Sunday, November 3, 2019

When God has you right where He wants you...

From my journal…

Incarceration is many things – it is hard to define in just a few thoughts, words, or sentences.  Confinement…Prison…Solitary…Isolation…Cold, dark, lonely and full of despair.  Damp. Suffocating. Painful. Reflective. Funny. Sad. Heavy. Overbearing. Full of Grace and Forgiveness and coupled with emotions and feelings of shame, guilt, fear, and despair just to same a few… It was also peaceful in an inexplicable able kind of way. That was my life for 17 months in 2015 – 2017. 
A portion (almost 90 days) of my prison sentence was served in solitary confinement.  There is a big difference between incarceration and prison and even a bigger difference between prison and solitary confinement.  Unless you have experienced each, it is almost impossible to describe them to a degree that would make them understandable, let alone appreciated. Jail has nothing on prison and prison has nothing on solitary confinement.

Something usually happens to people who are held in that type of captivity and it is normally not at all positive.  In fact, the United Nations considers any time of solitary confinement over 90 days to be torture.  I consider myself lucky or blessed or a little bit of both that my experience was not all bad - - I mean it was bad but there was a positive outcome.  There is something special about solitude and silence.  There is a uniqueness of experiencing only the sound of your own voice for the vast majority of time.  There is a presence that only being alone can explain.  A connection. A spirituality that comes forth - - something powerful happens when God has your full attention - - He has you right where He needs you.

In Praise and worship of Him
Conversing… and in constant contact with the Father.

That is the plus of solitary confinement.  I have never felt a more powerful presence of God in my life that in those 90 days of solitude and silence.  I sang memorized hymns (I am not a singer), I sang the Psalms, I talked out loud to God all day long.  I was close… I mean really close to God.  I miss that.  I want that.  I need that.

Fast forward to this weekend and I felt that way for just a few hours at a church retreat.  I have never been to a retreat that didn’t include forced imprisonment. 😊
I had the pleasure of staying in a simple room that was a former home of one of the Sisters of St. Joseph.  A desk.  A chair.  A bed.  Two lamps.  One Crucifix above the bed and two pillows (that is huge because there are NO pillows in prison).  Let me go back and remind you that there are no pillows in prison and that will be a Blog all it’s own soon.

What an amazingly simple room and yet it was all I needed, and I am certain was a great home for one of the former Sisters.  I loved it.  It was quiet.  It was peaceful.  As I prayed in that simple, quiet, and peaceful room on Friday night, I became so emotional and felt right next to God – I could only imagine how much steadfast and constant prayer happened in that room before my visit.  It made me look back and wonder if that was the same thing that happened time and time again in the cells where I spent my solitary time…

The history of prayer and praise and of listening and discernment felt intense to me - - I could feel God and the Holy Spirit in that room.  That is the closest I have felt to God since prison.  I love that feeling. 
Today, I feel restored, refreshed, and rejuvenated.  The silence, the solitude, and the history of that room brought me back to my center - - to God.
Today, I am grateful for my prison sentence because it led me to the cross.  Today, I am grateful for this retreat because it reminded how much I love being silent and close to the Lord.
Editorial Note:  I will be accepting offers to attend retreats as I feel like my new career could be a professional retreater…😊  

If you’re struggling, it’s okay help is only a prayer away.

Saturday, August 24, 2019

A daughter and her dad. . .

How does a 7-year-old little girl change the trajectory of a family’s life?
We have all seen it happen with an unfortunate illness or worse yet an all too early death.  We have witnessed it with a special needs child and the ups and downs of that experience.  Maybe we have seen it when that same little girl loses her best friend who just happens to be a cat, or dog, and maybe even a classmate.  There are many ways in which the life and the experiences of little girls can shape who we are as people and who we become as families.
            How about from negative experiences that are somehow made to be good?  I wonder if a little girls positive attributes learned along the way can transform a family’s life.  How about from what was learned in her own recovery process?  A process that involved living between two homes of each struggling parents, of pain, hurt, isolation, and I am certain some anger, anxiety, and resentment were sprinkled in there as well - - a perfect storm to foster a wounded child and all the issues that come with childhood trauma.  There was nothing wrong with this little girl she just had lots happen around her. 
            This little girl was shuffled between houses and parenting styles.  From the comfort and safety at life with her mom to the unpredictable and chaotic lifestyle of her Dad - - Her Dad the fun one, the do everything in one weekend Dad, go…go…go…do…do…do…makeup…makeup…makeup… for all the lost time an every other weekend Dad does.  A Dad who struggled to stay sober only on every other weekends - - the rest of the days that same Dad struggled to make sure he was properly high - - all the time and every single day.
            That same Dad who so wanted to stay sober for his daughter, his sons, and sometimes even for himself - - but, how?  He didn’t know how.  He tried all kinds of treatment.  He attempted every group out there.  AA and NA and CR and on and on… I think he may have even tried hypnosis a time or two - - although that could have been the drugs… he says he doesn’t recall.
            That Dad fought this battle for many years until he was ready to throw in the cards and quit on everything and everybody - - not quit using - - that is too hard.  Just quit living and be done - - that would be much easier.  But, he didn’t - - rather he couldn’t pull the trigger on his life or that gun.  Why?  He will tell you he still doesn’t know.  He likes to look back now and think it was for his daughter but that is just him attempting to rewrite a part of the story to sound good to y’all.  Truth is he wanted to die, and he couldn’t even get that right - - that is when you know addiction has taken your last breath of hope and you are already as good as dead.
            As fate would have it all this came to a head about the same time that this Dad was shipped off to prison.  Another week in his hell and he might not have made it.  He was two stones below rock bottom and still holding the shovel.
            IN WALKS JESUS and that same Dad - - that absent, lonely, isolated, and addicted Dad - - that Dad who was in prison and disconnected from the world started to surrender.  He started to pray.  He started to repent.  He started to cry and feel pain and that pain felt good - - after years of feeling nothing that Dad said even pain felt good.  That pain even laughed at times.  Who has pain that laughs?
            IN WALKS JESUS and that same little girl started to write her Dad and draw and color pictures for her Dad.  She pursued, loved, cared, encouraged, and fought for her Dad - - even when her Dad had no fight left in him.  She talked to her Dad all the time and on the bottom of EVERY card, letter, or piece of artwork she wrote, “I love you so much and I can’t wait until you are back.”  That Dad wasn’t the best Dad, and most would say he wasn’t a good dad.  But that Dad loved his little girl - - he just could never beat his addiction long enough to show it on more than every other weekend.
            IN WALKS JESUS and that same little girl and same Dad got to spend an hour and ½ together twice a month and they hugged and laughed and told stories and ate yummy vending machine food.
            IN WALKS JESUS and that little girl was used to help reunite a family.  She had been through it AND never gave up.  She was hurt(ing) but never stopped loving her Dad.  No 7-year-old daughter should have to visit her Dad in prison, but she loved to do it.
            Fast forward to today and that little girl and her Dad are still in recovery - - as is the rest of their family.  Fast forward to now and the picture on top of this blog is how that same 7-year-old wounded little girl describes herself today at 10 years old.  She has been through it and she has learned much by going through recovery with her Dad.
            Here is the skinny:  We do recover.  We can rewrite our story.  We can heal.  We can begin again.  We did and so can you.  All you have to do is let Jesus walk through the door….

Avery, Daddy loves you.
If you’re struggling, it’s okay help is only a prayer away.

Saturday, July 27, 2019

We need your help . . .

People do not change.
Addicts do not recover.
They do not work.
It runs in the family.
Criminals will always be criminals.
A thief is a thief.
A liar will always lie.
Hopeless cause.
They will never be a good parent.
Those people will never change… and on and on and on…

Here is the problem with that type of thinking - - it is dead wrong.  That mindset is what creates stigma which is one the biggest barriers to people asking for help.  The people who think those things do not understand addiction AND it is not their fault.  That thinking usually stems from misunderstanding and most always from fear.  People fear what they do not understand or what they have been told is the case about someone or something. 

Fear is the first 13 sentences of this blog.  Why am I writing about this today?

As you may know, we are opening a sober living home in Northwood - - a very nice neighborhood in Marion, Indiana.  I mean it is a really nice neighborhood.  


Some of the neighbors do not want us there.  WHY? Maybe because they don’t understand recovery and that leads to fear and close-minded thinking.  That same type of close-minded thinking in our nation’s past has led to school segregation, white-only bathrooms, separate but equal illogical thinking, and a host of other problems that our city and our nation still face because of misplaced fear.

Some of those same neighbors have signed petitions, hired attorneys, plan to oppose our zoning variance, and even offered to buy the house from us just so that “those people” cannot live in their neighborhood. 

I feel that some of the close-minded thinking is fueled my unsubstantiated fear and white privilege.

What some of them may fail to recognize is that I AM THOSE PEOPLE… And like me…

People do change.
We do recover.
We do work.
Our families love and support us.
Criminals can rehabilitate and be productive and tax paying members of our community.
Thieves stop stealing.
Liars tell the truth.
We find HOPE.
We love big.
We are a huge part of this community.
We are good parents.

We are 25 million people strong in recovery.  We are proud.  We are not going to be silenced by misplaced fear and ridiculous prejudices.

We hope you stand with us as we open this house and provide a residence for men in recovery.

Please join us and attend our zoning hearing on August 13, 2019 at 3 PM at the Marion City Building.  We will meet at 2 PM for a prayer meeting prior to the meeting.

Join us today by following us on Facebook at #hopehousemarion

If you are struggling, it’s okay help is only a prayer away.

Monday, May 27, 2019

In walks Jesus - - a story of a prison sidewalk...

My story begins with brokenness.  I had nothing and felt nothing.  I had no self-worth and I was washed up in everyone’s eyes including my own.  I identified as a crackhead, a convict, a prisoner, a sinner, and all that adds up to worthless.  I had forgotten me – check – there was no me.  Shane was #257988 and even that number had more worth than what I felt. 

It’s easy to say the cause of my perceived worthlessness was my addiction and the accompanying and mandatory rock bottom.  One might add that convicted felons are supposed to be marginalized and “lesser than” just as societal norm (be honest with yourself here – sure we feed the hungry but when is the last time you visited a prison, wrote a convicted felon a letter, or helped someone restart their life once released from prison?).  Others might say that I got what I deserved and needed to be forgotten - - can I get an amen?

Heck, even the memory of me had more real value in my mind (and yours). 
I was at the end of me. Broken.  Defeated.  Marginalized.  A felon.  A prisoner.  An addict - - add all those together and you don’t get a starring role on The Bachelor let a lone a sense of any real value.  I was truly washed up and broken - - like look up the word in the dictionary and there is my picture.

In walks Jesus

No lightning bolts.  No loud voice.  No ugly crying (though I had done plenty of that late at night on my bunk).  Just me walking on the prison walk six months into my bit.  See, I had been going to church, reading the Bible, and really focusing on trying to figure this Jesus dude out.  I had more questions than answers.  I had more disbelief than trust.  I had more pain than relief.  I had more sorrow than joy.  Up until that day on the walk I was doing a lot more searching than finding - - and then BAM… I just felt FREE… free you say?  Yes, free.

I cannot begin to explain how it feels to take that next step of freedom while walking in prison.  I was free on the inside for the first time in my life.  I was still in prison (and would be for 11 more months) yet free.  On that day and on that walk, I was called to Jesus and no longer broken.
I was no longer…
A victim of molest.  An addict.  A prisoner.  A convict. A bad son, partner, dad, brother and friend.  Full of shame and regret.
I was…
Worthy. Forgiven. Loved - - and a child of the most high King.

From that day until this day my life has been anything but perfect, but I have kept my eyes on Jesus, and He has seen me through so much.  I still had 11 months of prison to finish which included the torture of 45 days in solitary confinement, the wrestling of my inner demons, and more strip searches than I care to mention.  However, I never gave up after Jesus entered my life on the walk that day. 
I kept going.  I keep going.

In walked Jesus and my life changed.  In walked Jesus and walked my brokenness.  In walked Jesus and out walked my chains.

Today, I love Jesus and do my best to love like Him.  Today, I try and help those who are broken, who feel unworthy, and who are addicted to being unforgiven.  Today, I share what I have been through and what Jesus delivered me from.

Today, I share Hope.

He did it for me and He can do it for you - - even if it is on a sidewalk in prison.  Jesus meets you were you are and says come home, you are worthy, and you are loved.

If you’re struggling, it’s okay help is only a prayer away.

Saturday, May 4, 2019

Right after I found Christ. . .

This is Melanie's story as she tells it. . . no editing. . . no proofing. . . Just Melanie - - as is, raw, vulnerable, and open.  My hope is that you will share this on your Facebook Page and Instagram and that someone out there who needs to hear Melanie's story will be able to read it.  I had to twist her arm to write it and you can tell by the first sentence. . . LOL!!  

Okay Shane. Here goes…  

So, I started this crazy journey on March 24, 2016. What I then classified as the worst day of my life.  I had been going to trial all week, that week. On that final day, the jury had agreed to guilty on all 6 counts. I had no idea what was going to be in store for me, what prison was going to be like. I only knew what the media had portrayed. Little did I know, God had big plans for me. 
It was the fourth day of my trial, POURING down rain. I go into the courthouse to meet with my attorney and he tells me, Melanie, if this doesn’t go the way we want it to, you are going to jail today. I start panicking, go outside to smoke. There on top of the court house sits an owl. In the pouring down rain. Weird right?
We finish the trial and the jury goes to deliberate. I went and picked up my son from the daycare, thinking “just in case”.
They call for me, ready to give the jury’s verdict. GUILTY. On all 6 counts. The bailiff handcuffs me and walks me to the elevator. Now, I forgot to say that my WHOLE FAMILY was there supporting me.
Even my sons dads family was there supporting me. My son was in the hallway with his grandma because he was just crying. 
They take me to the elevator and grandma brings my son around the corner to see me, cuffed, ready to go to jail.  I will never forget that moment. My son reached for me and I couldn’t take him. The bailiff said is this is your son? I replied yes. He says you may kiss him goodbye. So I gave baby a kiss and he just started screaming bloody murder. He didn’t have any idea what was going on. At 9 months old, he just knew that he wanted his mommy and she couldn’t take him. I brought my hands to my face and just cried. I just kept thinking, how long is it going to be before I see my son again?
I go over to the jail and sat there until May 13th, Friday the 13th. Not being able to see my son. My family would go to star bank and walk him around in his stroller so I could see him, until the sheriffs would run her off. Even on mother’s day, my first mother’s day, they made a sign that said happy mother’s day. I cried myself to sleep so many nights. Worrying, wondering when the end would come. When I would be able to go back to my life and leave this nightmare behind. I had my attorney coming to see me, telling me since I didn’t have any criminal history, a small child at home and a paraplegic father who depended on me to care for him, that I would just go home on house arrest. There wouldn’t be any issues.
When they finally got me to my sentencing, my judge told me the harshest words. “if I could sentence you just on your emotional stance, I would give you 20 years. However, that’s not how the law works. I would describe you as cavalier, showing no interest in important matter”. I tuned him out at that point. I honestly didn’t hear what the sentence was. I remember my attorney patted me on the knee and said 3 years with purposeful.  My bailiff walked me back over to the jail and I was just crying, I didn’t know what to think. He said well, 7 years isn’t too bad.
I was sentenced to Eight (8) years at the Indiana Department of Corrections and ordered to participate in a substance use treatment called purposeful incarceration.  The Judge mandated that I complete that program and serve a 3-year minimum of the sentence before he would consider modifying my sentence.  
On May 27, 2016 I was transported to Rockville correctional facility.  I was literally stripped of everything when I got there. My clothes, my privacy, control.  I felt so violated. I didn’t even have a say in my own life anymore.  I had hit bottom. I didn’t know what was about to happen. How this bit was going to go. My heart was racing. I was so scared! All I knew about prison was what the media says about prison, which is nothing good.
I got into intake. Got a fancy orange jump suit. Being told what to do all the time. When to eat, when to sleep, how loud I could be. When to clean. EVERYTHING. I had no control over anything anymore. All the way down to lining up to go to chow. Which if you didn’t know is what they call the dining hall there. My dog got better treatment, A nicer bed.  So thru out intake they do all these assessments. Going to the doctor, the dentist, the eye doctor, seeing mental health. That decides which prison you will be at. I had met a girl in county who had just got out of Madison (the lowest level for women) and she was like oh you will go there. Don’t worry about it. 18 months and you will be back home. HA! Boy, she was wrong!!!  Since I had been taking anti-depressant medications, my mental health was labeled a C and I had to stay at Rockville. A maximum facility for women. I was terrified. I kept hearing horror stories from women who had already been to prison before. About how they kept the worst of the worst there. So I thought, great. I’m hit. I ended up staying in intake for 4 weeks and got moved to “the hill” open population. About 1200 women.
They sent me to dorm 5, top bunk—TRASH. My Bunkie was a sweet little old lady. She said she had been down for about 5 years. I couldn’t wrap my mind around what on earth she was doing there. Come to find out, she’s an ax murderer. The only one there out of 1200 women. Wow. Majority of my room, 16 ladies was in there for murder or drug charges. So I mainly stuck to myself. I didn’t want to cross the wrong one or get myself in any trouble. They gave me a job as a night porter. Just a cleaning lady. I stayed on the hill for about 3 months. Living this shit life. Going to work thru the night and sleeping thru the day, well what I could anyways. Waiting to get called over to the “C.L.I.F.F.” dorm so I could get this assessment, start this pi program and get home!
 I finally got my first visit in prison. It took a little bit to get my family approved. My mom came to see me and bring my son to see me. I hadn’t seen him in about 3 months. I had missed his first birthday. I called and my whole family was there. They all passed the phone around, they all wanted to know how I was doing and how things were going. It took all I had to stay strong, to not cry. To not tell my family how much I hated where I was, the person I had become. How bad I missed home and my son.  When mom brings Shane to see me, she put him down on the floor and he took off walking! She had told me on the phone that he was trying to walk, but I didn’t know he was actually walking all the time! Gosh, I cried. I couldn’t believe how much my little baby had changed in just 3 months. He was growing so fast and I was missing so much. Every day he was learning something new, developing new skills, growing into this awesome little person and the number one person who should have been there to see it all, wasn’t. to this day, I will never forget that day. I remind myself of those feelings often, to keep me grounded in who I am today.
I had different people telling me that I needed to get into my bible, that I needed to find god. He would be the only one who would be able to “save” me. So I had my dad send me a recovery bible. I thought maybe that would be good for me. I started reading in it, slowly, day by day. Reading more and more. Then one day I was sitting on my bunk, just reading in psalms. The holy spirit flooded me like a river. I started bawling and just repenting. I knew that I did not want to be the person that I was and I wanted god to save me. I completely surrendered my life that day and that’s when things started to get better.
On the day I got that pass to go over to do my assessment. I took this paper test that talked all about my addiction and my use. The girl that gave it to me, told me to fill it out honestly. So I did. I went in to see the main counselor and she told me I didn’t qualify for the program. I said what do you mean I was sentenced to this! I have to do this to get home. She said it appears that you don’t have a problem with drugs. I said I don’t, I quit. She asked me if I drank alcohol and I said I don’t have a problem with alcohol, she looked at my charges and said that’s your problem. Got into the program.
               I started this intense program. I lived on a dorm with about 200 women who were also programming. We LIVED recovery. Mandatory 3 meetings a week, had to meet with a mentor and a recovery coach. They set us in groups and we phased up together. There are 4 phases to the therapeutic community. Of course you can always be held back if you are messing up or getting into trouble. I started going to groups and classes, really working on myself. I did several self-help packets, started working the steps. I had to face so many things that I had buried deep for so long. Emotions that I didn’t want to deal with, traumas that I was in denial of. I started getting honest with myself and things started getting better. I was able to really sit down and analyze the person I had become, why I had done the things I had done. All the things that fed my disease. Why I really was the way that I was. Things started to make sense. I had finally started healing. I took every extra class they offered to me. I completed 90 in 90, which is 90 meetings in 90 days. I also took a grief and loss class that the prison offered to everyone. I never realized how much grief I carried.
I graduated therapeutic community in June of 2017 and I immediately called home ready to fill a modification. My attorney told me to just be patient. I left the C.L.I.F.F. dorm and moved back to open population. They put me on raccoon crew. Which for those who don’t know, raccoon crew is a crew of ladies that go to Raccoon Lake and clean. It’s a big deal when you get on that crew. It’s the only crew that goes outside of those gates. And it’s only a matter of time before you get sent to a lower level security prison. I only worked on that crew for about a month and I was Madison bound!
Madison is a lower level facility. Much more freedom, longer visits, stores you can shop at. Well they would go to the dollar store and buy all kinds of different things and then sell them to us for high dollar. But it was ten times better than being at Rockville! I was only in Madison for about 2 months and I received a letter in the mail, I finally had a court date!! It got postponed a couple of times, but grant county finally came and got me on Halloween. I will never forget that we stopped at a gas station so we could get gas and I had to pee so badly! So the officer goes in and asks permission for me to be able to come in and use their restroom, they said yes. She gets me out of the car and as we’re walking in, she looks at me and says “we have the best Halloween costumes ever” ha-ha! And we really did. I was in an orange jumpsuit and she was in her sheriff’s uniform. My ankles and my wrists were cuffed.
 I was never so happy to see the grant county jail! I went to court the next day, November 1st, 2017. I wrote out a few things that I wanted to make sure that I said to the judge. But somehow that paper got lost. I prayed and prayed that night before that whatever gods will for my life was, that it would be done. I had fasted and prayed for weeks, I was filled with acceptance and no matter what happened. I knew that I was in god’s hands. I went to court and it went perfect. I cried to my judge. I finally had remorse, I was sorry for the things I had done. I knew what a piece of shit I had been and I wanted to take full responsibility. I had the opportunity to look at my victim’s family and apologize. I wish I could change the way things had happened, but I knew that I couldn’t.  I just wanted them to know how sorry I was. My victim’s mother forgave me that day. <3 my attorney told me that I would be going home on house arrest, but I had heard that before so I didn’t want to get my hopes up too high. I waited a week in jail, called home and my dad told me that my modification had got denied.
Another week and grant county transported me back to Madison DOC. I was determined that I was going to stay busy and get through these last 2 years I had left. As soon as I was able to, I went and visited my counselor and requested that I be put into the cosmetology program. On December 11th, I started Cosmo. I received a letter from the court house that my judge had pre-approved my CTP and that he wanted me to participate in the re-entry program. I was SO MAD! Seriously? You deny my modification, telling me that I have to do all of my time, besides what I could get knocked off in time cuts and then when I get home I have to spend another 16 to 18 months doing more programming!! But I put that out of my mind and got busy. Back to bit mode. I continued to work on me, bettering me. I still programmed even thought I wasn’t in therapeutic community anymore. I attended meetings regularly. I took a parenting class, through the state. I took a relationship class, knowing that I needed to have relationship boundaries.
I graduated from cosmetology in November 2018. After my time cut went in I had about 4 and a half months left. So if things worked out the way that I wanted them too. I could get my CTP on Thanksgiving Day, November 22. So I studied my butt off, took my practical test and passed it with a 96. Then I took my written test and past it with a 94! I was sooo proud of myself! Once my time cut went through it took about a month and they got all my paperwork done. Grant County was due to pick me up on December 3rd!
When that day finally came, my emotions were on ten! I hadn’t been home in almost 3 years. I had done 2 and a half years in prison and another 2 months in jail. I had 4 months to serve on home detention and that would complete the prison term that I was due to serve. I got back to grant county community corrections and called my mom. I was never so excited to see her and get to hug her!
They were having a lot of issues with drugs coming into the prison while I was at Madison, so they took our contact visits. Your family could come but you couldn’t touch them. I went almost 9 months without hugging my mom. I couldn’t wait. Got that bracelet on and was on my way home!
Considering my son was only 9 months old when I left and I had to serve 4 months on house arrest I knew that coming to my mom’s would be the best thing for me. I had seen Shane regularly the whole time I was locked up, but stepping into full time parent mode and real life was going to be difficult and I knew that I would need my mom’s help.
I was very blessed to have an amazing probation officer, a very godly man who completely understood that I wasn’t the person I was almost 3 years ago when I went to prison. He gave me the down low on what was to come being on house arrest and reentry court. I had to schedule every single thing that I did, but I can say home detention was very good to me. They let me do just about anything that I asked them. I have to call every day to see if I had to take a drug screen. After about a month I started looking for a job.
 I’m so beyond thankful that my judge gave me the opportunity to do reentry court. I needed a little structure and help when I got out. It’s been nothing but good things since I got out. They even paid for me to take some facilitator training courses and now I’m able to start my own meeting.
I’ve been out for almost 5 months now and my life is so, so good. I have phased up to phase 3 in reentry court already. I work a full time job and I’m able to spend all of my free time with my boy. I have continued to work on myself since I have been out. I attend groups at milestone weekly and I regularly attend meetings. I have found a home group at SMART recovery on Saturdays and I have met some really amazing people there. I have started going back to my home church and I also attend hope house on Sunday nights. I have an amazing support system, between my friends and my family I couldn’t ask for better. I am so beyond blessed today. Granted I am not where I want to be, but I am almost 3 and a half years clean and sober. In July, I will be FIVE YEARS CLEAN off heroin!  I never thought I would be where I am today. People come to ME for help and advice. It’s all by the grace of god. He saw something in me that I didn’t see in myself.

Right after I found Christ, the holy spirit put it on my heart to write myself a letter to myself. Looking back I know that I didn’t have these words, he did. This is what it says:

Letter to self <3        August 4th 2016
Hello gorgeous! I’m here to tell you that everything is going to be all right. Continue to turn to god! It pleases him when you talk to him and tell him the good and the bad about every situation. Even though he already knows your heart, he wants you to tell him everything that is going on. *keep praying*
Remember those who are there for you! Mom & dad! Forget the ones who need you now. Remember how it felt to see Shane walk in that visiting center- for the FIRST TIME EVER! Remember how you felt. NOTHING is worth your freedom or the time you should be spending with Shane.
Stay in the word! Keep reading, learning and growing. The lord wants our relationship to flourish, that’s the reason he put you here. STAY POSITIVE!* the devil feeds off that negative energy and he isn’t worth and ounce of your energy! Remember YOU ARE STRONG! You have been through a lot- you can do this- you can do ANYTHING you put your mind to. YOU’RE PRICELESS! You’re worth more than gold!
Cherish these lessons, be a sponge! Absorb the good and wash out the bad! Keep the old life behind you! There is no going back! You deserve the best and only you can hold you back!
Melanie, you are beautiful! You are smart! You are an amazing mother, daughter and friend. You are funny. You are generous, caring and helpful. You are BLESSED! The lord loves you, he cherishes you. He loves when you come to him. This will be over soon! Keep your head up. Keep reading your bible. Stay positive always.
                              -love mel

Thank you Melanie. . . I love you girl and you inspire me each and every day of your journey.  Together we can recovery and help others do the same.  You are a role model and a mentor to me in my own walk and for that I am grateful. . . 

If you're struggling it's okay help is only a prayer away. 

The first picture is before prison and God and the second is this year. . . Can't tell me God doesn't move mountains. . . 

Thursday, April 18, 2019

Let me introduce you to my friend the CHAINBREAKER. . .

“I hereby sentence you to the Indiana Department of Corrections for a period of four (4) years” are words that I have heard numerous times in my almost twenty years of practicing law in Marion, Indiana.  I have represented thousands of people and I never was comfortable or liked seeing anyone must hear those words of imprisonment.  I hated when my clients had to be incarcerated.  In fact, that was why I became a criminal defense attorney after starting my legal training with the Grant County Prosecutors Office as an intern.  When I was an intern, I tried a jury trial and the defendant was found guilty and sentence to prison.  Afterward, I was distraught for having played a huge role in sending someone to prison and I vowed to never do that again.  Thus, I became a public defender and a criminal defense attorney whose passion became advocating for the accused.  I tried too many bench and jury trials to count.  I filed numerous appellate briefs and even argued cases in the Indiana Court of Appeals and once I had the honor of arguing a case in the Indiana Supreme Court - - forever changing the Attorney Work-Product law in the State of Indiana.  
I loved my career.  I loved my clients.  I loved being a part of the system against incarceration.  I loved helping people.  I loved getting people out of jail early.  I love being in the Courtroom.  I loved trials of all kinds.  I hated sentencing hearings because that usually meant that my client would hear these awful words . . . “I hereby sentence you to the Indiana Department Corrections” - - that was always the worst part of the career that I loved and eventually lost.
Come to find out it’s just as bad - - OKAY, WORSE when it’s me who hears those same exact words before being led off in handcuffs and shackles down the same hallways I walked as an attorney.  On December 18, 2015 that is exactly what happened.  I was sentenced to the Indiana Department of Corrections for a period of four (4) years.
I was broken.
I was addicted.
I was alone.
I was a felon.
I was a mess. . . okay, a HOT MESS . . . a TRAINWRECK
I didn’t care if I lived or died.  It was that bad.  Funny, I vowed to never put someone in prison after that trial I did as an intern and I was successful at that my entire career until my addiction got the best of me and I ended up putting myself in prison.  To be rigorously honest - - meth, crack, heroin, pills, alcohol, cocaine, and a life not worth living already had me incarcerated emotionally and spiritually so the physical incarceration was simply a change in zip codes.
I imprisoned myself.  I was a prisoner of brokenness (still am), shame, and guilt.  Judge Young just followed through with what I already started and sent me away . . . come to find out – to heal.
You already know what happened in prison and the transformation that took place.  I mean I don’t like to brag but I AM A MIRACLE - - PERIOD.
God transformed me, changed me, saved me, and freed me.  I prayed daily for things like forgiveness, freedom, surrender, thy will be done, love, empathy, compassion, and on and on.  I promised God to always tell others what He had done for me and what He continues to do every single day.
TODAY… I am two years free from prison.  I went back there yesterday, and you can see my pictures of that on my Facebook page.  😊     
Since my release this is what God has done in my life:
·       I am sober today and have been for over 40 months
·       I am reunited with ALL my family and remarried
·       I have mended friendships and made friends out of enemies
·       I have learned to trust GOD, to listen for HIS whispers, and to walk by faith
·       I listen more and talk less
·       I joined College Wesleyan Church
·       I mentor men in the Churches Embracing Offenders Program
·       I sponsor men in their own walk of recovery
·       I am a certified recovery coach
·       I visit jails and share my message even though I am a person who is STILL on probation and has a felony conviction – that is a miracle in itself. 
·       I help people find their own recovery story and teach them how to tell it
·       I work at Milestone Addiction Services and work closely with the Grant County Drug Court and Grant County Re-Entry Court
·       I have shared what God has done for me all over social media, radio stations, Television shows, podcasts, at businesses, corporations, churches, schools, universities, sidewalks, bathrooms, gas stations, in Wal-Mart, and a little place called the Honeywell Center, the Hope House, and just about everywhere you can imagine
·       I have amazing friends today
·       I love people well
·       I love loving people until they are well and beyond
·       There is not one thing that I have done that is NOT prefaced with the simple phase. . . BUT, GOD.  I am #stupidgrateful to be able to say this.
What is next you say?  I am in the process of starting sober living / transitional / recovery homes here in Grant County.  It is in the planning stage, but I am faithful that God has a plan that is bigger than I could ever imagine.  He’s already saved me from the biggest enemy I have faced – Me . . .
Today, I just take my own advice and pray for him to show me the way. . . Because if you are struggling, it’s okay…help is only a prayer away.

If you need to hear about what GOD can do in your life click HERE 

To hear more about my story you can watch this short VIDEO created by Indiana Wesleyan University and Marion General Hospital.

Tuesday, April 2, 2019

It's crazy - Brian and Shane's Recovery Story

Hey guys just wanted to share this journey with y'all here on my blog. I love this man right here and I'm grateful everyday for our journey together. God has plans for us and I'm just enjoying the ride. God is good. . . All the time. . .

You can watch our story by clicking HERE....

If you're struggling it's okay help is only a prayer away.

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