How did this happen to me? How did my life go from being a little girl, playing with my sisters, having great parents, being a nurse with a family … to being in prison?
I came from a really good family and did well in high school. With a four-year scholarship for swimming at the University of Northern Colorado, I got my biology and nursing degrees. I married my high school sweetheart.
It seemed like my life was really good—but I was missing something. My husband and I fought a lot. He's a great person; we were just missing God. I was constantly searching for something to fill the void I felt.
Then I just started shopping a lot, eating a lot, exercising a lot. Anything I did, I did in excess to try to fill that void. It got worse when I started going out after work with the doctors from work.
FILLING THE VOID
I lied to my husband that I had to work late, when I was just drinking and partying. At one party, a tray was passed around with lines of cocaine on it. I had never seen that before. I'm from a small town. I had never hung out with people who did anything like that.
When I saw it coming my way, my mind was racing:
Is this cocaine? Am I going to do this? What is going on? Am I going to do drugs right now?
Before I could talk myself out of it, I did it. Immediately I felt like I had arrived.
This is the answer. This is filling that emptiness that I feel.
When they say you can become addicted from doing a drug just once, it's totally true. That happened to me. I walked away from my job and family, and started living on the streets.
LOST IN THE CYCLE
When my family sent me to rehab, I would get clean for a little bit, giving them a little hope. Then I would relapse, and every time I relapsed, I would get so much worse. I ended up going from cocaine to crystal meth. I was shooting up, stealing, burglarizing homes, prostituting—whatever I had to do to get money for drugs.
I can remember looking in the mirror in the final weeks of my addiction. I was 88 pounds and bruised up and down my arms from shooting up. I didn't even recognize myself. I didn't know who I had become.
I was in my early 30s, and I didn't want to live like that anymore. But I couldn't stop. I wanted to, and I tried so many times. I would last like a day, you know?
I literally hit my knees and said, "God, if You're real, You need to show up—and show up now—because I'm going to die. I don't want to live like this anymore. Just help me if You're real."
Two days later, I was arrested.
I was 88 pounds and bruised up and down my arms from shooting up.
I didn't even recognize myself. I didn't know who I had become.
A PRISONER’S VOW
I knew I was going to do some time, but I had this overwhelming sense of peace, like a warmth inside me. It's like God was saying, "It's over. You're in My hands. You asked for help, and I'm helping you."
I finally got to Denver Women's Correctional Facility with a six-year sentence. I remember pulling up in the white van, and looking at these tall fences with barbed wire and guards with guns. I was so terrified.
But I made a vow walking through those gates:
Kellie, you're going to hold your head up. You're going to come out of these gates a better woman. A strong woman. Not this empty, broken person that you are right now.
THE GATE TO HEALING
Getting used to prison was not easy. I kept to myself and only hung around people who were going the same direction as me. I took all kinds of classes.
One day, this officer came in and said I signed up for this other program.
I told him I didn't sign up for anything, and he's like, "You did, and you have to come."
I went, and it was the Prison Fellowship Academy™. I don't know how I got in there, but God does.
It was a year-long program. I waived parole to complete it. I loved the teachers, the volunteers, and just getting to know a different God than I thought I knew—not condemning and scary, but forgiving. They told us we all are redeemable, and that God's searching for us.
They told us we all are redeemable, and that God's searching for us ...
God knows everything I did. He knows everything I'm going to do.
But He sent His Son to take care of all of that
'IT WAS IN THE ACADEMY THAT I REALLY GOT SAVED'
Going in, I thought I was a lost cause. I didn't feel like I qualified for the program because of all the mistakes I had made, like no one could be as bad as me. I was shame-faced for so long. The Academy helped me to look at that and other issues—to set boundaries and to love myself.
I was running from God because I was just scared of Him seeing what I was doing. I learned that God was not only waiting for me but running towards me. He knows everything I did. He knows everything I'm going to do. But He sent His Son to take care of all of that.
Before prison, my parents sent me to so many rehabs. I wasn’t ready to change until I hit my knees and called on God. He had to be the one to say, "Look, you've tried every other power, and nothing worked. I'm going to show you I'm the answer."
It was in the Academy that I really got saved.
A REFLECTION OF HOPE
The month after I graduated from the Academy, I made parole. I had served about three years.
When I walked out of the gates, I looked back at the prison and hit my knees again.
I never, ever have to come back here. Never.
But I told myself, "I will be back here—just not as a prisoner. And I will speak. And I want to be part of a solution, and not the problem anymore."
I had been accepted to a Christian women's home outside my governing county; I didn't want to go back to my hometown to start over. And Prison Fellowship made it happen. It was so nice to get out and have a home! I had a bed with a real pillow and clean sheets and towels. The lady who picked me up from the gates showed me around, and helped me with everything I needed to do. There's no way I would have gotten everything done without her.
Now when I looked in the mirror, the main difference that I saw was my eyes. Before, my eyes were so dark and sunken, and my cheeks were sunken. But after, I just felt full of life. And my eyes were so bright. People would see new pictures of me and say, "You just have this radiance about you. You are just glowing." And it had nothing to do with me, and everything to do with God.
TIME TO REBUILD
Life today isn't perfect, but it is so good. When I got out, I was hopeful that everyone was going to be like, "Oh great, she's home! Welcome home!" And it wasn't like that at all.
I knew God had gotten me through so much and was going to continue. So, I'm being patient and learning to trust God's timing. Knowing my addiction didn't just happen in one day, I understand that people's trust in me isn't going to be rebuilt in one day.
But I'm just so grateful for this new life and that I got to experience the Academy.
I wish I could tell the old Kellie to hit her knees quicker because the minute I asked God for help … literally two days later, He rescued me.
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