BATAVIA, Ohio (April 4, 2017) – March 23, 2017, was a momentous day for Charles and Michele Wehby.
That day, the Amelia couple officially graduated from Clermont County’s Family Dependency Treatment Court. Juvenile Court Judge James Shriver, who runs the Treatment Court, praised the couple’s progress over the year-and-a-half they spent in his court, working their sobriety and eventually reclaiming custody of their three children.
It has not been an easy journey.
Charles, 33, and Michele, 28, married in 2007. Charles began using heroin when he was 19, and was still in active addiction when he got married. Michele, who had used pills and smoked marijuana, eventually followed her husband into heroin use. “Our marriage was built on drugs and alcohol,” Charles said. “I didn’t want to grow up. I wanted to goof off, drink, and do drugs.”
“This was something I never had imagined,” Michele said. “I quickly became the person I had looked down upon. I was losing my home and losing my children.”
In and our of rehab
Charles and Michele were in and out of jail and rehab through the years, but nothing stuck. And then, in 2013, after an emergency hearing, Clermont County Children’s Protective Services removed their children: Richard Sahlin, Alexis and Keira Wehby. “Losing our kids was the main thing that kept me grounded,” Michele said. Despite the cycle of rehab and relapse, “Somewhere in our minds, our kids were always there.”
In July 2015, desperate to regain their children, Charles and Michele entered Judge Shriver’s Treatment Court, a special docket court that is open to parents who have lost custody of their children and are willing to go through a rigorous program to reunite their families. The Wehbys are the second couple that have successfully completed the program.
One thing made a difference this time, they said: Accountability. Now, they were accountable to Judge Shriver and his program administrator, Angela Livesay, as they worked through the program.
The Family Dependency Treatment Court requires weekly appearances before Judge Shriver, as well as frequent drug screens. Parents must submit weekly letters detailing their activities. Charles and Michele attend frequent AA meetings and have also gone through marital and family counseling. Both are receiving Medication Assisted Treatment to help relieve cravings for opiates.
“We needed the accountability,” Charles said. “We weren’t living right.”
“It’s the best thing that ever happened to us,” Michele added.
On Aug. 9, 2016, their children were returned to them. “It was Richard and Keira’s birthday,” Michelle remembers. “It was the best birthday present.”
Church has helped
Their church, Vineyard Cincinnati Church at Eastgate, has been instrumental in their recovery, they said. “We’ve gotten humongous support from them,” Michele said. “We had to change everything – people we talked to, music we listened to. We listen to K-Love now!”
Today, both Charles and Michele work. Their children attend West Clermont schools.
For Richard, now 11, having his family back together means the world. He could not stop smiling at the graduation ceremony. “It’s awesome, being back with Mom and Dad,” he said. “I remember the day we got taken away. Mom was blowing kisses at us. We’re all now a family. We can enjoy each other.”
“It was harder on our kids than on us,” Charles said. “I will always feel guilty about that. But I can use that guilt in a positive way.”
“There’s always hope,” he added. “If you had told me four years ago we’d be where we are today, I would have called you a liar. It blows my mind.”
“The accountability saved my life,” Michele said. “Now we get to watch our kids grow up.”
For more information on the Family Dependency Treatment Court, contact Angela Livesay at 513.732.7685 or email her firstname.lastname@example.org.