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The Hope Movement

by Lindsey Wells | October 17, 2017 at 4:00 a.m.

Desiree Skeya, executive director of The Hope Movement, a program that helps women move forward from a lifestyle of addiction, shared her story with Oaklawn Rotary Club Monday during its weekly meeting at The Hotel Hot Springs & Spa.

Skeya is six and a half years sober from an addiction to methamphetamine and morphine, a habit that left her facing 40 years to life in prison in 2011 for manufacturing meth and for possession with intent to deliver.

"Fast forward a little bit, about four years ago I received a job as a probation officer for (Division 2 District Court) Judge (Ralph) Ohm. He believes in helping recovering addicts. He believed in me and he said, 'I'm going to give you a chance. What better person to have for one to understand the addicts and to help the addicts than someone who is an addict themselves?'" she said.

After working as a probation officer for three years, Ohm recommended Skeya for the position as director of the Hope Movement.

During her treatment, Skeya said she discovered that there was an integral piece of the puzzle missing for people going through drug or alcohol treatment.

"What we found in the treatment field is that there is a gap. After they complete (a treatment program), they are kind of left on their own. During treatment they're kind of told what to do, when to do it. You manage their money, you tell them everything they have to do, and when they get out, it's overwhelming. They don't know how to live on their own and make good choices," she said.

Four years ago, Greg Bearss, pastor of LakePointe Church, created the idea of The Hope Movement to help women transition back into the real world after successfully completing rehabilitation programs. The faith-based, nonprofit organization allows women to stay for up to a year and they are required to attend anger management, parenting, and finance classes to remain in the program. They must also maintain a full-time job, have a mentor, and attend meetings.

While speaking to the club, Skeya introduced Wendy Barfield, a 32-year-old local woman who transferred to The Hope Movement program this year.

An injury during her military career left Barfield addicted to pain medication, she said, which eventually led to an addiction to both heroin and meth. She began getting into legal trouble in 2008.

"I developed this addiction that I couldn't afford so I started to steal things to be able to pay for my addiction," she said.

In 2011 she was arrested and served two four-and-a-half-month stints in jail on theft of property and criminal trespassing charges.

From 2011 to 2017, Barfield found herself facing 43 misdemeanor charges and two felony charges, one of which nearly cost her 18 years of her life behind bars. The felony charge was dropped but she served almost eight more months in jail for one of the misdemeanor charges.

"When I got out I was high within a week," she said. "At this point my parents barely talked to me, my daughter didn't speak to me at all. I had no job. I lost my driver's license so I couldn't drive. I was running from probation, running from the legal system in general. I had two new counts of felony charges and when I went to jail this time I decided I needed something to change," she said.

Barfield said she eventually realized her lack of belief in God was what was missing in her life.

"I started to attend classes, go to church, and started to realize that this God that everybody talks about was real and that He could help me at least survive this jail sentence, because I was facing another year in jail. So I went to court and I did the hardest thing I've ever done -- I asked the judge to put me in treatment. He sentenced me to nine months, and you might say, 'Well, it's nine months in treatment versus a year in jail,' but I knew how to do jail. I wasn't scared of that. It was comfortable, I had been there, I knew what to expect.

"I didn't know anything about this recovery process or even how to go about it but I put my faith in God, that He was going to put me where I needed to be."

She was sent to Shalom Women's Center and eventually transferred to Hope Movement in June this year.

"Since I've been at The Hope Movement I have paid off my fines, all but $550 -- I owed $4,200 in June. I have my driver's license back for the first time in six years. I have a job. Due to The Hope Movement and the connections that our director and our board members have, we're able to get our foot in the door at some of the places that we wouldn't have been able to before."

Barfield said she has always wanted to work with other addicts, and thanks to The Hope Movement, she now does that for a living.

"For years I didn't care what anyone thought. I didn't care what my mom thought, I didn't care what my daughter thought, I didn't care what the judge thought, for sure, because I thought that he was out to get me. Now, I actually care what other people think about me. My mom and I have an amazing relationship, my daughter is talking to me again. She's getting married and I'm actually able to be part of the wedding process with her. And the judge actually told me that he was proud of me, which is an amazing feeling that you wouldn't realize that criminals like us would need to hear. We need somebody to believe in us because we went a lot of years without believing in ourselves," she said.

"Hope Movement has done so much to restore my life. I can't possibly ever repay them for everything they've done."

Local on 10/17/2017

Print Headline: The Hope Movement

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