DARLINGTON – It was an emotional day on Monday, May 2, in the Lafayette County Courtroom as several supporters of the Lafayette County OWI Treatment Court witnessed their first ever graduation from the program.
Cade Kirkpatrick began in the program in November 2020 and was handed his official diploma from the program after a very checkered and chaotic past with alcoholism.
“I’m going to be 32. From age 13 to 26, I wasn’t sober for one day unless I was incarcerated or forced beyond my will,” Kirkpatrick told the courtroom. “It has been a long road.”
Lafayette County was awarded the Treatment Alternatives and Diversion (TAD) grant in 2019 in the amount of $118,533 for a two-year funding period to help them establish an operated while intoxicated, or OWI, court in the county. The program began in October 2020 with four participants.
“This is the end of treatment court for you but this is the next step or phase in your life,” Judge Duane Jorgenson told Kirkpatrick. “This is your day. You have been a mentor and an example for others.”
District Attorney Jenna Gill stated that those on the Treatment Court board were hesitant about letting Kirkpatrick into their program because of his lengthy record.
“It took a while for you to gain trust from all of us. But every time you would come here, we all said “wow, he’s really getting it”. We now all say how awesome it has been for you to be part of this. You get it and you have grown so much,” Gill said.
Kirkpatrick understood how they had reservations with him. Originally from the Montfort area, Kirkpatrick began his addictions in 2003 when he started smoking marijuana. By 14 he was getting into more drugs and drinking alcohol. At 18 he was a “full blown alcoholic”.
“Between 2005 and 2010, I had 11 underage drinking violations.”
He said he continued on using drugs and drinking until 21 when he started doing heroin.
“It seemed like the thing to do. Everyone was tired of me being a problem drunk. I thought if I could circumvent [the drinking] by doing heroin, it would help. But then came all the problems.”
He continued to drink heavily and use heroin, even after overdosing a couple times. During all of this time, he was in and out of jail. He believes in just Iowa County he had been arrested 50 times.
“It was just a vortex of drug abuse, alcohol and jail time.”
In 2013, he started using methamphetamine.
“That seemed like it was the answer to all my problems. I wasn’t sleepy. I wasn’t sick. I could do things. I thought I had it all figured out.”
He got busted with meth several times. The last time was in 2016. He started treatment court in Grant County but was kicked out in 2015. He did a year in the county jail. Three months after he got out of jail, he was picked up for meth and was sent to prison for four years.
“That was a good thing. That turned a page in my life. But when I got out, I thought I could drink irresponsibly again and that is when I got the DUI (driving under the influence).”
It was his third DUI.
“It was probably a good thing to get that DUI. It got me to where I am today.”
The whole time Kirkpatrick said there was no doubt in his mind that he had a problem.
“I was trying to keep it out of the public’s eyes but that wasn’t possible. I would tell myself, “You’re 21, do it for a couple years then you have the rest of your life. Then it turned into 24, 25, 26. You try to fool yourself into thinking it is ok. I would do anything to spin it saying, “Well, maybe being a bad person is who I am and I’d accept I was a bad person.”
He learned that it was never too late to get help.
“Nobody is too far gone in my book.”
He had thought that getting help and graduating from treatment court was never going to happen for him and that he could never put in enough work in himself to do it.
“I got good people behind me, people that don’t take any B.S. They help me work at it every day. I didn’t think this day would come. Now it is here and it feels good. Once you get a taste of having a job, having money, and a family that supports you, Then you know what you were missing all those years.”
“A lot of work goes into this. Cade shows that this program works,” Judge Jorgenson said.
In the State of Wisconsin, fifth offense OWIs (operating while intoxicated) are given mandatory prison time of 18 months. It costs $30,000 to put someone in the prison system for one year. That would equate to $45,000 for 18 months. When a person goes into treatment court that is $45,000 that the State of Wisconsin isn’t expending. For the 10 people in treatment court, instead of costing the State of Wisconsin approximately $450,000 to put them in prison, it is costing only $150,000 a year for the treatment court program.
“It is not only saving money but when you listen to them talk about having a job, being able to take care of family, paying taxes, attributing to society, its all adding up. It’s a no brainer.”
Jorgenson, who is very passionate about the program, remembers when Kirkpatrick came into the program, with his barriers up, expecting to fail but then succeeded in the end.
“What is really neat about this is he has kids. They have seen him at his worst. They can now see what it can be like. He is setting an example, breaking a chain of addiction. It is very significant,” Jorgenson said.
Jorgenson said a lot of work goes into the program but seeing Kirkpatrick’s graduation is worth all of it.
Kirkpatrick plans on continuing with his routines he has set for himself, going to work, grill out more, go fishing with his son and celebrate and spend time with his family.