By Madison Van Horn
From gardening in prison with Martha Stewart to inspiring women in recovery, Kelli Webber has lived many lives throughout her battle with addiction and substance abuse. Webber has taken her painful past as a former alcoholic and drug user and channeled it into a powerful tool to help others.
Now a well-known member of the recovery community in Chattanooga, Webber is currently working as the house manager at The Launch Pad, which is a transitional home that allows women to get back on their feet after completing treatment.
“We like to support them through their first year of sobriety,” says Webber. “This gives them a structured and stable place where they can come live here, get a job and start working. I try to be a peer support because I’ve done it all.”
Support from people like Webber is definitely a necessity with Tennessee reporting over 3,000 drug overdose deaths in 2020, according to Tennessee Department of Health.
Over the past year and a half since The Launch Pad opened, Webber has been able to watch many women successfully and soberly return to their lives, including five women who recently felt secure enough to move into their own homes.
The Launch Pad’s most recent graduate, Dennise Dailey, was born into a drug addicted family and was introduced to drugs and alcohol at a very early age.
“I always thought that I had control over it and that I could quit anytime I wanted to,” Dailey says. “I looked at myself in the mirror, honestly, and I just didn’t even recognize who I was anymore. I wasn’t who I know that God created me to be. I just had enough and like three days later I came up to Chattanooga to sell drugs and ended up getting busted. And it really has been a game changer for me.”
Now, Dailey has been sober for over eight months, reconnected with her family, gotten a job and moved out of The Launch Pad house. Women like Dailey are living proof that sobriety can be life changing, as she has helped pave the way for other women at The Launch Pad to flourish.
With an encouraging collection of success stories so far, The Launch Pad is about to expand into a second house that is located right next door to the original house. As the senior house resident, Leetha Bunn will be the house manager at the new home, which will accommodate 10 more women.
“I am ecstatic and I feel so blessed to be put in this position,” Bunn says. “We really are like a family. We tell everybody, you know, if somebody hurts one of us, the whole gang’s coming after you. That’s just our sisterhood. So we take care of each other.”
Webber, Dailey and Bunn all began their recovery journeys at the Council for Alcohol & Drug Abuse Services (CADAS), which is a treatment center in Chattanooga that has been a staple in the recovery community since 1975. From the Detox Unit to Family Way, which helps residents reconnect with their children in custody cases, CADAS has many programs that help set a healthy foundation for people seeking treatment.
“CADAS has been around much longer than the other treatment centers in the area,” says Renee Grimes, a tech in the Detox Unit who has been sober for two years and experienced first-hand the programs and benefits that CADAS offers.
“Recovery is not for people who need it. It’s for people who want it,” says Grimes. “For the person who wants it, CADAS has everything that you could need. They are multifaceted in such a hypervigilant way that they can literally help you with all areas of your life, for you to transform and make the changes necessary to move forward in recovery.”
Grimes has come a long way throughout her recovery journey and she expressed gratitude for both the highs and lows that led her to where she is today.
“During my early recovery, my sponsor would say ‘I’m grateful to be an alcoholic,’ and I would think that she was wild for saying something like that,” says Grimes. “As I move forward in my journey of recovery I very much relate to that. I’m grateful to be an alcoholic. I’m grateful to be an addict because I’m grateful for the things that I have experienced that make me who I am today. And I’m grateful most importantly, to be able to rise above those things with a solid recovery program.”
Madison Van Horn is a Junior Communication major who has a passion for writing, storytelling, and leadership. Her experience in feature writing and editing has led her to become an Assistant Editor in Rising Rock and Features Editor at the University Echo. Van Horn hopes to continue her education after undergrad and purse a career in professional journalism. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.