How Getting Caught Turned Into the Path Home
Ever since her teen years in upstate New York, Terri Grewell was determined to run her own life—even if it meant risking bodily harm.
"I started running away from home when I was 14 years old," Terri says. "I would jump from my second-story bedroom window to run away. When my mom told me no, I did it anyway."
The daughter of an alcoholic father who was rarely around, Terri started drinking in eighth grade. She then moved on to marijuana, acid, and meth—which quickly became her "drug of choice." Terri used drugs at first because she thought they were fun. She says they made her feel strong. But soon, Terri couldn't get out of bed in the morning without using first. Her addiction owned her.
When she was 17, Terri got in trouble with the law. Afraid of being tried as an adult, she ran away to Arizona before turning 18. To fund her increasing drug use, Terri started making and selling meth.
Dealing drugs made Terri feel powerful, like she was tough and could hold her own in a man's world. Just like running away, getting high served as an escape.
"I never felt," Terri says. "I numbed all those years. I just didn't know how to feel."
In 2000, Terri went to jail for five months. And while she was there, she got sober. She stayed clean for almost nine years until she began what she now sees as a deeply unhealthy relationship.
"When he said 'jump,' I would jump," Terri says. "And when he relapsed, so did I."
Terri had three children by this point, and she was spiraling into darkness. The escape that drugs seemed to offer was ruining her life. She gave custody of her children to their father and became estranged from her extended family.
THE END OF FALSE FREEDOM
In 2010, Terri was arrested for trafficking meth, and her runaway life came to an end.
Ever since she had started dealing, Terri knew she would eventually go to prison—and this time, her hunch was confirmed. She spent two weeks in a county jail before being sentenced. While she was there, she finally stopped running.
"That's when I actually got on my hands and knees and asked Jesus Christ into my heart, and that's when my life changed," Terri says. "I cried that whole two weeks. I just knew I wanted something different. I was tired of living the rat race, living the lie, and being somebody I really wasn't."
Terri read the book of Daniel while she was in jail. At first, she was excited to learn of a man whose freedom God had orchestrated. But then she realized there was a difference between their situations—Daniel had been innocent. Terri knew she deserved prison time, that it was right for her to pay her debt. But that didn't take away her fear and sadness over what the future held.
She was released on bond. While Terri waited to be sentenced, she spent her mornings on her now-grown daughter’s porch, reading the Bible and praying. But even as she longed to know God better, she was struggling with thoughts of leaving it all behind.
"I was depressed," she says. "I slept a lot, and I was miserable. I prayed, 'Lord, come and take me.'"
Before her sentencing, Terri went to rehab. That's where God really started changing her life. During her four-and-a-half-month stay, a recovery specialist befriended Terri. She was a Christian, so in addition to helping Terri with her addiction issues, she prayed with Terri and explained the parts of the Bible that confused her. Terri's faith began to grow.
REAL FREEDOM BEGINS
When she started her five-year prison sentence, Terri decided to receive it as an opportunity.
"I just knew that I wanted my life to change," she remembers. "So in prison, I just grasped everything I could that would make me better. I took every class there was to take. I went to every Bible study. I hung out at the chapel and went to every church service."
Terri couldn't keep the Good News to herself and often shared it with her fellow prisoners.
"I was consumed by His love and power," she recalls. "I went from dope dealer to hope dealer, giving away the love of Jesus."
Terri's participation in rehab and classes—along with the way she took responsibility for her crime—earned her an early release after 22 months.
As soon as she got out, Terri found a church and began serving. She volunteered with homeless people and worked with those in recovery. She had started college classes while in prison, and on the outside, Terri completed her bachelor's degree in family and human services.
She was even able to renew her relationships with her other children—and now she has three granddaughters.
"They're my life," Terri says. "I feel like God gave me a second chance, a redo, with my grandchildren."
Today, Terri has 10 years of sobriety under her belt and is a Prison Fellowship Academy® program manager at the Nebraska Correctional Center for Women. In this role, she guides prisoners through a curriculum designed to replace criminal thinking and behaviors with renewed purpose and biblically based life principles.
"I'm so thankful to be where I am," Terri says. "I know that if wasn't for Jesus Christ, I wouldn't be on this path. He picked me up from the miry muck and placed me on solid ground."
BIBLES ARE NEEDED NOW MORE THAN EVER
Prisons across the country are on lockdown due to COVID-19, and Bibles are one of the only ways to still get hope behind prison bars. And nothing provides hope like the living Word of God. The demand for Bibles is at an all-time high. Will you help us meet the need? Please give generously today and your gift will be doubled thanks to a matching grant!
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