Free from shame and pride.
Free to dream and courageously carry it out.
"Your setback doesn't derial God's purpose for you life."
Five years ago, if you would’ve asked me what freedom means to me, I would’ve said, "Staying out of prison." At that time I didn’t realize freedom was spiritual. I didn’t see being enslaved to low self-esteem, drugs, unforgiveness and distorted thoughts as not being free.
In 2014, while watching my mother pass away, I saw myself succumbing to the life I was living. I was in an unhealthy relationship for 20 years, settling for physical and mental abuse. I had a very expensive drug habit, and I didn’t believe I could get clean on my own so I never tried. I owed a lot of money and I committed crimes to sustain my habit. I isolated myself because of the shame of who I was and what I was doing. At that time, I thought I was on the road to destruction ... but I was destruction.
Freedom didn’t happen for me all at once. Now, as I look back I can see God was gracefully breaking me the whole time I was in prison. During my incarceration, my 6-week old grandson passed away. I was hurt because I didn’t get approved to attend his service. When that happened, I realized something had to change. I wanted to do something different ... to live a normal life. I wanted to work honestly, help my kids with homework, not commit crimes.
I started connecting more spiritually, surrounding myself with different people and thinking differently. Freedom came as a process of correction and healing. God would show me areas that I was bound and He sent people in my life to help me overcome it. He also removed people from my life and showed me how to depend on Him more. At that time, it hurt but I didn’t realize it was beneficial.
One day, a friend told me about the JobStart Program and encouraged me to apply. I had already been transferred to several facilities during my incarceration and I didn’t want to move to another facility. I was comfortable where I was but God spoke to me. I applied and I was accepted, however I got denied the transfer I needed to attend the classes. I don’t remember what happened, but I got back on the list and was accepted a second time and approved to transfer. I took advantage of all the program offered, the mentors, instructions, workbooks, workshops and networking. All of it.
On one of our trips in JobStart I realized going back home wasn’t the right choice. I had been thinking about it. I wondered, “Can I really go home and not do drugs?” “Can I go home and live the new life I want to live?” My mind said I could, but my heart knew I couldn’t. I hated change but I knew this change was good even though it was scary. Making the choice to stay in Raleigh, I knew I was free.
I asked God to open a door for me if I was meant to stay and He did. My friend Jean gave me an application for a transition home randomly. She didn’t even know I was thinking of staying in Raleigh. Next thing I knew, I was being connected to different people and the pieces were all coming together. My decision to stay was affecting my whole family. They had to take care of my children and grandchildren, but they trusted the process and supported me through it. When it came time to go to a transition house, I didn’t want to go. I cried. I wanted to be comfortable, but I knew I wanted to live a better life. That’s when I knew I was changed.
For so long I struggled with unforgiveness. I didn’t forgive myself for the way I treated people and my community. Especially my children. I wasn’t there for them. While in JobStart I had the opportunity to receive constructive criticism from my classmates. That’s when I had a chance to cry out and release what I felt about myself. The more I began to see myself according to how God created me to be I began to let the unforgiveness and shame go.
Now, when you ask what freedom means to me I can say freedom means being at peace. It means learning to embrace your struggles. Learning that they are an opportunity to grow and help someone else. It means living a life of purpose and intention. It means being able to forgive yourself.
Today, I am free to dream and have the courage to carry it out. I am free to take healthy risks and live a life of abundance. A normal life of integrity and dependence on God. I am free to be a great mother, friend, and servant to the community. Now I am free to share my past and not be bound by shame or the fear of people judging me.
If I could go back in time I’d tell my 13 year old Teresa it’s ok to cry out for help. Don’t try to grow up too fast and don’t allow shame and pride to hinder you from living. Stay humble, be obedient and love yourself.
Teresa recently closed on her first home and is preparing to regain custody of her 2 grandchildren and youngest daughter. She is employed as a Team Leader at Caroll’s Kitchen and plans to pursue a degree in Substance Use Counseling in the near future.