Holtmeyer graduates from DWI Treatment Court, will continue to help others battle alcohol abuse

By Neal A. Johnson, UD Editor
Posted 1/14/22

Glen Holtmeyer, 56, of St. Elizabeth, grew up thinking nothing of having a few beers with friends or at an event and then climbing behind the wheel.

“That’s just the way it was,” …

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Holtmeyer graduates from DWI Treatment Court, will continue to help others battle alcohol abuse

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Glen Holtmeyer, 56, of St. Elizabeth, grew up thinking nothing of having a few beers with friends or at an event and then climbing behind the wheel.

“That’s just the way it was,” said Holtmeyer, who last Tuesday was the lone graduate of the Gasconade/Osage County DWI Treatment Court. “Growing up in a large family, no matter the event, there was alcohol involved. It was a common theme, you know?”

Holtmeyer was joined by a multitude of family members and friends for dinner and the graduation ceremony.

“It doesn’t seem like it’s over,” said Holtmeyer. “It doesn’t seem like that long ago I started the program but I kept thinking I would do the next right thing and get through it. I have a better life now, and you start taking care of yourself. It feels good, and I’m happier. The team gave me a lot of support and that made it easier. It’s a great feeling to be standing here right now.”

Holtmeyer has six DWIs, which is how he ended up in treatment court. He’s been sober for more than two years. “It’s been easier for me because I had stopped drinking before I started treatment court,” Holtmeyer said.

The last DWI occurred on Nov. 25, 2019, while the other five were spread out over 30 years. “I didn’t drink all the time,” said Holtmeyer, who has held the same job for 32 years. “I never went to work drunk. I wasn’t a barfly. I bought my beer and went home.”

A few of those DWIs came after family celebrations but none resulted in injuries to himself or others.

“When I grew up, everybody drank and drove but they didn’t get caught,” said Holtmeyer. “It was just normal. 

Holtmeyer said his older friends would come by the house to drink with him, and at the time, he believed he wouldn’t have any friends if he wasn’t drinking. “It’s important to have the fellowship that comes with AA, and to be able to help other alcoholics is also important,” he added. “That’s not to say everyone who drinks is an alcoholic but the ones who are struggling need to know there’s help out there. Don’t be scared to take that first step. We don’t discriminate against anyone. Everyone is welcome.”

Holtmeyer never thought of himself as an alcoholic but once he started going to AA meetings and seeing what that fellowship had to offer, it was a lifestyle he wanted. “You have true friends,” he said. “You have people who understand you and you’re never alone.”

Holtmeyer added there are a lot of quality 12-step programs out there. “I prefer AA but Celebrate Recovery and others are good and I think it’s important,” he said.

Holtmeyer added that he saw the difference when he began to look forward to AA meetings. “Those meetings are mandatory as part of treatment court but I could see a change in me when I started wanting to go instead of it being something I had to do,” he said. “I went to more meetings than were required every week but I enjoyed it.”

During the first five months of treatment court, Holtmeyer said the process was very challenging. He swapped days with another employee so he could attend the required meetings and without a license, his wife of seven years, Becca, drove him around.

“I worked every weekend for five months,” he said. 

As a long-time employee, Holtmeyer said his employer was very supportive of his recovery. “It’s important that employers understand that once people get into recovery they’re going to be better employees,” he added. “To support your employees means a lot. When an employee is shown support, it makes it easier for them in recovery.”

Now that he’s a graduate, Holtmeyer said he can envision himself as a role model to other alcoholics and addicts, and a leader to those in treatment court as part of the alumni association.

“I don’t see myself as a leader,” he said. “I won’t be the guy to tell you what to do but I’ll show you how to do it and if you want to succeed, just follow the steps.”

Treatment Court Judge Sonya Brandt praised the efforts of Treatment Court Administrator Sherry Huxol, Erin Schmutz and Mike Ninness of Probation and Parole, Osage County Prosecuting Attorney Amanda Grellner, Gasconade County Prosecuting Attorney Mary Westin, and treatment professionals Tracy Sovar and Robert Fregalette.

“We have an excellent team and it works because everyone brings different strengths,” said Brandt, who also had positive words for Holtmeyer. “Glen has been a strong leader in the program and we’re going to miss him. He’s such a nice guy. Our new participants have to interview a Phase 4 or 5 person and many of them talked to Glen. He led by example and has been very helpful. Glen has done this for selfless reasons but I believe it’s helped him too.”

Sovar called Holtmeyer her “go-to” guy, noting he was her first client after joining the treatment court team and now, her first graduate. “He taught me a lot,” she said. “It’s been a pleasure.”

Ninness spoke of Holtmeyer’s attitude throughout treatment court. Because Holtmeyer lived outside Gasconade and Osage counties, he took up residence at an apartment in Bland. “We took bets on how long he would last, considering the travel and other challenges,” said Ninness. “He not only talked the talk, he walked the walk. It was clear to me that he was doing recovery and it’s bittersweet to see him graduate.”

Holtmeyer received only one sanction in his 15-month journey, near the end due to a miscommunication. “We didn’t really want to do it but to preserve the sanctity of the program, it was necessary,” said Ninness.

Fregalette introduced Mike Bailey of Owensville, who worked closely with Holtmeyer after taking him as a sponsee.

“Four years ago, he couldn’t stop drinking,” said Fregalette. “He knew it was bad but was afraid to quit. He struggled but now he helps at AA meetings and is a sponsor.”

Bailey told the group that he never fit in with any group. “I just pretended,” he said. “Alcohol gave me confidence with women and when I was fighting.”

When he was 20, Bailey was charged with his first DWI. “My dad was chief of police so that didn’t go over well,” he said. “I grew up on a farm. I worked hard and played hard. Weekend drinking turned into drinking every day. I didn’t think I was an alcoholic. I thought that’s just how people lived.”

At the age of 27, Bailey had his third DWI on the books and was certain he was headed to state prison.

“I was scared of that,” he said. “I took the drug treatment court option so I could avoid going to prison. I had an early sanction and spent some time in jail but I played the game.”

After graduating in December 2011, Bailey said he went straight to the liquor store. “I didn’t learn anything,” he added.

Six years later, he had collected his fourth DWI, which he fought for about a year. “We were almost ready to go to trial and I couldn’t wiggle out of it,” said Bailey, noting his health had taken a hit. “I was 140 pounds and my blood sugars and blood pressure were up. I almost couldn’t function without a drink.”

As part of a plea deal, however, Bailey was given another opportunity to undergo treatment court, and this time, he was ready. “I wanted help,” he said. “I had been to AA and treatment court so I knew they could help. I wanted the consequences to go away and a miracle so I’d be alright.”

He became ill and for the first time, said a prayer and meant it. “I was told by (Judge) Schollmeyer that I’d be held to higher expectations because I’d been through the program before. I hated it but I tried. I got to live a new life once I did what they told me to do.”

Alcohol was the tip of the iceberg, Bailey said. “I had to deal with the things I was scared of.”

Bailey credits AA and DWI Court as motivation. “I got another chance and a kick in the ass to get it done,” he said.

Of substance abusers, Bailey said, “We’re not bad people. We just make dumb decisions and we need help. It’s okay to ask for help, and I owe a lot to those who helped me.”

Holtmeyer agrees. “Alcoholics and addicts get stereotyped and it’s harder for them to recover when they’re not getting support,” he said. “That’s something the general public needs to recognize. I’ve met some good friends and I’m going to miss them. I consider everyone in the program I’ve met a friend, and we’re all good people. We have the potential to grow and recover.”

One of the more prevalent beliefs Bailey held was that he did not deserve to live a happy life. “Selfishness ruined the relationship with my kids but I’ve found peace and serenity and that has allowed me to restore those family bonds. When I entered treatment the last time, I had just my truck and some clothes. Life is pretty awesome today. I do things differently than before and I’m happier for it.”

Bailey said he watched Holtmeyer grow and flourish, and carry the message to others in need. “I’m grateful that I can be part of your recovery,” he added. “I remember watching Becca in the car blasting music while Glen is at meetings in Owensville. She has been a rock for him.”

For those struggling with substance abuse and those new to treatment court, Bailey offered this advice: “Grab it, figure it out, and take the help. There’s not much to lose but a bad habit. When you’re ready for help, the team and new friends will be there.”

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