Drug court grad recognized for 10-plus years of sobriety

By Laura McVicker, Columbian staff writer

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photoDorie Ingersoll was among the first two-dozen graduates of Clark County's drug court 10 years ago. She celebrated her anniversary Thursday with a ceremony in Clark County. She says she sticks with skills she learned in drug court to stay clean today.

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Dorie Ingersoll's adult life has been marked by dates that are never far from her mind.

There was June 4, 2001, her clean date. Then there was Aug. 15, 2002, her graduation from Clark County Drug Court.

Thursday marked the most significant date of all, she said: It was the 10-year anniversary celebration of her drug court graduation and a sign of how much her life has changed from a decade ago.

"It doesn't even come close," Ingersoll said Thursday of her former milestones.

A drug and alcohol counselor in Multnomah County, Ingersoll now works to keep other addicts from sliding back into the drug life. She also works closely with Clark County's drug court as a mentor.

To honor her achievements, the 42-year-old Vancouver woman was presented a plaque Thursday by Clark County Superior Court Judge James Rulli, the first judge to oversee the county's drug court program when it began in 1999.

Rulli, who presided over Ingersoll's case, hugged her and told the packed courtroom: "It's people like Dorie who make me proud of what we started."

Ingersoll was involved in drug court when the program was still in its infancy. She was its 16th graduate.

Currently, the program has 150 defendants enrolled and has graduated 412 people since 2001. It allows defendants to stay out of jail if they agree to the therapeutic program and stay clean. There are now a total of seven therapeutic courts in Clark County, including homeless and veterans courts, which have drawn on the same mission as drug court, said Brad Finegood, Clark County Superior Court's therapeutic courts coordinator.

"In 1999, they had no idea what they would be doing would be setting the tone" for other therapeutic courts and more defendants, Finegood said.

A new life

As Ingersoll told a crowd, which included family, friends and current drug court defendants, that she didn't intend to stay away from methamphetamine and heroin, her drugs of choice. That was until her graduation day.

"When I first got into drug court, my plan was to play the system," she said.

But that day, she said, she realized she didn't want to lose the things she gained: Her teen daughters were living with her again and she had her own apartment. She started a job at Christensen Shipyards the day after graduation.

"I got scared of losing everything I had gained that year," she said. "Drug court saved my life."

Ingersoll said she applied the life skills she had learned in her everyday life. They were fairly simple: She went to work every day and attended 12-step meetings.

"I just carried that with me every single day," she said to the crowd. "What they're teaching you to do today, I'm still doing."

About two years ago, Ingersoll got a job with Multnomah County helping women reintegrate into society after prison. Two months later, she was offered a job as a drug and alcohol counselor, putting her back in drug court on the other side.

The day before her anniversary celebration, Ingersoll saw one of her clients graduate from drug court and signed the client's diploma.

It was surreal, she said.

"There are some days, I can't believe what I get to do," she said.

She said she offers her clients the tips from 12-step meetings that helped her.

To keep her own transformation fresh in her mind, Ingersoll said she sneaks into a courtroom, preferably Judge Rulli's court, on a day every August since her graduation. She watches the defendants appear before the judge and thinks about her former self.

"I think it's important to remember exactly where we came from," Ingersoll said. "Or we forget how far we've come."

Laura McVicker: www.twitter.com/col_courts;www.facebook.com/reportermcvicker;laura.mcvicker@columbian.com; 360-735-4516.