Former Mayor of Fairfax Scott Silverthorne, 50, shed his orange jail uniform and walked into the arms of supporters.
Having served three months behind bars on drug charges, he was set free after being sentenced to five years, all suspended but those three months.
"Feels good to be on this side," he exclaimed.
Silverthorne's emotional words in court and before news crews after his sentencing were the popular ex-mayor's first public admission of his deep problems.
"I was in complete denial, truth be told, that I had a problem. While it wasn't the path I would've chosen to get better in terms of the arrest, I will tell you that it probably save my life," Silverthorne told reporters.
He was arrested for distributing methamphetamine after undercover cops caught him in a drugs-for-sex sting. They lured him to a location for an orgy through a gay sex website.
"I thought I was a recreational user. I was somebody who liked to go out and tie one on. But the reality was, it was much more than that. And it was something that I'd done for a long time. And kept secret," said Silverthorne.
The arrest came in August 2016 after Silverthorne was elected to a third term as mayor. He had served nine terms on city council, having followed his father into Fairfax city politics.
In court, he said he is not a drug dealer, but an addict.
"Nobody knew. Nobody. People might have suspected, but nobody knew. I lived a double life. A secret life," said Silverthorne.
Prosecutors wanted Silverthorne to spend two years behind bars. But the judge gave him only three months, which was time already served.
Dozens of friends and family packed the courtroom with silver ribbons to the show the judge how much support he has to be successful living a drug-free life. Escorted by those supporters, Silverthorne thanked the community and judge.
Fairfax County Circuit Court Judge Grace B. Carroll told Silverthrone she gave him the opportunity to see what the inside of a jail looks like and will send him back if he violates probation, which continues through his five-year suspended sentence.
Judge Carroll also sentenced him to 200 hours of community service and suspended his driver's license for six months.