Janie is a graduate of The Next Door, a faith-based rehabilitation and re-entry program in Nashville, Tennessee. Janie spent most of her life looking for real love, and due to a background of abuse, she felt as if she mattered to no one. After years of toxic behavior and relationships, Janie found the one Love that was there all along.
Searching for Love, Finding God: Janie’s Story – Jesus Calling Podcast Episode 27
Janie: I got in a lot of trouble. In and out of jail. Nobody could trust me. Family hated seeing me come because I was going to steal, lie, cheat. I went to prison my last time in 2013. I decided that I had to change my life. Something had to change. I had a behavior problem that I didn’t know how to manage or control. I hated myself. I could not stand the woman I seen in the mirror.
Narrator: Welcome to The Experience Jesus Calling Podcast. Today we speak with Janie Elkins, a graduate of The Next Door, a faith-based rehabilitation center in Nashville, Tennessee. Janie grew up in an abusive household which pointed her down a rough road of addiction and substance abuse. Janie’s search for real love in her life came up empty time and time again as she fell into toxic relationships and sought to numb her pain through drugs. Here’s Janie, to share her story.
Broken Beginnings: How Janie’s Journey Started
Janie: My name is Janie Elkins and I graduated from the Next Door February 27, 2015.
I was born in Kentucky and when I was three we moved to Southwest Virginia was a coal miner. I have four sisters. It was rough in my house for me and all my sisters.
When I was twelve my first thing I started with was an eating disorder. Then it wasn’t long after that, I started drinking and smoking pot. It was filling that void that I had. All the people that I hung with that got high, I thought they loved me. They didn’t condemn me and make me feel like I was less than because I felt like I was one of them. One of the cool kids. That went on all through high school. It went from drinking to smoking pot to experimenting with other drugs.
I got married while I was still in high school. Had a lot of bad relationships. I think when I was twenty-one, twenty-two got pregnant with my first son. I was still in addiction and it was getting worse. He was born in 1986. Even after he was born I was still getting high. Still using.
Then my youngest son was born in 1987. I had handsome boys, too. After they were born I was still getting high. Couldn’t leave the drugs alone. Had left my husband, my children’s father and moved out and took the kids. I was partying non-stop.
My husband had the kids and he was taking me to court to get a divorce and custody of the kids. I did sign custody of them over at that time. It was probably what was best because they would’ve had a rough life living with me. They really would have. I was in and out of their lives. I wasn’t a constant.
Losing Hope And Feeling Lost
I was back using and getting high. I knew I was going to be drug tested. I was so miserable. I decided that I was going to take my own life. I was driving around in a truck. I had a .38. I really didn’t have the nerve to pull the trigger; I thought I didn’t want to be alive anymore. I was going to drive the truck off of a cliff. I just didn’t know any other way out. I went to my probation office and I sat down in my truck, just sitting there. I had the gun laying on my lap. I just leaned up against the door, just staring up at the window at my probation officers.
I sat out there probably for a good two hours before I ever decided to go in and ask for help, and tell them what I was about to do, and how I was feeling, and that I was back using drugs. She took me in front of the judge, and he court ordered me to do a thirty-day stint in a drug treatment center.
I think that’s how we dealt with pain. That’s how we dealt with life. That was all we knew. It was the one thing that took the hurt away.
They switched my probation to North Carolina. I went to North Carolina and I lived in a halfway house for four years. I was still getting in toxic relationships one after the other, one after another. I was just wanting somebody to love me. I really didn’t know what love was. I had no clue.
I’ve run my whole life. Went on the run to South Carolina. I was in another toxic relationship. Very abusive. Got me sent to the hospital he was so abusive. At this time my dad was dying of lung cancer. That was heartbreaking. One of my sisters had been in a car wreck. She had started shooting up pain pills, so I started hanging with her all the time. I remember my poor daddy dying and me and her would be in the bathroom just shooting up. I think that’s how we dealt with pain. That’s how we dealt with life. That was all we knew. It was the one thing that took the hurt away.
Trapped In Choices And Consequences
I made a lot of poor choices, a lot of poor choices.
Still in and out of my boys’ lives. By this time they were getting to be teenagers. They started experimenting with drugs also. My boys did. Then I found myself smoking pot and drinking with them. One of the worst decisions. I think that, out of all the bad choices I’ve made, that was the worst. That was my worst one.
About this time in 2005 my son was getting in trouble. Drinking real heavy. My oldest son. He had broken into his dad’s house and been arrested. His dad told him that if he would join the army he would drop the charges. So, he joined the army.
When he got back from Iraq he started drinking really, really heavy. I was back on the needle. Full blown addiction. Big time.
I still couldn’t get myself out of that hanging with the old people, places, and things, friends, associates. At one point, I did go to church. I did get saved, but something still had that hold. I still had that void. I still didn’t know how to get off the drugs.
Blaming God For Everything
Narrator: Janie’s world continued to spiral as she found herself incarcerated once again. As she was about to experience the biggest devastation of her life, it seemed as if the void in Janie’s life would never be filled. But God continued to draw her to Him, even in her darkest hour.
Janie: July 4th, they came and pulled me out of my jail cell, and said I needed to call home. An emergency. So, I called my son, and he told me that my oldest son, had died of heroin overdose. He was still in the army. He was a good kid too. He was a good boy.
I remember there was nothing like that feeling of having to be led back to that jail cell, and them shut the doors. It was the most hurting feeling in the world.
I can remember begging God to bring him back to life and to take me instead. I never dreamed out of all this, all this stuff that I had done, that I would ever have to bury a child. Ever.
Well, that was it. Went back to jail. I wouldn’t read the Bible no more. Was still mad at God. I wanted to blame Him for everything that went wrong in my life. I couldn’t figure out why He took my baby from me.
All the stuff I done to my boys. They never stopped loving their mamma. I’m like, ‘How could they love me?’ All the hurt I put them through. How could they love me?
Making A Change: Jesus Calling And The Next Door
I made my mind up that I had to get my life together. I could not live like that anymore because if I had to get back out and continue using dope, and being in one toxic relationship after another, that I would just as soon be dead.
The next day, they came and picked me up and arrested me for a parole violation. This whole time I’m still on parole. The charge was being in a home where guns were being held. When I got to prison they dropped that charge, but they wouldn’t let me out of prison.
They sent me straight here to Nashville to the TPW, Tennessee Prison for Women. While I was there at TPW I was looking on the bookshelf and I found my very first Jesus Calling. This book right here that I hold in my hand. The very first page has got the Next Door. I didn’t know what the Next Door was, but God did.
I started going to AA meetings, so I was in there, and I started reading my Jesus Calling every day. I would look those Bible verses up and I would pray. Soon as I woke up I would pray all day. Even if I woke up in the middle of the night I would just be thanking God and praying. Thanking Him and praying, thanking Him and begging Him to please help get my life straight.
I didn’t know what the Next Door was, but God did.
These ladies started talking about the Next Door. That they had a six-month program for women coming out of incarceration. I wrote them a letter and they mailed me back an application. I filled it out. I was as honest as I could be, maybe my entire life about everything about me. That’s one thing that I’ve never been is honest about me, my struggles, my eating disorder, the amount of dope I used. None of that. I prayed over my application and I mailed it. They accepted me in the Next Door.
Janie’s Journey To The Next Door
I got out of prison August 20, 2014. Something was different this time. Something was different. I knew that there had to be a better way, but I still didn’t know how to live life. I still had this hole in my heart. Still had anger. Still had hate. If I didn’t get rid of all that I was going to go back and get high. So, the Lord led me to the Next Door.
I took the bus from Memphis to Next Door. It was meant for me to be here. There’s no doubt. I got off the bus and somebody from the Next Door was supposed to be there to get me. I was going up and asking strangers, “Are you from the Next Door? Are you from the Next Door?” Everybody said no. They had just moved into this new building. They had only been here for three or four days.
My prayer was answered because I was at the Next Door.
My God had a plan. I was scared. It was getting dark. It was starting to sprinkle. I was about to cry and I had a little talk with Jesus. I said “Lord” (I never will forget my prayer) I said, “You promised me you would never leave me or forsake me. I trust you. I’m scared.” I thought I was going to have to sleep under the bridge. I said, “I don’t know what to do. I don’t know where to go.” I knew that I had to get to the Next Door. I tried calling. It went to voice mail, but I had an envelope with their address on it. I just knew I had to get in a cab right then. Even after I prayed I was still walking around. It was so overwhelming it was crazy for me to get in a cab. By the grace of God I had twenty dollars on me.
I showed him the address and he took me to the old Next Door. It looked real dead. No lights on. I said everybody’s in bed. But there was a lady at the dumpster throwing trash in the dumpster. The cab driver talked to her. This lady’s name was Linda Leathers. She had just got out of church. She had only gone to the old building to take out the trash, and put it in the dumpster. He asked her if it was the Next Door and she said yes. Soon as she said yes my hands flew up and I was going, “Thank you, Jesus. Thank you, Jesus.” My prayer was answered because I was at the Next Door. She said, “But they moved.”
A Warm Welcome To The Next Door
She had her car full of stuff from the move. She called her mamma. Her mamma came and got me. They went to Sonic. I got my first burger. They fed me and when I walked in these doors to a brand new building for the first time in my life I felt … it was like love. It was just something in the air. The staff. The clients. I had never been around anybody that was nice. That genuinely acted like they were glad to see me and like I mattered. I never in my entire life felt like I mattered.
They loved me and they taught me how to love myself.
I’m off parole. I completed parole last year in November. I made it and I didn’t get arrested and I didn’t run. They believed in me when I didn’t believe in me. They encouraged me.
Narrator: As Janie’s world began to shift from a cycle of pain and substance abuse, she began to see her true value in God’s eyes and she found a love that would never fail her. The Next Door was the conduit for change that Janie needed, but God had been working on her heart for years. Once again, here’s Janie.
Janie: Every July 4th when it comes around … my son’s been dead for six years now. I don’t have to get drunk. I don’t have to get high. I may hurt. I may cry. But I’m surrounded by good people and I don’t have to get high. I can live my life to the best of my ability for the both of us. That’s what I learned in my grief counseling. I can either let the grief of his death take me down in that black hole, or I can learn to live with it and deal with it and do the best I can.
Determined To Be Who God Created You To Be
I used to be so hard on myself. I’ve always thought when I would read Jesus Calling, how did they know on this day that this was going to apply in my life? Or that I was going to need to hear this passage right here?
It’s November 1st. “Do not be discouraged by the difficulty of keeping your focus on Me. I know that your heart’s desire is to be aware of My presence continually. This is a lofty goal. You aim toward it but never fully achieve it in this life. Don’t let feelings of failure weigh you down. Instead, try to see yourself as I see you. First of all, I am delighted by your deep desire to walk closely with Me through your life. I’m pleased each time you initiate communication with Me. In addition, I notice the progress you have made since you first resolved to live in My presence. When you realize that your mind has wandered away from Me, don’t be alarmed or surprised. You live in a world that has been rigged to distract you. Each time you plow your way through the massive distractions to communicate with Me, you achieve victory. Rejoice in these tiny triumphs and they will increasingly light up your days.”
I’m bound and determined to be that person God created me to be.
Narrator: Join us next time on the Experience Jesus Calling podcast when we visit with country music legend Reba McEntire. We’ll hear how her faith sustained her through difficult times and how Jesus Calling is a daily source of encouragement and inspiration in her life.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world. Be sure to subscribe to the Jesus Calling Podcast on iTunes. We value your reviews and comments so we can reach even more people with the message of Jesus Calling. And if you have your own story to share, we’d love to hear from you. Visit JesusCalling.com to share your story today.
If you or someone you know needs help with a substance abuse problem, please call 1-855- TND-HOPE or go to www.TheNextDoor.org.