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From drug dealing to celebrating sobriety: Bigelow man graduates from treatment court

Jeremiah Reitmeier earns his Minnesota Cornerstone Drug Court diploma and sobriety plate from his sponsor after participating in treatment cour for over 1,000 days and being more than 200 days sober. (Alyssa Sobotka / The Globe)

WORTHINGTON — Using and dealing meth, drinking alcohol, getting shot at, hiding from law enforcement and sleeping in a bathtub.

That was what Jeremiah Reitmeier’s blurred life escalated to when drugs and alcohol had a stronghold on him.  

Now, three years later, the Bigelow man celebrated 238 days sober and graduated Wednesday from Minnesota Cornerstone Drug Court — a four-phase, rigorous program that provides a pathway to sobriety for repeat, high-risk chemical-dependent individuals. Reitmeier was one of two graduates Wednesday.

“It depends on what you’re willing to give up,” Reitmeier said about a person’s ability to commit to a sober lifestyle.

Reitmeier was admitted into Rock, Nobles treatment court in March 2015 on the basis of a 2013 law enforcement bust and subsequent fifth-degree controlled substance, possession of a weapon and drug paraphernalia charges.

By Wednesday’s graduation, Reitmeier had logged 1,120 days in treatment court, appeared at more than 70 review hearings, submitted approximately 420 urinalysis tests, received six sanctions and earned 10 incentives.  

The 34-year-old had a long journey in drug court as he attempted to alter the lifestyle he’d become addicted to at a much younger age.

Reitmeier said he started drinking alcohol when he was 14 or 15. The drugs came later in his early 20’s.

Methamphetamine was not always his drug of choice, he recalls.

He tried meth after a marijuana conviction led to supervised probation, which included random urinalysis testing.

“(Marijuana) takes 30 days to get out of your system and meth takes three days,” Reitmeier said about why he switched controlled substances.

A seasonal worker, Reitmeier eventually began dealing to support his addiction.

“It didn’t cost me anything (to use),” he said about the incentive to be a dealer. “It was good money.”

Reitmeier guesses he made approximately $30,000 in four to five months.

But Reitmeier was not pocketing the cash care-free. The dealing lifestyle, he acknowledged, came with a price.

“It was stressful,” he said. “I always had to be available. People were always coming over, wouldn’t leave (me) alone and always wanted something from (me). You didn’t know who your friends were, and people would steal from you.”

His sense of security had also diminished, both inside and outside his home. He had secluded himself from the outside world. As an outdoors-type person, that was difficult, he said.  

The windows of his Bigelow home also took a beating, as bullets shattered through them on numerous occasions.

“That’s why I’d sleep in my bathtub,” Reitmeier said about the approximately month-period he took nighttime refuge in his bathroom because of the lack of windows. “I couldn’t tell you who (shot at my windows). It was kind of chaotic back then.”

Reitmeier acknowledged that reality came toward the end of his drug dealing phase, a timeframe of six to seven months when it was not uncommon for him to use meth and drink alcohol non-stop.

“I could do it all day, all night,” he said. “I liked the effects all the drugs had on me. It was all a blur.”

Nobles County Sheriff’s deputies and Buffalo Ridge Drug Task Force agents eventually came knocking in 2013, but the drug and alcohol use did not stop there. It was not until April 12, 2015 — a day Reitmeier distinctly remembers just prior to being admitted into the drug court program — that he threw out the meth for good.  

Despite being able to quash his drug addiction, Reitmeier’s treatment court journey was not without challenges and bumps along the way.

“I wasn’t serious about drug court at all at first,” he admitted. “It was about a month or two before I got caught (for alcohol consumption).”

With three or more random urinalysis tests a week and daily call-ins, it’s not easy to lie about sobriety, he said.

“They hold you accountable,” he said about the treatment court program. “Until you get enough time underneath you, there’s those UA’s three times a week — they’re constantly watching you, doing house checks to make sure there’s nothing in your house. It all helps starting out, but after a while you need to figure out how to do it on your own.”

What has been helpful is cutting ties with all of his former friendships and forming new relationships with people who are currently undergoing or have gone through a similar battle, he said.

“I hang out with sober people,” he said. “It’s a lot easier.”

Not only has Reitmeier been able to get clean, he’s also made significant advancements in his personal and professional lives.

A former student of Worthington High School, Reitmeier dropped out during his junior year. More than a decade later and while a participant in treatment court, Reitmeier earned his GED. He also successfully obtained his driver’s license and crane operator certification, and now works as a crane operator.

One thing Reitmeier has never let derail his progress, then or now, is potentially negative public perception. He said he has never given much credit to what anyone ever thought of him.

While things are on the up and up for Reitmeier and he’s been able to take more control of his life, he admits there are still some looming thoughts surrounding alcohol.

“Drugs don’t bother me at all, but alcohol, it’s legal,” he said. “It’s around you all the time. Anywhere you walk into, you see it.”

Determined to continue adding a digit each day to his day’s sober count, he turns to others.

“I reach out, and I talk to someone,” he said.