It's been 10 years since George 'Ed' Bryant of Nicholson got his first DUI.

On Thursday night, as the first graduate of the Wyoming Sullivan Counties Drug Treatment Court, he also finally got his life back.

Judge Russell Shurtleff noted to the more than 100 persons gathered at Triton Hose Company in Tunkhannock that when he first met Bryant in his magisterial district court in Factoryville in 2000, he was sure that if something wasn't done, Bryant would either kill himself or someone else.

So, at that time, Shurtleff had no gumption about sending him off to jail.

Case closed.

Recently, however - actually, a year and a half after his meetings in Drug Treatment Court began - "Ed has an identity," Shurtleff said, "and we can all welcome him back into our community."

Shurtleff traced the origins of the Treatment Court back to a group called Wyoming County CARES which was formed five years ago, when one of its founders, Sandy Vieczorek, was grieving over the loss of her son, Randy, to a drug overdose.

Sandy preceded Bryant to the podium and said that on behalf of all the families touched by addiction, "Thanks to the treatment court for helping us see beyond the possibility of recovery."

She noted that to all those still in court, "You've all been given the same chance to move forward."

To the new grad, she said he had a lot resting on his shoulders because he was the first and would be expected to set the example to all others to follow.

But, she reminded him, "the biggest person you need to live up to is simply yourself."

Shurtleff noted that out of CARES' urging a grant was secured in January 2008, and the drug court got going in the summer.

Bryant said that it was tough for him Thursday night to stand up before a group, but the toughest part was to think where he was in the summer of 2007 after three DUIs in six years, and what he had gone through after having lost three houses.

It was when the foreclosure sign went up in front of the third that he realized something had to be done.

He completed his GED and now owns a house, all because he said Judge Shurtleff and others behind the treatment court helped him realize he needed "to think beyond myself and take care of other people."

His wife Rose was one of the first to be thanked also because she helped him get to meetings. And, Bryant started the first ones up in the Nicholson area.

Eric Posner of A Better Today called Bryant "a shining example" and said that he was proof positive that it was possible "to have the happy, better life that sobriety brings."

To the 20 others still awaiting graduation, Posner said, "If you want what Ed has, you can have it."

And he reminded the people from the community present that they were the most important of all because they would provide the support needed when the time came.

Shurtleff said that nothing would make him happier than to see the other 20 members of the drug court following in Ed's footsteps.

"He did it, and all of you can, too," Shurtleff said, "but you need to want it."

He noted that as judge, "I'm sometimes not the person you really want to see and I've ticked many of you off. But know I'm proud of all of you and where I know you're headed."