Two years and two months later, Dawsonville mother Rori Brooks are rejoicing that she has won her battle against active drug addiction.
Brooks’ family and friends celebrated her accomplishment as the first person ever to graduate from the Dawson County Family Treatment Court. The program hosted a commencement ceremony for her on Sept. 30, which family and friends attended in person at the government center and via Zoom.
Dawson’s FTC program started in 2019 as an alternative to regular drug court. Through it, parents have access to drug and alcohol treatment, judicial monitoring of their sobriety and individualized services for family members.
The program aims to improve children’s safety and housing stability; return productive, sober citizens to the county and reduce the community cost for child dependency cases involving parental substance abuse.
Brooks’ graduation was sponsored by Friends of Recovery, a nonprofit that supports FTC as well as the other accountability courts. For more information about how to assist this organization, you can contact them at (770) 733-7493 or at their mailing address, P.O. Box 1013, Dawsonville, GA 30534.
During her graduation, Brooks explained that multiple people on the street told her the program was set up to fail. However, she was convinced that she could get sober.
“If I set my mind to something, I can usually do it, and I didn't want to go back to jail anymore,” she said. “I didn’t want to go to prison.”
Her long-term boyfriend, Wesley Forrester, also voiced his gratitude for the program.
“I want to thank y’all because y’all didn’t just change one life; it’s been two,” Forrester said. “I went through all this with her. I made sacrifices. I [also] got clean.”
Dawson County Juvenile Court Judge Alison Toller presided over the graduation. Toller praised how Brooks engaged others in group and counseling sessions and how she befriended and mentored others in the program.
“She was just what we (the program) needed when she needed us,” Toller added.
One of Brooks’ best friends and accountability partner, Lydia Fuller, tearfully congratulated her during the ceremony.
“You have been a very good inspiration to me,” said Fuller, who graduates from FTC herself at the end of October. “You’re going to do good things....and I love you.”
Brooks’ friend of two-plus decades, Debanny Edwards, also spoke during the occasion about having loved her friend through five years of active addiction with minimal contact.
“Those years, all I could do was pray,” Edwards said. “I’ve seen her go through some tough times that were just unthinkable, but I've never seen somebody rise up so well.”
During Brooks’ recovery, the two found themselves chatting again like no time had passed. “I’m so proud of her and so proud to have my best friend back,” Edwards concluded.
Brooks thanked her stepmother, her father, FTC officials and other court and law enforcement personnel for their guidance and support.
Brooks said she first tried drugs and alcohol in middle school and continued to partake throughout her adolescent years. She also struggled with having her first daughter as a teen mom and raising her and a second daughter, Cailie, while being married to a husband who abused alcohol.
After divorcing him, Brooks struggled to have healthy relationships with relatives, friends and other men. She also dealt with postpartum depression after her third daughter’s birth.
In August 2014, the Department of Family and Child Services (DFCS) removed her daughters and placed them into her father and stepmother’s home. Drugs took more from Brooks than just her daughters. Things like her home, car, her business and her health. At one point, she was even hospitalized with sepsis, a deadly infection.
In the midst of juggling addiction, sobriety and jail, Brooks met Forrester in 2018. Later that year, she started drug court. Brooks and Forrester were committed to getting clean together.
“He was everything that I've never had as far as someone that’s nice and kind,” she said. “He didn’t cuss or hit me, and he was so good with my kids.”
Two months after a slip-up for probation violations, Brooks started Dawson’s FTC program in January of 2019. As Brooks often puts it, she “grew up again,” as she matured alongside Forrester, her junior in age, over the next two years.
In addition to steady housing, employment and transportation, she also restored her relationship with her mother and her eldest daughter. Brooks regained custody of Cailie before she turned 18, something that some predicted would never happen.
“I [also] had a son, that I believe my higher power I choose to call God, gave me,” Brooks said.
“He wouldn’t be here if not for the sacrifices and for everything we’ve been through, so thank y’all very much,” Forrester said of their son.
Brooks hopes to stay in touch with FTC officials, and she’s looking to start helping with area recovery organizations.
“When Rori puts her mind to something, she does it,” Edwards added. “I wholeheartedly believe she can help so many others with her testimony...so if you think you can’t do it, she is living proof that you can.”