Former Day Reporting Center Program Participant Discusses her Recovery and Helping Others
By Jazmin Otey
When Leah Wolfe attended her first Day Reporting Center (DRC) meeting, a 90-day diversion program intended to reduce the local jail population, she could not wait for it to end. All her mind could only focus on was Nevaeh, her newborn daughter. She had not seen her since she had given birth during incarceration three months prior, because after her release from the hospital, she had been ordered to leave little Nevaeh and return to jail to complete her sentence. “It was like ripping part of my soul out, the only thing that got me through was knowing I would have her back in a few months,” Wolfe said.
As the 90 days came to a close, her perspective of the DRC program had changed immensely. “I really fell in love with recovery here, because the case managers care, and some of them have been through it,” she said. “They have the experience you can’t get from a textbook.” She had become so involved with the program and its participants that she voluntarily stayed for additional time even after graduating. For Wolfe, helping others was part of her recovery. During this time, she attended meetings with her now two-year-old daughter sitting next to her. Now, Wolfe has been clean for more than two years, has become certified as an addiction recovery specialist, and runs her own weekly recovery group at Grace Covenant Church.
Michelle Roberts, the current DRC case manager, was an intern when Wolfe went through the program, but that was not the first time they had met. The pair first encountered each other in jail while serving sentences for drug-related charges. Roberts was shocked to see Wolfe again at Gemeinschaft Home but knew that it was somehow meant to be, and she is proud of how far Wolfe has come. “I use her as an example all the time because she was someone who came into the program determined and took direction,” Roberts said. “Now she’s doing all these amazing things. She’s not just living but she’s thriving. I got to walk the journey with her. And that was a beautiful thing. It reminded me of my own journey [to recovery].”
Looking back, Wolfe hardly recognizes herself. There was a time where she didn’t believe she would be able to escape getting high each day. Wolfe was 10 years old when she started smoking marijuana and drinking alcoholic beverages. By age 14, she began experimenting with heavier drugs, was in and out of toxic relationships, and self-harmed frequently. At 20 years old, she was arrested and ordered to serve a two-year prison sentence for a drug conviction. After the sentence, she found herself in the same circumstances she had been in prior to incarceration, and, in 2017, when she had been caught using drugs a month before the end of her probation period, she went on the run.
It was during this time that she discovered she was pregnant with Neveah. Wolfe knew instantly it was time for a change. She managed to stop her toxic addiction in July 2017, however, police enforcement caught up with her in September, and she was sentenced to jail for one year for violating her probation conditions. After her positive experience with DRC, Wolfe hopes to see Gemeinschaft Home’s Community Residential Program (CRP) expand to women in the future. The CRP program currently offers room and board to help men become more stable, but women face their own unique problems such as motherhood, pregnancy, abusive relationships and emotional trauma that could be addressed in a CRP program geared toward women.
“It’s sad, but most people have burned their bridges through their addiction, so they don’t have a support system,” Wolfe said. “You can’t grow in an environment that you wilted in, and we need an environment to help people thrive. It’s so hard for women.” In the meantime, Wolfe hopes to continue showing others it’s possible to overcome addiction: “I would definitely say there is hope moving forward. Looking at the people that have overcome it is hope in itself,” Wolfe said.