Women who have struggled with addiction and incarceration are finding hope for a new life through the work of The Next Door. The first in a 4-part series of moving stories from this group of courageous women, they also share how Jesus Calling has been a key part of their restoration and healing.
Linda: We’ve got women here who are homeless, and we have women here who have a trust fund. What brings them together and is a consistent factor is, they’re desperate for help.
Narrator: Welcome to the Experience Jesus Calling Podcast. The Next Door is a non-profit organization that provides physical, emotional, and spiritual rehabilitation for women in need of addiction treatment related to drugs, alcohol, mental illness, trauma, and/or incarceration. The women who are a part of this organization daily witness the profound effect of offering hope and resources to countless women who come through their doors looking to start a new life.
Linda Leathers: My name is Linda Leathers, and I serve as the CEO of The Next Door.The Next Door got its start because my church, in the heart of Downtown Nashville had a building that they bought, and we didn’t quite know what the purpose was of the building. We had a Wild Group of Praying Women, we called ourselves, and we just got this burden to utilize that building for good, so we knew to pray, and we knew to go and ask the experts in the community what the needs were because, quite frankly, we did not know.
When we found out that the needs of our community were there were gaps in the services for women, women who had addiction, mental health disorders, trauma, and needed housing; specifically, what happens when a woman comes out of incarceration?
Well, that was a new world for us, but we went to the jails and prison. We asked the warden, “Tell us about these women, He said, “Miss Leathers, it’s called “Roll-Up One, Roll-Up One; It’s that final door or gate that a woman comes to when she’s ready to be released. You’d think that would be a great day of celebration,” but, he told us, “it’s a great day of heartbreak, because she’s going to be right back in here within 3 to 6 months.”
“It’s called the Door of Destruction. It’s called recidivism. She’ll go right back to the old playgrounds, the old addictions, the old ‘friends,’ and it’s a heartbreaking door.”
That’s how The Next Door got started. We could be the next door.
We could pick women up at their gate of their crisis. When they’re coming out of the system, we could bring them into a place in which, by God’s grace and mercy, life could be different.
A New Door, A New Start
Patience Ruffin: My name is Patience Ruffin, and I am the Director of Treatment at The Next Door.Patience: It’s difficult to walk through the front doors of The Next Door and say, “I want to do something different for my life. Even though I’ve been doing this same thing for fifteen years.” That’s hard. Every day, they never cease to amaze me. They come in the door and they want to do something different. They want to change their lives. They teach me something new about just being a human every single day.
I get the opportunity to do crisis intervention with that woman who is nervous about even entering into treatment services. Go meet with her and talk to her about this life changing experience. Not just for her but for family. For her children. For her mom. For her dad. Whomever is impacted by her addiction. I also get the opportunity to work with clients who are here and want something different for their lives.
Amanda Dunlap: My name is Amanda Dunlap. I am the Director of Continuous Services here at The Next Door.Amanda: Here at The Next Door we get to work with them to work on those deep repressed feelings or traumas or situations, that they have buried. For many years, some of them. They all get individual counseling and group counseling each evening for different groups’ psychotherapy, communication groups, there’s a variety of ways we do that.
So a really holistic approach is what we really value ourselves on. Treating a whole woman because it’s way more than an addiction; way more than addiction. It’s a woman that has been hurt, shamed and all kinds of things. Helping her find her voice again.
Tammy Arnold: My name is Tammy Arnold and I graduated from The Next Door in 2013.Tammy: My story starts out as being abandoned when I was just a baby by my mother. My father was drafted to Vietnam. He ended up marrying a woman who hated my guts. The abuse was very severe, so severe that I have trouble talking about it. The things that had happened to me through my childhood, which are the most impressionable years, had scarred me beyond recognition of a normal person.
Trying to live my life with mental illness drove me to alcohol, it drove me to substance abuse. I would go from man to man searching for someone to love me because I felt that I was unworthy to be loved and even if someone did love me I would push them to their breaking point because I just couldn’t accept it.
I felt that I was unworthy to be loved and even if someone did love me I would push them to their breaking point because I just couldn’t accept it.
Finally, one day I was sitting in the crack house and I had all kinds of drugs around me and everything that an addict would want but I had really had enough and I begged God. I said, “Lord if, please either save me or let me die.”
Amanda: When I first met Tammy, she came into The Next Door wanting a difference and you meet women like that that you know are ready for a change, that have that road far too many times and wanting a difference in their life.
I could see that she was ready to make those decisions in her life and she wasn’t going to let anything stop her.
Tammy: Instead of being released back onto the streets where I would have probably died, I was brought to Nashville to The Next Door and it saved my life in more ways than one. It saved my life, it turned me into a healthy person.
Choosing The Next Door
Janie Elkens: My name is Jamie Elkens and I graduated from The Next Door February 27, 2015.Janie: I came from an abusive home life with an abusive mother and an alcoholic father. When I got in my teenage years I started experimenting with drugs and alcohol. Later on in life my experimenting with drugs and alcohol continued to get worse and worse. Made a lot of bad choices, in and out of prison, struggled with addiction for probably well over thirty years.
Patience: Janie is one of the sweetest spirits you’ll probably meet. Janie was so quiet when she came into our program. Very mild.
The more we got to learn about her strength and we got to learn about her courage and we learned about her desire for more.
Janie: I knew that I had to get to The Next Door. By the grace of God I had twenty dollars on me. And I took a cab and 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 went to the old building to take some trash out. 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.
Sherry Taylor: My name is Sherry Taylor and I graduated from The Next Door, September 2015.Sherry: I was in so much pain, so broken, didn’t want to live but I didn’t want to die. I had spent the last 11 years trying to put together a significant amount of time, free from chemical dependency. It got so bad. I had nowhere to go. I refused to involve my family. I moved here and did the geographical change to do better but the opposite happened after about nine months, I was back out into the streets using.
It took me 11 years of going through what was a spiral, out of control spiral of using a destructive behavior where everyone was affected. Every aspect of my life was affected, my job and my well-being. My ability to maintain friendships, relationships and even just to take care of myself. It was absolutely horrible. I had no more chances left before I came here. That’s why I sought help through The Next Door.
I had no more chances left before I came here. That’s why I sought help through The Next Door.
Patience: Sherry was a gem from the moment I met her. Sherry and I engaged first in a group. She had maybe been here, maybe two weeks, in our program or less.
Every moment that we were talking about anything, in that particular group, she’s just tearful.
She began to plead for her sisters in that particular group to choose life. And the passion with which she did that took my breath away. Because in that moment she was crying, she felt blessed to be here and have that second chance but she was also pleading for the women in the room with her to make that choice.
Hope and Recovery through Jesus Calling
Narrator: Among the many resources The Next Door provides to give women a chance at a new life, the spiritual aspect of a woman’s healing is a huge part of the process. Each woman who arrives at The Next Door receives a copy of Jesus Calling and is encouraged to read the daily passages as a way to rekindle their faith and establish a daily connection to God while they are in recovery.
Linda: Jesus Calling is central to everything we’re about at The Next Door. When you walk into the building, on the first right is our chapel, and every woman here receives a Jesus Calling book. It’s been foundational to who we are, and it’s a beautiful tool. It’s a tool to drive people to the Lord, and that’s what we’re about.
Sherry: When I walked in the door, I was welcomed by a young lady who I think wanted to give nothing but her time. She was able to console my nerves for making such a big decision so I didn’t sit there by myself. I was given a bag that had every toiletry that a woman could ever need, entering a place to actually stay for an indefinite amount of time. In there, was a Jesus Calling, recovery bible and lots of things that you would need to start all over. Coming from where I came from, I had lost all those things.
Amanda: Jesus Calling is very applicable for the women and for the staff because it kind of meets you where you are and it’s crazy how it does that. That book can meet you in any journey you’re on, at any point in time and how when you pick it up and read it for that day, you can take a word, a sentence or all of it and apply it to your life. The women say that often, that this hit home and many of them start their day with reading Jesus Calling. It’s kind of the leap pad for them for their day.
Tammy: This was the first thing they ever gave me was my Jesus Calling book. It’s dated November the 8th right inside and this has gotten me through.
As you can see it is a little worn because I still use it today. Narrator: The women of The Next Door, from the staff to the participants, are affecting real change in the fight against addiction and substance abuse. The work that is done there daily is not only creating a lasting difference in the lives of the women who walk through the doors, but in the lives of their families and communities.
Linda: Last night I was with a group and this was their first two days of The Next Door. I heard them, and they were devastated. They were scared. They did not feel that their life had any meaning. I got a chance to share with that group that they’re amazing, and that Jesus loves them, that we’re going to do our best to love them, and that they don’t have to be defined by their past. God’s got a plan and purpose for their life that is good.
Janie: That’s where they taught me how to look in the mirror and tell myself I loved me until I believed it. I could look at myself in the mirror today. You know what? I love the woman I see. I love the woman I see. I’m bound and determined to be that person God created me to be. I’m not going to give up.
Sherry: I mean where else can you go. Holistically speaking, medically, physically, mentally, spiritually, all of my needs were met here.
Sherry: One of the greatest blessings I’ve received is an invitation for full time employment here at The Next Door. Little did I know on January 12, 2015 when I walked in those doors, at the lowest of my life that I would ever be able to give back in some small form that I would ever be able to give back to this community and to this business, but to be able to hold a position where I graduated in 1987, with my nursing licensed by the state of Tennessee, passed by state boards.
Sherry: If what I’ve gone through, I can use to help someone else, it was worth it and I’d do it again. That sounds insane because it was one of the most horrific experiences I’ve ever had in my life to be caught up in the grips of an addiction and not know your way out before you’re educated, before you’re well-informed on what to do. I just didn’t see it coming, but I’m so grateful that there is a way out. That would be my message to anyone, would be there’s a way out. Don’t ever give up and just reach out and ask for help that one person.
Tammy: Since I graduated The Next Door, I immediately enrolled in college and I’m now the proud college graduate. I graduated with my Associates of Arts Degree from Nashville State. I graduated summa cum laude.
In January I plan to apply here for my internship that I have to do in the spring. I still have a 4.0 GPA and I still read my Jesus Calling every day and my life is completely different. If you knew me even four years ago and knowing me today, I am not at all the same person.
Tammy: Everything that I wish I would have done many years ago or had the opportunity to do, I’m doing it now and the Bible verse that says “the Lord will restore” … He said “He will restore the years the locust have eaten” and He did.
Linda: We are here to, again, provide services, no matter someone’s socioeconomic condition. And so I’m saying, if you’re out there and you either have someone in your life, or you’re that person who is living a lie and you need help, and you’re not sure how to do it, and you’re wondering is it worth just throwing in the towel, don’t give up. Give The Next Door a shout. Give The Next Door a try. Call us. Call us, it’s 1-855-TND-HOPE, or look us up online at TheNextDoor.org. If it’s not The Next Door, find a place in which you can find help and healing, because it’s possible. I’m telling you, recovery is possible.
Narrator: Our featured passage for today’s show comes from the July 13th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook.
“I WANT YOU to experience the riches of your salvation: the Joy of being loved constantly and perfectly. You make a practice of judging yourself, based on how you look or behave or feel. If you like what you see in the mirror, you feel a bit more worthy of My Love. When things are going smoothly and your performance seems adequate, you find it easier to believe you are My beloved child. When you feel discouraged, you tend to look inward so you can correct whatever is wrong.
Instead of trying to “fix” yourself, fix your gaze on Me, the Lover of your soul. Rather than using your energy to judge yourself, direct it to praising Me. Remember that I see you clothed in my righteousness, radiant in My perfect Love.”
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world.
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