LYNCHBURG, Va. (WFXR) — In life, we all tend to stumble and sometimes fall, but they say the important thing is whether you get up. One Lynchburg woman, Debra Jefferson, faced a lot of challenges and still chose to rise and help others along the way, which is why she was nominated for “Remarkable Women.”
“I have the disease of addiction and I’m in long-term recovery,” said Jefferson.
Like many, Jefferson has faced some trials and tribulations.
“It’s 28, almost 29 years of being in both with substance use and with depression,” Jefferson said.
She says what changed her life was being behind bars.
“When I was incarcerated for 45 days, felt like 45 years. I just fell on my knees and I said, ‘God, please help me,” Jefferson recalled. “When I got in the courtroom, I said, ‘I need some help.'”
That’s when Jefferson was sent to Central Virginia Community Services, which is now Horizon Behavioral Health.
“I went to treatment and have not looked back since then,” said Jefferson. “I went to treatment at this organization that I had been working with for 23 years.”
With a new look at life, she’s on a mission to help everyone who crosses her path.
“Reach one, teach one, this isn’t work for me, this is a ministry for me,” said Jefferson.
“This is a person that has helped thousands of people through the recovery process, through the mental health,” said long-time friend Sheron Simpson.
Throughout her years of helping people on the road to recovery from addiction, and being an advocate for mental health, Jefferson has worn many hats within the Lynchburg community.
“Education and knowledge is power,” said Jefferson.
Jefferson is currently working with the Lynchburg Police Department when it comes to engaging people who may have a mental health disorder or a substance use problem.
“She helps us manage through some challenging issues in the community, as well as better serve some of our residents here in Lynchburg,” said Lynchburg Police Chief Ryan Zuidema.
She does this by sharing her lived experiences.
“I say to them only God could do this because I ran from you for 25 years,” Jefferson said. “Imagine that I am now in this opportunity and position, working inside side with you, training you, is just amazing.”
“She’s an inspiration. I wish we had to 10 or 20 more Deborah Jeffersons around in Lynchburg that we could help, partner with, and get out in our community and make an impact and make a difference,” said Zuidema.
People say Jefferson’s honesty and transparency for her past give them hope that they can also turn their lives around.
“My purpose in my life is to give back what has so freely been given to me,” said Jefferson.