Women's LIFE Recovery participant Linda shared this speech at the recent Phase Promotion at UGM's Center for Women and Children.
“I sat in a courtroom eight years ago and was told I was considered not 'rehabilitate-able.' I had lost hope and faith in myself to ever change or be a functioning part of society.“When I looked at my future, I saw my father who had spent his life in and out of prison until the day he was sentenced to life. I was so afraid I was turning into my father. I went to prison my first time in 2014 after a long time on the run. I thought I had found God, but I didn't have a relationship or true repentance for the things I had done. I saw God as a way of not feeling guilty for the things I wanted to do. Over the last few years, I have gone to another faith-based program, prison a couple times, and lived on the streets, running from the law and myself.
“In December 2018, I was on the streets of Spokane. I had been kidnapped, beaten up, and had a gun pulled on me in the middle of nowhere, knowing if I died no one would find me. All I could do was pray that God would somehow save me because I didn't want to die like this. I wanted to see my babies again, and I promised myself that I would do anything and everything to change.
“So, on January 11, 2019, I turned myself in to Kootenai County Jail. I had never turned myself in before. I always waited until I was caught, so I could just continue to do what I wanted and stay high. I had looked at UGM before, but I didn't want to commit to a two-year program. I knew when I turned myself in that I needed a long-term, faith-based program. I prayed about it and wrote a letter to Teria at UGM.
“Through God's will only, I was accepted from prison and released to UGM. I came in with a tough exterior and more closed-off than I would admit.
“I had a hard time looking at myself in the mirror and really forgiving the person I was.
“I had clung onto this identity of who I needed to be to protect myself. I hid behind humor and anger, only to find myself having to evaluate those things every time. I told myself that this was the change I prayed for and that there was grace given by God and by the women here. Therefore, I did the hard things, like opening up and telling the truths about the things that were dark and ugly in me. I found out that, no matter what, there were people who still loved me after knowing what I had done.
“All of a sudden, one day I look at myself again in the mirror—but I really looked, not just glanced—and there stood someone I had grown to love.
“I was changed. I was not that prisoner in the courtroom being told I would never be able to change. I am a child of God, I am saved by the blood of the Lamb. I have recently been put into ministry at one of the rehabs that I went to years ago. I have also been asked to take the MRT training (a class taught in prison) so I can teach it to the women I work with. Every day, God shows up—sometimes in just little ways and other times so mighty I am in awe. Even though it has taken me many years to admit my felonies and forgive those who considered me a lost cause, now I have the power to walk in my identity in Christ and die to my old self. I am free.”
Men and women are finding freedom every day at UGM. Learn more about our faith-based philosophy of change in this free video series from Phil Altmeyer.