At first, a younger Clinton Canady III probably didn’t think he had a problem.

Maybe he was in the wrong place at the wrong time. A victim of bad luck.

Even when he was arrested for drunk driving, it took the insistence of friends and family to drive him to the conclusion that he had a substance abuse problem. He needed help.

For more than three years, Canady battled with keeping his disease under arrest. It took time to "understand what they were talking about." He used a 12-step treatment program.

Now, 23 years later Canady, the successful Lansing attorney who is seeking a spot on the Ingham County Circuit Court, can safely call that part of his life "ancient history."

And, if elected Nov. 2, Canady, 62, could use this experience to guide individuals who find themselves in a similar situation. It’s a role he’s played for several years already as the attorney for the county’s family dependence treatment court, which works with the parents whose addictions impact their ability to raise their children.

"I think I have a perspective and an idea of what is needed to recover," Canady said. "People need to realize that people can recover. I understand the nature of the disease and there may be some suggestions I can make that will help the individual come to a separate conclusion, but I have to stress that it is always up to the individual."

For years, national studies have shown a direct link between a high percentage of crime and substance abuse. Property crime, robberies, even domestic violence. Drugs and alcohol spur a need for money or spark a poor choice.

The goal is to help the parent get the information they need to understand their situation and address it before the emotional toll drives their children down the wrong path.

"There is resistance," Canady said. "A person has to come to the conclusion that this is what they want. When people first suggest they have a problem, the very nature of the disease is that they don’t feel that they’re that bad … . The courts are trying to get them information and some outpatient treatment so they arrive to the conclusion that they don’t want to use substances anymore."

Canady said today’s courts are more proactive in getting individuals into programs. Ingham County doesn’t have a drug court like the state’s larger courts, but the sobriety courts used in Lansing, Mason and Charlotte district courts are successful in steering substance abusers to programs such as Teen Challenge and Life’s Journey. Ingham County Circuit Court has used the House of Commons.

If an addiction can be stunted, the chances for re-offense are reduced. That helps the family and, ultimately, society.

Jail and prison can’t be ruled out, though, Canady said.

"You really have to look at things on a case-by-case basis," he said. "At some point, you have to draw the line and make it clear that there are consequences for your actions. The bottom line is that you have to look at the protection of society and create a deterrent."

Treatment can work, but often it’s not until the person is out of the judicial system that its clear the treatment has worked.

For example, a defendant could have gone through counseling, visited their probation officer and did their community service without any problems. The real test is how that person reacts when they are no longer under the microscope, Canady said.

Do they think they can return to substances since they were able to "get by" for the several months? Or do they realize that substances are a problem and they’re not going to use them anymore?

Some in the recovery community have suggested that Canady, as the head of his own legal practice, the Canady Law Firm, is an inspiration for those going through recovery. They point to him and say, "If he can do it, I can do it. If he can make it, I can make it."

may be true, Canady said, but if they ask for his advice on how to stay
on the straight and narrow, the judicial candidate said his advice is
always the same:

stop quitting. If you make the effort and you are not successful
initially, make it again. Ultimately, you’ll be able to understand what
is going on."

Ellis joins Snyder campaign

Michigan’s "One Tough Nerd" is proving to be a student of history.

Days after Rick Snyder
became the Republican gubernatorial nominee and his spokesman had left
the campaign to return to his California home, Snyder brought in the
brains behind the operation that handed Democratic gubernatorial nominee
Virg Bernero his last Election Day loss — Sharon Ellis.

in 2003, the Williamston woman took over the sputtering mayoral
election campaign of Tony Benavides, who was running to fill the
remaining two years of David Hollister’s term.

Ellis and Tim Russ helped lead Benavides to a 258-vote victory. It’s the only time Bernero has lost an election in mid-Michigan.

about what advice she’s going to give Snyder as his new spokeswoman,
Ellis deflected the question. "This isn’t about me. This is about what
Rick Snyder is going to do to reinvent Michigan," she said.

Like a good spokesperson. She’s staying on message.

Byrum makes Top 10

Since 2002, Republicans
have tried to prevent a Byrum — first Dianne, now daughter Barb — from
winning the south Lansing/southern Ingham County-based 67th state House

The best they got was in 2004 when Beth Chandler only lost by 10 percentage points to Dianne Byrum. Not exactly a cliffhanger.

House Republicans see another opening in 2010, this time with Jeff
Oesterle, a Vevay Township board member and the president of the Ingham
County Farm Bureau. Oesterle just finished putting a pasting on two Tea
Party-type primary opponents last week and Republicans feel he could eat
into Barb Byrum’s support among the farming community.

MIRS political newsletter this week ranked Byrum No. 10 on its list of
Top 10 Most Vulnerable House Members. Republicans shouldn’t get too
excited, though.

In the last 10 years, the number of House members to lose re-election doesn’t even equal 10.

(Kyle Melinn is the editor of the MIRS Newsletter. He’s at