“I would never thought I could be here graduating (from) this program — more importantly, doing it sober,” she said.
“I have come a long way in the last year. Who I was to who I am now is an incredible difference. I was someone that nobody could count on; I cared about nothing other than my addiction. I put it before anything. I had no goals in life other than feeding my addiction and no priorities.”
Shepard, of Norwalk, is the fourth graduate of the Huron County Juvenile Court program. Judge Timothy Cardwell credited the mother of two with overcoming “a tremendous amount of adversity” and being “very strong and committed.”
“I have a lot of hope for you,” he told her during the recent graduation ceremony.
CASA program coordinator Carrie Bischoff told Shepard that she too wants her to succeed. CASA stands for court-appointed special advocate, someone who can speak on behalf of children in the court system and according to the CASA website, can help find “a safe permanent home for children where they can thrive.”
“There is a good life in front of you and your kids,” Bischoff said.
While Shepard admitted that she would sometimes get frustrated when she was held accountable, Bischoff said it was done “because we knew you could do it.”
Deb Lyon, a therapist at Firelands Counseling and Recovery Services, witnessed Shepard work through challenges during the court program.
“I’m very proud of you, of everything you did,” Lyon said.
Shepard joins Christina Jones, Janelle Newman and Rachel Reed as graduates of the intense program. The first graduation ceremony was Feb. 21 with Reed.
“The program is worth all the work you have to put into it. It kept me really busy, but that was a good thing, as I sit here and think about it,” said Shepard, whose addiction started about age 17.
Her case first came before juvenile court in mid-November 2017.
“Shelby and her children were experiencing a lot of instability related to her substance abuse and the children were subsequently removed from her custody. Shelby stated that she would do whatever she needed to get clean and sober and get her children back in her care,” said Lindsey Ingram, family dependency treatment court coordinator.
“Shelby had withdrawn in the struggle of her addiction. Through the family dependency treatment court and with a lot of determination, Shelby has worked so hard and has come so far to be where she is today. She has completely changed her life and grown in her recovery and as a person.”
On Dec. 27, Shepard was reunited with her children, 9-year-old son Zann Souslin and her 4-year-old daughter Serenity Chaffee.
As Ingram presented Shepard with her graduation certificate May 24, she said Shepard is “a loving mother and a strong woman” who is “breaking the patterns of substance abuse from her family’s story.”
While in the program, participants have to set and achieve goals.
“I never knew how good it felt it to achieve something like that. I came from a home where one of my parents was an addict as well, so there (weren’t) many goals as I was growing up. I’m not blaming my addiction on that; I take full responsibility,” Shepard said.
“And I think that’s why I’m so grateful for the program,” added the mother, who has learned to use the resources available to her “instead of trying to do everything on my own.”
“It showed me I’m not alone. I am finally someone people can count on. I have a job, pay my own bills and support my kids because of this program. I now care about myself and the ones around me. Most importantly, it showed me I can and will be the mother my children deserve to have — the mother I wish I would have had.
“The family dependency program helped me turn into a better person,” said Shepard, who no longer procrastinates and has learned things that will stick with her throughout her life.
“I can and will do so much better in life. It gave me the strength to overcome my addiction. … Now because of this program, I get to watch my children grow and for that, I am grateful.”