Tammy Arnold spent her tender years in an abusive household, abandoned by her mother, and then by her father as well. Rejection left her searching for love, and eventually to numbing the pain with drugs and alcohol. At her most desperate, Tammy drew from the tiny spark of faith her grandmother had instilled in her long ago, and began her journey back to the one thing that had never abandoned her: God’s love.
Tammy Arnold: There was something in me that told me that I had, that I was meant for something better than what I had had my whole life. I was sitting there looking at these drugs in front of me and I just begged God. I said, “God please either save me or let me die,” and He chose to save me.
Narrator: Welcome to The Experience Jesus Calling podcast. Today we present the second in our series on The Women of The Next Door. Tammy Arnold grew up in a world of pain. Abandoned by her family at an early age, Tammy sought to escape her trauma through drugs and alcohol. This spiral took her down a dark road for many years, and it wasn’t until she prayed to God for help that she began to see the light that would eventually lead her to The Next Door.
Abandoned By Family
Tammy: My name is Tammy Arnold and I graduated from The Next Door in 2013. I left on May 28th but my graduation was in July. I’m originally from Tallahassee, Florida. I moved around Florida quite a bit when I was young. My mother left when I was just a baby and my grandmother and my grandfather took me in. When my father graduated from college he married a girl that he met in college and they came and took me from my grandparent’s home. He was trying to live up to his responsibility but the woman that he married hated me. She hated me from the first time she ever met me, she hated me.
I spent the next seven years with them. I had tinfoil on my windows so I couldn’t see outside. I wasn’t allowed to play outside with the other children, she would beat me on a regular basis, I still have scars on my legs from where she would beat me with my dad’s belt buckle.
That’s where the issues with my father come in because I’ll never forget one day when he was sitting in his chair watching her do this and I’m screaming, “Daddy help me, daddy help me,” and he didn’t lift a finger to help me. So anyway, when I was 10 my grandmother died. I tried to kill myself at 10 years old. Later that same year, 1978, when I was 10, and my grandmother died on August the 22nd of that year, my father and my stepmother had a child, December the 11th of that year.
I said, “They don’t want me anymore and if you don’t take me they are going to send me to some school or an orphanage.”
My stepmother didn’t want me around her. And by the time I was 12 she gave my father the ultimatum–it was either me or her. We were in a parking lot and they had all my stuff in the trunk. Here I am 12 years old with all my stuff in my father’s trunk of his car, and my aunt and my uncle pull up. They won’t even tell them why they called them to the parking lot to meet us there. So finally, when no one says anything my aunt says, “what is it? What is it?” He didn’t say anything, he just started crying and he’s holding my little sister at the time and I’ll never forget this. And finally, I had to speak up and I said, “They don’t want me anymore and if you don’t take me they are going to send me to some school or an orphanage.”
I spent almost a full year there, and it was probably one of the best years of my life because my aunt let me have some freedom and I did things that I had only dreamed of doing before, and I was actually allowed to be a child. My aunt and my uncle had marital issues. They ended up getting a divorce and the next thing you know I was being sent back to my father’s.
I just cried and cried and cried, and a few days after I was back, my stepmother got my dad’s Winchester 44 out of the closet and was pointing it … She was standing in the hallway pointing it at my head and I turned to look at her and saw the gun pointed at my head and I hit the floor. That was the only time that I remember my dad taking up for me, but he did wrestle her to the ground that day.
By this time, I was turning 13 and I was getting really tired…and one day I got a little courage and she swung that belt at me and I jumped up on top of my bed and I grabbed the belt. When I grabbed the belt, it scared her because I’ve never once fought back ever. It scared her to the point to where she ran out of my room and she got rope and tied my door to the door handle outside so I couldn’t open my door.
Alone Without Hope
Tammy: The following day I went to school and I went to see a guidance counselor and I told them I wasn’t going home. Well, they said I had to see somebody about that and I said well, it doesn’t matter, I’m not going home. They said, “well, we’re not giving you permission not to go home” and I said, “I don’t need your permission”, so I never went home. They did, however, put me in Great Oaks Village in Orlando, Florida which was an orphanage.
I ran away from there; I was really messed up by this time. I ran away from there and ended up in a Christian orphanage in Thomasville, Georgia. I ran away from there…I ended up back in an orphanage, my dad came and got me. He had a new girlfriend at the time and it just wasn’t something I was ready for, so I only stayed with them a couple of months and I took off. The next thing you know I was in Northern Virginia.
I was still 13 but I was going to turn 14 that year. I met my daughter’s father, I was pregnant at 14, I had my daughter at 15. She wasn’t three or four months old that I got a job at this, like late-night place as a waitress because her father worked during the day. I went to this bar scene to work in the evenings for extra money, and the next thing you know I was drinking. Her father and I fell out. The next thing you know I was doing drugs. I had to let her father take her.
I started going from man to man looking for somebody to love me because I guess I just couldn’t accept that when somebody did love me, I found it hard to accept that they loved me, and I would try to push them as far as I could push them, in the same way that I did my grandmother. Because my grandmother’s love would never break from me and that was the only love I had to compare to anyone.
I was struggling with a severe mental illness, even though I didn’t realize I was mentally ill. 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.
When I was in my 30’s, one of the guys I was dating brought cocaine home and mind you–I had already tried crack when I was about 19, but I managed to get myself off of it at 19. When I was in my 30’s, I tried it again–I did not have the same luck as far as getting myself off of it. I didn’t even try, to be honest with you.
I came from Virginia down to Tennessee with this man, and within a year of being in Alcoa, Tennessee, I was so heavy on alcohol and drugs that I hardly ever left the crack house. This went on for a couple of years. When I did leave I would get arrested. I was arrested many times for paraphernalia but I was never … even though I told my probation officer several times that I would like to get help, they never once offered me help. Of course I was destitute, I had no insurance so I couldn’t get help on my own.
Adored by God
Narrator: Tammy’s journey was about to reach a sharp crossroads. Though she knew she wanted something different for her life, she found herself powerless to change her situation on her own. In her darkest hour, Tammy turned to the only place she knew to turn and recalled the faith that had been instilled in her long ago.
Tammy: 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, please either save me or let me die.” I prayed that prayer a few times and I was serious and I was in tears and the next thing you know I was being arrested for a felony for selling a little bit of those drugs to someone.
I found out about this place, about the Next Door program, while I was in jail. They only gave me a 90-day sentence. They were going to let me right back out on the street with six-years community corrections. I had to beg them, mind you this is the same county that I was in that I was arrested 16 to 20 times for paraphernalia, that never once offered me any help. So while I was sitting there on my 90-day sentence awaiting to be released, I started begging them not to release me. I was calling my public defender on a daily basis, “Please help get some help.” With the help of my attorneys, I was able to get permission to come here before my sentence was up, so I didn’t actually have to go back out. Because I felt that if they let me back out on the street I’d be high within–by that evening and I would be doing six years in prison.
When I got to The Next Door they started treating me. I got here on November the 8th of 2012, and I have never looked back.
I stayed in therapy here for eight months and during that time, I renewed my relationship with Jesus Christ, I set goals for myself, I learned how to play the tape all the way forward; meaning that I thought of consequences before my actions which I had never done in my whole life, ever.
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’s a little worn because I still use it today.
My life is completely, completely different. If you knew me even four years ago, and knowing me today, I’m not at all the same person. What’s amazing about that, is that I was that same person for over 40 years, and in a matter of eight months they turned me–helped me turn my life around into the person that I should have been 30 years ago. Everything that I wish I would have done many years ago or had the opportunity to do, I’m doing it now and you know, the Bible verse that says the Lord will restore … He said He will restore the years the locusts have eaten, and He did.
If you knew me even four years ago, and knowing me today, I’m not at all the same person.
Narrator: With a new start and fresh possibilities, Tammy views the future from a whole new perspective. With the help of The Next Door and her ongoing spiritual renewal, Tammy has been able to successfully work through mental illness, addiction, and her personal pain. She is a shining example that no matter what you’ve been through, it is never too late for new beginnings.
Tammy: Since I graduated The Next Door, I immediately enrolled in college and I am now a proud college graduate. I graduated with my Associates of Arts Degree from Nashville State. Last year I graduated summa cum laude. I will be graduating Tennessee State University next fall with my bachelors of Science and Social Work.
I still have a 4.0 GPA and I still read my Jesus Calling every day and the reason I choose social work was because I was inspired by the women here at The Next Door. I want to do for some else what has been done for me.
My whole life is different now, I feel like I’m on the path that I was meant to be on and that everything that ever happened to me in my life has brought me to this point because there’s going to be someone that God needs me to help.
My advice to anyone who’s struggling with either mental illness or addiction or abuse or any issue that you feel you need help with, I would go to TheNextDoor.org. On that website you can find their phone number. I recommend The Next Door above anywhere else because it is a faith-based organization and if there’s one person that can help you is Jesus Christ, and you will find Him here.
Thanks to my belief in God that my grandmother instilled in me all those years ago that I never ever, ever gave up on, even though I may not have lived like it. I knew He was there. I always, always knew He was there and I think somehow I always knew He was going to save me. Because He let me know in ways that He thought I was worthy even if no one else did.
Narrator: Our featured passage for today’s show comes from the November 8th entry of the Jesus Calling audiobook.
Learn to appreciate difficult days. Be stimulated by the challenges you encounter along your way. As you journey through rough terrain with Me, gain confidence from your knowledge that together we can handle anything. This knowledge is comprised of three parts: your relationship with Me, promises in the Bible, and past experiences of coping successfully during hard times.
Look back at your life, and see how I have helped you through difficult days. If you are tempted to think, “Yes, but that was then, and this is now,” remember who I Am! Although you and your circumstances may change dramatically, I remain the same throughout time and eternity. This is the basis of your confidence. In My Presence you live and move and have your being.
Narrator: Hear more great stories about the impact Jesus Calling is having all over the world.
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