Preparing for spiritual warfare was Andy Taggart’s message during the Eighth Judicial District Drug Court graduation ceremony last week as he and his wife spoke about the loss of their son to drugs two years ago. Twelve graduated from the Drug Court last week. Seated in back in Circuit Judge Vernon Cotton.
Preparing for spiritual warfare was Andy Taggart’s message during the Eighth Judicial District Drug Court graduation ceremony last week as he and his wife spoke about the loss of their son to drugs two years ago. Twelve graduated from the Drug Court last week. Seated in back in Circuit Judge Vernon Cotton.
Preparing for spiritual warfare was Andy Taggart's message during the Eighth Judicial District Drug Court graduation ceremony last week.

Taggart, of Madison, an attorney and former chief of staff to the late Gov. Kirk Fordice, was the guest speaker to the 12 graduates and others advancing in the Drug Court last Thursday in the Pine Grove Pentecostal Church in Walnut Grove.

The Eighth Judicial District Drug Court currently has over 170 participants.

Judge Vernon Cotton presided over the graduation.

"I'm proud of all of you," he said. "We're all builders here. You have built a better life [for yourselves]."

After a short slide show of the graduates, Cotton turned over the program to the guest speaker.

Taggart, along with his wife Karen, turned their personal anguish at the suicide of their son into a mission to reach others before drugs carry them down the same path.

Brad, 21, died on Tuesday, July 10, 2012.

Taggart said the loss of his son was proof of ongoing spiritual warfare between the forces of good and evil.

He laid out three things that everyone needed to do to triumph over evil: acknowledge the brutality of the enemy, use your brain and show some brass.

"You made it," he said to the graduates, "and now it's time to fight back."

Taggart told participants at the graduation that a toxicology report showed that his son had no drugs in his system when he died. But the letter Brad Taggart left for his parents laid out the devastating psychological toll of his addiction and summarized the downward spiral of the past year.

Holding back tears, Karen Taggart read the two-page suicide note to Drug Court participants that began, "I hate that I'm putting you through this. The last thing I want is to bring you all grief but I cannot go on living any longer. I've lost my mind due to drugs. I have no emotion, I cannot be happy ever and I'm empty inside. Drugs have robbed me of my memory and knowledge that I've gained. I have zero reading comprehension skills and my attention span is about 10 seconds. I spend the majority of the day staring off into space."

The letter outlined a progression from marijuana use to LSD, which Brad Taggart wrote of as "a way that I could escape into an alternate reality, one that was euphoric and free of problems.

"I also began using mushrooms, MDMA, cocaine and nitrous oxide. My drug use didn't seem to affect me. I actually felt as though I was improving as a person somehow. I knew myself better and was outgoing and it was nice. My view of reality was skewed by drugs.

"This was when I decided that school wasn't for me and I wanted to move out West."

He concluded the letter with, "I love you."

Karen told the graduates she read the letter because she didn't want anyone else to go through what she did.

"Satan brings the fight to us," she said

Drug Court coordinator Marcus D. Ellis took over for the Taggart's, saying the graduations represent a long, hard struggle to gain control of addictions, both drug and alcohol-related.

"This is a fight we can win," he said.