OSSIPEE — Thomas Saujon told a crowded courtroom that the worst day of his life likely saved it.
Last August, Saujon, 35, of Effingham, was facing seven counts of drug possession, two counts of falsifying evidence as well as burglary and was looking at a decade or more being behind bars on the felony charges.
He found a lifeline when he was allowed to become one of seven defendants to enroll in the newly launched Carroll County Drug Court that combines community-based treatment programs with strict judicial oversight and progressive incentives and sanctions.
He pleaded guilty to burglarizing a rural farm stand that makes its own ice cream and stealing $135.10. He was sentenced to two to four years in state prison that was suspended on the condition he complete the intensive drug court program. The remaining charges were dismissed.
“In the first few months of drug court, I made some of the biggest changes and accomplishments in my life. I stopped using heroin and successfully weaned myself off Subutex (a prescription drug used to treat opioid dependence),” Saujon said.
“I knew if I could do this much, there was so much more in life waiting for me to achieve as well,” Saujon said during a poignant graduation ceremony held at the Carroll County Superior Court Tuesday morning.
In the audience were Saujon’s mother, his grandmother, his sister and young niece. He credited them with being an important part of the recovery network that has helped keep him sober for nearly two years.
“This is the day that we acknowledge all of the hard work that you have done. We know this is an hour by hour, day by day effort that everyone is putting in. Your commitment to sobriety that all of you are making is just huge and it opens up doors to a wonderful life, a much more meaningful life for you, for your family and for all the people you have worked with and you should all be congratulated for that,” Judge Amy Ignatius said.
Six other defendants, two women and four men, remain enrolled in drug court whose core tenet, according to Ignatius, is accountability and truthfulness.
In his own remarks during the ceremonies, First District Executive Councilor Mike Cryans told those enrolled in drug court that upon their graduation each will have the opportunity to serve as role models.
“You’re going to be the first ambassador for this program here in Carroll County and show people, ‘I’ve done it, you can do it.’ I know it’s a struggle. It is not an easy program. Anyone who has ever been involved with drug court realizes it is a lot of hard work and that makes it worthwhile,” Cryans told Saujon.
Speaking of his own struggles to meet the mandates of drug court, Saujon told the gathering that when he reacted to a new medication, he crashed his car and feared he would wash out of the program.
Following the ceremonies, Saujon’s mother recounted that her son reacted to a blood pressure medication, causing him to crash into a Center Ossipee restaurant, the second time he’d experienced such a medical event resulting in his car hitting a building.
Saujon has pleaded not guilty to a reckless operation violation for a May 25 mishap in which his 2013 Chevy Sonic crashed through the exterior wall of Mountainview Station Restaurant. The structural damage closed the popular Main Street eatery for several weeks until repairs were made.
On Tuesday, Saujon credited Bob Nylin, the coordinator for the Carroll and Coos County drug courts, with making him feel welcome and for helping him to finally feel what it was like not to live in fear.
“I don’t know how I can ever repay you,” Saujon said to the members of the drug court team, “other than to keep doing what I have been doing for nearly the past two years.”
“It is the longest lesson I have ever had to learn to enjoy liberty that comes with living life the right, respectable way.”