‘Show the world people like us can change’: Drug Court celebrates two graduates

April Wiley 2

April Wiley, center, receives gifts from Jennifer Fischer, left, a probation officer with the Adams County Drug Court, and Judge Debra Wellborn during a graduation ceremony Thursday morning in the Adams County Courthouse. | David Adam

QUINCY — April Wiley remembers sitting in the Adams County Jail and learning on Feb. 11, 2021, about her sentence to Adams County Drug Court.

Police had arrested her four times in the past two years on possession of meth charges. She was 42 years old at the time and had been addicted to meth since she was 18.

“I was sitting in jail, and they told me I was approved for Drug Court,” Wiley said. “But before that, I had connected with God and had my spiritual awakening. I mean, it was great. God granted everything I asked for. I asked to be in Drug Court. I asked to go to the rehab, and then I asked to go to the Well House. 

“It just all fell into place, because He’s great.”

Wiley and Jennifer Diaz are the 120th and 121st graduates of Adams County Drug Court since it was established in 2006. Drug Court’s 27th graduation ceremony on Thursday morning in the Adams County Courthouse recognized the two women before a courtroom packed with other Drug Court participants, family members, co-workers and courthouse employees.

Judge Debra Wellborn, who presides over Drug Court, offered encouraging words for both women during the ceremony.

“Thank you for allowing me to be part of your recovery,” she said. “I want both of you to remember always that you are so much more than a recovering addict. You are special people with amazing talents. I am excited to see where you will go next in life.

“And for yourselves, I hope that as you go forward that you will remind yourself that you always need to be living the life that you want to be living. Don’t let anyone take anything away from you in regard to that.”

Wiley finally realized she needed help while sitting in that jail cell.

“When you’re in jail, you’re in your head,” she said. “You’re in your head bad. And I just said, ‘God, I need you.’”

Drug Court participants must come to court weekly, meet with their probation officer weekly, attend substance abuse treatment, self-help meetings and support meetings, and be prepared to submit at any time to a urinalysis.

Wiley has passed 134 consecutive urinalysis tests and been sober for 772 days — more than 25 months. She’s still living at the Well House, which provides a safe environment for women transitioning from incarceration back into the community living, and now works as a manager at a local fast-food restaurant. She read a short speech during the ceremony, thanking many people. 

However, she said Thursday’s ceremony was not the crossing of a finish line for her.

“I’m going to be involved for the rest of my life in recovery, and I want to help other people graduate like I did,” she said. “I’m still going to be involved in Drug Court, I’m going to be an alumni, and I’m going to go every fourth Wednesday just encourage everybody.”

Wiley also she had to overcome an addiction to men.

“I was married for 15 years, and after that, it was just one after another,” she said. “I was always treated bad, but I never left. It was co-dependency. The guy I was with when I went to jail just left me in there to rot.

“That’s why today is awesome. I don’t need a man in my life. I have Jesus. It’s all about Jesus for me. He took the addition away from me. I just want to be good for Him. I’m just so much happier and so peaceful inside.”

Diaz wasn’t sure Drug Court was going to work for her. She had been using meth for 20 years, starting at age 13. She was sentenced in 2010 to 3½ years in the Illinois Department of Corrections on a burglary charge.

“I needed it for a long time, but I was nervous (when she was sentenced to Drug Court in May 2021),” she said. “There was all the stuff that’s required, and I couldn’t even make it to my own court hearings. I had doubts.”

Diaz eventually obtained an electrical certificate from John Wood Community College, and she now has a full-time job with a local animal clinic. She also recently qualified for a first-time homeowner loan. Diaz has passed 132 consecutive urinalysis tests and has been sober for more than 19 months.

She also knows her fight against addiction will never stop.

“I try not to think that I’ve got it now. I can’t let myself do that,” she said. “Just because it’s easy to take a step backward.”

Wiley had a message for Drug Court participants, those in the program today and in the future, as she wrapped up her speech on Thursday.

“You can do this,” she said. “Stand tall. Show the world people like us can change. Don’t judge people by their past. Addiction is no joke, but it can be overcome. … Our worst days sober are still so much better than our best days high or drunk.”

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