A lot can change in eight years.
It can be a lifetime, in fact.
For Heidi Webb, eight years of sobriety has made all of the difference, taking her from a vicious cycle of homelessness and desperation to a stable routine of support and success.
And that is thanks, in large part, to the Northeast Nebraska Drug Court program, Webb said.
Webb was arrested in September 2010 on a charges of possession of a controlled substance. Because she didn't have a prior criminal record, her attorney suggested she try drug court.
She started treatment at the end of January 2011, and Webb said she “tucked into it.”
“I decided I would give it a try, not knowing what I was getting into. Drug court started May of 2011, and I just decided that I really was glad I was in it,” Webb said.
Almost 18 months to the day she began the program — the shortest amount of time drug court can be completed in — Webb graduated.
“I didn't mess around. I decided that if I was going to do it, I was just going to do it,” she said.
GETTING CLEAN is never a simple process, though. Webb said that at the age of 40, she was just ready to make a major change in her life.
“I had been using different things since I was young. I grew up in a family of addiction. I wasn't using the real hard drugs at first, but alcohol, marijuana, pills, things like that,” Webb said.
And then she tried methamphetamine — the substance that changed everything.
Webb had been dating her now-husband, Travis, for almost seven years before the pair were arrested in 2010. She and Travis had been using together, and neither was working.
“By the time I started treatment, we were homeless, and we didn't have anything left,” Webb said.
Sometimes, she was able to collect unemployment benefits, and she had even taken money out of a 401(k) account to pay for her lifestyle.
“I had odd jobs here and there. I sold quite a bit of stuff, Travis sold stuff. It was just the game of it,” Webb said.
The pair were finally arrested after Travis had failed several drug tests while he was on probation out of Pierce County, Webb said. Law enforcement had come to where they were staying, and they searched the house, finding drugs.
“I mean, it wasn't like it was a secret to them what we were doing, anyway,” Webb said.
So she wasn't surprised when she was arrested.
“It's kind of one of those things that you expect at some point. For me, it wasn't really scary, but I grew up kind of a little different than some people,” she said. “Probably more than anything, I was just mad at myself, but mostly, I was really tired.”
Keeping up with feeding an addiction takes a toll, both mentally and physically. Webb said she was tired of living her life that way.
She was tired of the constant worrying and the wondering of where the money was going to come from, and how she was going to get what she needed.
On top of that, Webb wasn't sleeping, and she wasn't eating.
“Your life just becomes a vicious cycle. You don't accomplish anything, you're not getting anywhere. You're kind of like a hamster on a wheel, going around and around.
“And I kind of just always thought this was the hand I had been dealt. This was my life, and I accepted it.”
THAT'S WHY Webb said she didn't drag her feet when she started out in the drug court program. She never really went back and forth in her head as to whether sobriety was something she really wanted.
“It was a lifestyle change, and getting into that routine is hard to do. But I needed that structure, so once I really got going, I actually kind of welcomed it,” Webb said.
The drug court program offers groups and classes to help people learn about their addictions and how to live a sober life. There is also a strong support system upon which Webb said she leaned heavily.
“I was going to 12-step meetings and talking to other people that have been through different programs. And I could see how much their lives had changed, and I just knew that's what I needed,” Webb said.
Part of what has helped her to stay clean is becoming part of that support for other people.
Even though she and Travis celebrated eight years of sobriety earlier this year, Webb remains deeply involved in the drug court program.
She continues to attend the weekly meetings every Friday at the Madison County Courthouse, giving rides to participants who need one.
Webb also works as a peer support specialist at the Women's Empowering Lifeline (WELL), a dual-diagnosis treatment center for women in Norfolk.
Matthew McManigal, coordinator of the Northeast Nebraska Drug Court program, said Webb is a mentor, role model and support figure for the women she serves, many of whom have little to no support system, as well as a history of trauma and severe mental health and substance use disorders.
“As leaders in the recovery community, Heidi and her husband, Travis, have been instrumental in creating a network of support for individuals struggling with addiction,” McManigal said.
Webb said her work in the recovery program, no matter how much clean time she has under her belt, keeps her focused on her own sobriety.
“One of the biggest things in recovery and 12-step programs is that helping others helps you. A lot of times, I'll tell these ladies I work with that sometimes they might be the only thing that keeps me clean that day,” Webb said.
That's because she can feel their pain, she said. She understands what these women are going through, and she knows she doesn't want to live like that again herself.
“You want to be there for them instead of going back out. And that really works.”
THE ACCOUNTABILITY built into the drug court program was one of the biggest motivating factors for Webb to stay clean, and it remains so to this day.
“I had accountability to the drug court team and to the judges. Having to go in and (drug test), knowing that if you use, you're going to jail, that was a big part of it. And Madison County jail food sucks,” Webb said.
When she visits drug court today, Webb said she tells people that the worst thing she could imagine would be to go out and use again and get arrested.
“And then I'd have to go back in front of Judge (James) Kube or Judge (Mark) Johnson again. What a punch in the gut. To me, that's just so disrespectful. I do really think that, because I never want to go in front of them again and have to say I'm sorry. They gave me this opportunity.
“Absolutely, they do care, so that means a lot me. I think that's huge, the support that a lot of people give to the program,” Webb said.
She realizes that not everyone agrees with drug court, but Webb said that it's important to know how much good comes from the program.
“I think it gets a bad name, because someone will know certain people in the program who will get kicked off or they graduate and relapse and then they're in the paper again. But what a lot of people don't understand is that for that one person, there might be 10 people that completed the program and are doing good and are being productive members of society.
“Even the people that go through and graduate and then go back out and get in more trouble, they don't lose everything that they've learned. And generally, at some point it does help them. You see a lot of them come back and return to recovery again,” Webb said.