug court got put back into play. At this point, I had to take a real serious look at what I was doing and start taking life seriously again.”

Purcell was apprehensive about those he would have to interact with in the law enforcement community.

“I was very unsure of 100% of the population and even more unsure of you if you had a badge or worked at the courthouse,” Purcell said. “I say all of that back story to get to this. Within six months of being in this program, I felt like an entirely new person.

“I was treated with respect, compassion and trust by every single member of this drug court team, SCCS Substance Abuse and SCCS Mental Health. This treatment allowed me to see for the first time in a long time, that I was worth more than prison. I was worth more than overdosing and that if strangers with badges that work in the courthouse can give that to me, what can I give to my family, friends, and the world?”

Purcell said that he selected everyone who attended the drug court graduation for a reason and spoke to them.

“Out of everyone I have met, this is the small group (minus Landon, Uriah, and Hunter) that never turned their backs on me, never let me quit, and gave me strength to pull through to get to the person I am right now,” Purcell said.

“I am very new to expressing feelings and gratitude, but from the depth of my soul, thank you to everyone here right now. You all played an integral part in my survival through addiction, my life, and shaping who I will choose to be in the future.

“You all have my love, respect, trust, and I will be there for any one of you in the future in any capacity, if ever you should call on me.”

Although he was the only graduate, this time, he had a host of support from those involved the program. Those included were the Honorable Judge Allan Lolie, Drug Court Coordinator Aaron Burdick, Drug Court Probation Office Heather Wade, Shelby County State’s Attorney Gina Vonderheide, Shelby County Assistant State’s Attorney Brian Bach, Shelby County Public Defender Bradford Rau, Shelby County Community Services Mental Health Director Ed Lacheta, Shelby County Community Services Substance Abuse Director Natalie Inman, and Shelby County Law Enforcement Representative Rick Hoadley.

It is the mission statement of the Shelby County Drug Court to reduce drug use and recidivism, while increasing public safety and overall quality of life in our community by providing a court-supervised program for high risk, substance dependent offenders, which partners with substance abuse, mental health and other community resources to transform participants into positive, contributing members of society.

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

John Curtis can be reached at john.curtis@shelbyvilledailyunion.com

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