After being incarcerated, she turned to God and was overcome with a renewed sense of peace and strength.
- Posted on Jun 17, 2019
As the cell door clanged shut behind me, I slumped onto a dirty cot and stared at my surroundings. Planks formed the flooring, and a row of windows ran along the top of the wall—too high for me to see out. But I hadn’t been able to see a way out of my life for years.
I had spent half my 45 years drinking. Now I had been arrested for public drunkenness. I had no money. A prostitute sitting across the cell from me offered me a cigarette and, with a ragged smile, invited me to join her trade. The other occupant of the cell, a frail homeless woman, fell into a fit of coughing. They had locked her up to save her life. Who will save mine? I wondered.
Alcohol had become a serious problem with me. Bernie, my husband, had given me my first drink long before we were married, and after our marriage we made a habit of drinking and partying. Alcohol seemed to give me confidence and a feeling of acceptance. During the day I worked as a bookkeeper; Bernie worked as a policeman. Still, we were deeply in debt.
Then Bernie started seeing other women. He also became abusive toward me. Once, he knocked me out the door onto a concrete slab, breaking my shoulder.
The only bright spot in my life was our daughter, Mary. I made sure I always took her to church. Though I had accepted Jesus as my Savior when I was eight years old, I had fallen away. Even though I got drunk on Saturdays, I was sober by Sunday morning so Mary and I could go to church.
One night I took Mary to a small church. There, while sitting at the end of a pew, I looked up and was amazed to see Jesus walking down the aisle, placing his hand on each person’s shoulder. When he came to me, he laid his hand on my shoulder too. I actually felt the pressure of his touch. And I wondered, After all I have done, could Jesus still have his hand on me?
I tried leaving Bernie several times, but he had me followed, then abused me. He threatened, “If you leave, I’ll frame you and take Mary away. You’ll never see her again.”
But when he took Mary with him to his rendezvous with a woman, I couldn’t stand it anymore. I followed him to the motel and knocked on the door. There he was, naked—and Mary with him and the woman! I couldn’t let that happen again. So a few days later I signed papers to commit Mary to the Barium Springs Home for Children, then grabbed Bernie’s gun and told him, “Sign these papers, or one day I’ll use this to kill you.”
Mary was nine years old and didn’t understand why a mother would commit her child to a home for children. She said she hated me. I hated myself. A week later I left Bernie for good. But I continued drinking.
One weekend I joined a group of drinkers, and we went barhopping until the police arrested us. That’s how I ended up in the jail cell. Outside, clouds had darkened the sky, and a thunderstorm brought rain pounding on the jail’s tin roof. I shuddered. A single bare bulb glared from the ceiling. As I sat there wanting to die, that light seemed to shine right into my heart, illuminating all the bad things I had ever done. I saw myself as I really was—a drunk—and Bernie wasn’t even in the picture for me to blame anymore. I was doing this to myself!
Right then I knelt on the hard wooden floor beside that filthy cot and prayed, “God, I’m not asking you to get me out of this, but please, just give me the strength to endure what I must go through.” Then I promised him, “Lord, if I get out of this cell, I will get into a recovery program, and I will stay in it the rest of my life.”
I prayed through the night, and by morning peace had flooded through me. The next day a friend bailed me out, and the charges were dropped. I enrolled in a recovery program and got a job as a bookkeeper and office manager. With several members of the recovery group, I began going to bars to pick up anyone who wanted to join our program. Eventually we established Hope Haven, Inc., a halfway house for women.
I have gone more than 30 years now without a drink. God has brought my daughter back, has blessed me with a wonderful grandson, and has given me a new husband, Jack. God has also helped me to forgive Bernie. And I am so thankful for that light from a jail cell that showed me the way out of my old life and enabled me to turn to God, who, no matter how bleak life may seem, is always there, always waiting to help us.
This story first appeared in the November 1996 issue of Guideposts magazine.