"Letters from Inside" is a blog series featuring incarcerated women at Minnesota Correctional Facility–Shakopee, where Prison Fellowship® runs one of its Academies. Over the coming months, you will hear perspectives from women who are not only serving time for crimes but are now trying to live their lives for Jesus behind bars.
For more "Letters from Inside," click here.
MY JOURNEY WITH PRISON FELLOWSHIP ACADEMY
By Melissa of Shakopee
My life before the Prison Fellowship Academy™ was an absolute disaster! I was using drugs, stealing, and hurting people, both emotionally and physically. At that point I did not have God in my life at all.
LOVE AND DRUGS
I ended up starting an intimate relationship with my best friend who was also my first true love.
The first two years we were together were great! We used drugs together. But over time our love for each other became weaker, and our love for drugs became stronger. I was pregnant, and while my daughter was growing inside of me, I continued to use drugs. My daughter ended up going to live with her father's parents, and then he and I broke up.
ON THE STREETS
After that I lost it! I ended up losing my home, my dogs, and everything else that I owned. My drug use increased drastically, and I was literally living on the streets. I did not have any place to stay, and with the weather being so cold, sleeping at parks was not an option. So I started doing anything I had to do for a place to stay—like sleeping with men, letting them beat me—basically whatever they wanted.
At that point I really hated myself and I wanted to die. I was not only smoking meth, but I was shooting it as well. The amount that I was using should have killed me but, for some reason, it did not. I had warrants out for my arrest, and by the grace of God I was finally arrested.
THE BEST DECISION
I was in county jail for only a few weeks when I realized I was ready to stop living my life this way! When I got to prison, I decided to join the Prison Fellowship Academy. That was the best decision of my life.
I entered the program with no confidence and very low self-esteem. I felt very alone and my walls were built extremely high; I was quiet and stayed to myself. But as time went on, my relationship with God grew stronger, and I learned things about me I never even knew. The Prison Fellowship classes taught me better coping skills and built my self-esteem. I learned how to set boundaries with myself and others. Now I look at the good memories I have in life and not the negatives.
God was in my life even when I felt alone.
I also participated in Celebrate Recovery, where I was able to get everything out and feel free.
During the past nine months in the Academy, I have learned the tools to stay sober and forgive people and, most of all, myself. One thing is for sure, without this program, I would not be the person that I am today.
My Academy sisters have become my new family. I cannot express my gratitude enough for everything that they have taught me and for them showing me they do care. I will never forget [them or the] volunteers that came to help teach us.
So now that I am walking out of these doors, I am proud to say that my walls are finally down. I am happy, confident, and trusting— a smarter woman who is completely sober, and who has a passion for life.
But the best thing of all is that I am a true woman of God.
Thank you all,