Allegan Co. man graduates from meth diversion program after years of addiction

Posted at 6:17 PM, Jan 14, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-14 18:17:02-05

ALLEGAN, Mich.-- An Allegan County man graduated Wednesday from the METH Diversion Program after years of addiction.

Donald Johnson began using the drug at just 17 years old.

"First time I tried it I fell in love with it," Johnson said. "The energy, the focus, the being able to basically live an unstoppable party life. It made me feel like king of the world."

Like most highs, Johnson's highs came with devastating lows, resulting in a ripple effect of trouble, "from assault charges to drug convictions to destroying my family," Johnson said tearfully.

His best friend died in his arms after using the drughe said.

The program began nearly 10 years ago.

Case manager Steven Walker, who keeps a watchful eye on the addicts in during the course of their treatment, said the program isn't just about saving the participants' lives but those of their children by bringing an end to a pattern of drug use and crime that tends to pass from one generation to the next.

"This is the most awful drug I've seen," Walker said. "The taxpayers should be proud of the program and what it does here."

Still, success is based on individuals and their desire to do and be better.

"My breaking point was (when) I had to explain to my kids why they weren't important enough to me to make this life change," Johnson said, "that I was going to prison, and they were going to have to grow up without me."

Now, at 39 years old, Johnson stood before a judge yet again in an Allegan County courtroom. This time, he was commended for successfully completing the program.

Instead of living a lonely life in a prison cell he stood and accepted his certificate of complete with everyone from his family to the professionals with the program.

"I want to thank everybody for all your support," Johnson told the courtroom. "I would not be where I'm at without every single person in this room."

The METH Diversion Program has a success rate of 92 percent. With 52 graduates, only five have had to re-enter.

If not for the help of the program, Johnson would be locked up until 2017, costing the state more than $100,000.