Her first OWI was in 2013 at 8:30 a.m. on her way to work when “my van went off the road and I landed upside down in the snow and unconscious.” However, that did not stop her from drinking, which led to her second OWI at the end of 2014 while driving to Iowa to visit a daughter in college. But nothing changed. In fact, her alcohol consumption escalated to the point of drinking daily at work, which resulted in losing a job she had held for 20 years.
The legal problems and multiple divorce filings by her husband led to attempts at recovery, including detox, hospitalizations, even a few out-of-state inpatient stays, and Alcoholics Anonymous (AA) meetings. She had brief periods of sobriety, but they never lasted. Cassy states, “I missed my daughters’ entire high school years, all the activities and events, even their graduation. They didn’t want me there.” Ultimately, while at an inpatient treatment program in Florida, she received a text from one of her daughters, then a young adult, addressing her by name as “Cassy” instead of “mom.” The text stated that she was “disowning” her mom and no longer wanted any relationship with her.
So much loss. Yet after being released from treatment, Cassy continued to drink to suppress the mounting emotional pain, not seeing any way out of it despite attending AA meetings the entire time. She resorted to stealing money to buy alcohol. She lied to everyone, and she lied to herself. She was living a life of denial and complete desperation.
In August of 2017, Cassy’s life trajectory was finally about to change. While tending to her husband in the hospital after emergency surgery, she was arrested and handcuffed in the hospital room, in front of her sick husband, for her third OWI. A nearby neighbor had observed her swerving onto their lawn and called police.
“My third OWI literally brought me to my knees,” Cassy states. “My attorney said, “there is a program made just for you, for people who are high-risk and high-need.” The OWI Treatment Court (OTC) is operated by WCS in collaboration with the Waukesha County court system. This voluntary, post-conviction program provides intensive case management, access to treatment, and significant judicial oversight of third- and fourth-offense drunk drivers. While the incentive to participate is the possibility of a reduced sentence, the emphasis is on treatment, with accountability, in an effort to help people break the cycle of drunk driving, improve the chances of a sober and healthy life, and contribute to a safe community.
Cassy was admitted to the program in February 2018. She was released from the Huber Jail with 30 days of an electronic alcohol monitoring ankle bracelet called SCRAM (Secure Continuous Remote Alcohol Monitoring). She was hopeful, but the road to recovery was long and the program requirements were intensive. Once the SCRAM bracelet was removed, Cassy started to drink again which landed her in jail for a night as a sanction.
It was this time, when WCS OTC director, Kristy, met with Cassy that something changed. Cassy recalls that, “Kristy sat right down next to me, put her hand on my knee, looked right at me and said ‘This program is not here to punish you. It’s here to help you.” After all the loss, all the legal trouble and all the pain, Cassy says, “At that very moment it clicked for me. I was finally ready to put in the work.”
Cassy went on to follow all of the rigorous program requirements and meet the treatment goals. She states that it was the “incremental benchmarks” that led to her success, each positive achievement leading to the next. She graduated from the OTC program on February 28, 2019. While in the program, she had secured an entry-level job that led to a promotion, which in turn has now led to an excellent position working in the administration offices of a local municipality. She was honest about her past struggles with the interview panel, and she was chosen for the job out of 200 applicants. Cassy is proud to be a certified peer support specialist, now assisting others in the WCS OTC program. She is also an active volunteer at her church. She has returned to being a regular runner and maintaining a healthy life without alcohol. Her husband ultimately stood by her, and today he is “amazed” at her success.
But, most profoundly of all, Cassy and her adult daughters have restored their mother-daughter relationship. Recently, Cassy and one of her daughters competed in a half-marathon together.
Cassy reflects on the OTC program and her long path to recovery, “Without my sobriety, I had no marriage, no kids and no job. If I would have just done my jail time, the day I got out I would have been drinking. Honestly, I don’t think I would be alive. I can’t say enough about the program. It saved my life.”