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BREAKING NEWS

Living clean and sober

By Staff | Mar 14, 2011

A celebration ceremony was held Wednesday in Fairmont for drug court graduates (left to right) Tony Phillips of Jackson, Trent DeRuyter of Okabena and Bruce Baxter of Fairmont.

The smile of a proud parent is hard to put into words.

On Tuesday, Bonnie Baxter of Winnebago was all smiles. And, it was undescribeable.

Her son, Bruce Baxter of Fairmont, had just graduated from the Faribault-Martin-Jackson Multi-County Substance Abuse Program, also known as drug court.

“It’s quite an accomplishment. It took dedication, self-control and confidence in himself,” says Bonnie. “I’ve always wanted the best for him. I have loved him always, through the good or bad times.”

It was a day of celebration for Baxter, Tony Phillips of Jackson and Trent DeRuyter of Okabena.

Judge Douglas Richards and Fairmont officer Lowell Spee recognize Baxter.

All had faced a substance abuse problem and pleaded guilty to the drug-related charge they were arrested for.

Friends and family gathered in the courtroom at the Martin County Courthouse to honor the three for completing the 18-month program.

“It’s been two years, two months and four days,” Baxter says. “It’s been a very long road. I’ve had a lot of success, but also a lot of problems.”

Baxter’s run-ins with the law began when he lived in Faribault County. He appeared many times before Judge Douglas Richards.

His offenses ranged from getting a speeding ticket to driving while intoxicated and selling a controlled substance-meth. At one point he owed $10,000 in fines, that has been whittled to $2,500.

“He had 44 open files when he started,” says Richards. “Going from 44 to zero today is a great accomplishment.”

Baxter credits his success to the support of family, friends and drug court officials. But, he also had a word for the naysayers and those who doubted him.

“I want to give special thanks to those people I had a chance to prove wrong,” he says.

Phillips’ mother spoke of her son, saying it would have been easy for him to quit the program after his father had passed away.

“I love seeing you smile and hearing you laugh again. I have my son back instead of the shell you had become. Your father would be proud of you.”

Phillips admits he would have reverted back to his old ways if it had not been for the support of people in drug court.

“There were times I wanted to go back to using, just to numb myself from it,” he says. “But, I realized I had to do it for my dad, too. I know he’d be disappointed if I failed.”

For DeRuyter, drug court was more than just staying sober. It helped him become a more responsible person.

Soon, DeRuyter will be finishing college and he says it’s all because of the drug court program.

“It’s taught me how to maintain my life and how to handle some of the situations that come along,” he says.

Outside the courtroom, the graduates talk with well-wishers before cake and refreshments are served in the rotunda area.

Besides completing drug court, Baxter has some other accomplishments that many may take for granted.

He’s held a job and been sober for two and a half years, which Baxter says, “that’s a record.”

Also, after seven years Baxter now has his driver’s license.

His 3-year-old son Zachery is having fun looking at a certificate, sweatshirt and other items given to the graduates.

Baxter also has two other children and he says he’s excited about what the future holds, which involves being a better parent.

“I was never there for them when they really needed me. I was there as a father, but not as a dad to give them the love they needed. I am now,” he says.

Since drug court began in December 2006 there have been 29 who have made it through the program; Baxter is the seventh graduate from Faribault County.

“He (Baxter) is off to doing good things and being a productive citizen,” Richards says.