A 2013 Drug Court graduate told a packed Effingham County courtroom how the program helped her transform herself from a homeless heroin addict into a loving mother and the manager of a local business.
“My name is Faith and I am an addict,” said Faith Leas. “But I am more than two years sober.”
Leas, who said she began drinking in middle school, said her heroin use controlled her life before she was arrested and given the option to go to prison or participate in Drug Court.
“I lived and breathed for drugs,” she said. “At times, I prayed to die.”
Leas said her substance abuse stemmed from a sense of “feeling different.”
“I was always searching. For what, I didn’t know,” she said. “I dropped out of school because partying was more important than going to class.”
Leas said she would have periods of sobriety before drugs would get the best of her again.
“I would get it together, only to lapse again and again,” she said.
Leas, who is now 37, discovered heroin and other opiates at age 30.
“It was complete numbness,” she said. “I quit going to college and lost jobs.”
Finally, she was charged with obstructing justice in 2009 and placed on probation. That didn’t go well, she said.
“I failed to comply and was recommended for DOC (Illinois Department of Corrections) in 2011,” she said, adding that she originally planned to accept incarceration.
“I wanted to go to prison so I could get out in eight or nine months and use,” she said. “It took the illness of my stepfather to seek help.”
Leas began her Drug Court journey in November 2011 and credits the program with giving her the tools to become a loving mother and productive member of society. After starting in an entry-level position with Little Caesar’s Pizza in Effingham, she is now the store manager.
“If I had gone to prison, I never would have changed,” she said. “Thank you for all you have done for me.
“You have given me my life back.”
Judge Ericka Sanders, who presides over the county’s problem-solving court programs, noted that Leas has completed her after-care program.
While Leas spoke to a packed courtroom, one man in the corner of the room took a special interest in her speech. That’s because he too graduated from the program last year.
“I know some of them (the 2014 graduates),” said Greg Evans of Vandalia. “I wanted to be here to show my support for the program.
“It saved my life, too,” Evans said.
Bill Grimes may be reached at 217-347-7151, ext. 132, at email@example.com, or via Twitter @EDNBGrimes.