Crawford County Treatment Court grad enjoys rewards of sobriety

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Chris Konichek, a Crawford County Treatment Court Program graduate, holds a sign he gifted to Crawford County Judge Lynn Rider this week. To him, the sign represents our government as well as himself as the eagle. (Photo by Correne Martin)

Crawford County Treatment Court participant Christopher Konichek, 64, of Prairie du Chien, continues to see the rewards of hard work, dedication to the program, and maintaining his sobriety long after his graduation.

March 27, 2018, began as a regular day for Chris. Little did he know that his entire life would change that evening. While traveling along a highway in Crawford County, a dump truck pulled out into the roadway in front of Chris’ vehicle, causing Chris to smash into the back end. The crash was a potentially fatal one. Chris was seriously injured. While the accident was not Chris’ fault, his reaction time may have been delayed because Chris was intoxicated. This was not the first time. In fact, Chris will tell you that he, like many other drivers who make the choice to drive after consuming alcohol, had driven under the influence many times. 

This time, Chris knew he needed to make a serious change.

Chris was charged with OWI sixth offense. In August of 2018, Chris was sentenced to three years in prison, with three years of extended supervision to follow. 

As an alternative to the prison sentence, Crawford County Circuit Court Judge Lynn Rider gave Chris the option to remain on probation and enter the Crawford County Treatment Court Program. If he didn’t follow the program successfully, he would serve his prison sentence. But Chris had had enough of his life as an alcoholic. He decided to dive head first into the program and start making real and lasting changes for himself. 

Chris navigated his way through the program, maintaining 14 consecutive months of sobriety, attending AA meetings, going to group therapy with his peers, seeking individual counseling, and appearing in court every two weeks. The treatment court team was at his side, encouraging him and holding him accountable for his actions every step of the way. 

Chris noticed that his life began to change. He was better at communicating with those around him, both personally and professionally. He had a desire to help others, and the wherewithal to do it. 

Chris began repairing and restoring bicycles for those without transportation to use. He found that he had more financial stability within his sobriety, and he made certain that all of his court and probation obligations were paid in full. Chris completed a driver safety course, and obtained his occupational driver’s license. After 14 months, Chris graduated from the treatment court program as a successful and sober member of the community.

“It’s not easy, but I never want to go back to that,” he stated. “I can’t be around others who drink because I don’t want to put myself in the position to relapse. But I feel better than I ever have and that’s worth it.”

Graduating from treatment court motivated Chris not only to improve his own life, but to also impact others’ lives. He found such joy and peace within himself when he found sobriety, that he wanted to help others feel the same way. So when the chairman of one of the local AA meetings moved out of town, Chris stepped up and took over as a leader. 

Even through the COVID crisis, he has found ways to manage to keep the group together, and provide support for others seeking sobriety of their own. Chris also maintains contact with the participants who are currently in the treatment court program, constantly offering encouraging words and guidance for those who are now where he once was. 

“It’s hard, when I see them struggling. I wish I could help them get to where I’m at,” Chris said. 

On Sept. 10, 2020, Chris received yet another reward for his commitment and hard work. After serving two years of his three-year probation sentence, Chris was granted early discharge from probation by the judge, who witnessed his transformation first-hand through the treatment court program, and has watched it last well beyond his graduation. This, in addition to his two-plus years of sobriety, offers Chris a sense of freedom that he has not experienced in a very long time. He is no longer under the shadow of his addiction, and has many bright days ahead.

In this new way of life, Chris has pushed through a number of difficult times when he could have been triggered to relapse. He’s put in the work and changed his mindset. He knows, in his heart, that this is who he is now, and he doesn’t have to turn to alcohol. 

If you, or someone you know, needs help with a drug or alcohol addiction, please reach out.

AA Meetings currently offered in Prairie du Chien are held as follows:

•Wednesdays—6:30 p.m., Holy Trinity Church, 220 S. Michigan St. Park in the alleyway behind the church and use the door on the back side of the building.

•Fridays—8:30 p.m. at the United Methodist Church, 625 S. Dousman St.

•Saturdays—10:30 a.m. in the emergency management room in the basement of the sheriff’s office, 224 N. Beaumont Rd.  Come in the door off the parking lot on Wacouta Avenue. Masks are required.

If AA is not for you, go online to www.smartrecovery.org for alternative support.

Correne Martin contributed to this article from the Crawford County Treatment Court program. 

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