Her Time to Shine

January 26, 2021

Her Time to Shine: From Basket Case to Basking in the Lord, Tammy is Finally Learning How to Overcome the Shame of Her Past

Tammy has been through the ringer—several times. A bitter divorce and caring for a special needs child, as well as several other children who were a parenting challenge early on, put her on the slippery slope to self-destruction.

Her biggest nemesis was herself. She calls it a “misplaced compassion” that translated into codependency. After her divorce, followed by being forced to give up her children to “the system,” Tammy became homeless. Having lost everything, she sought to numb the pain through addiction, specifically meth. As often happens with prolonged meth use, her health began to deteriorate. Eventually, she would even lose all her teeth.

Tammy learned about the Good News Rescue Mission, but was frightened over what might happen to her if she went there—so much so that she developed an ulcer and had to be hospitalized after it burst. As Tammy describes it, “I was constantly nervous, constantly worrying about what might happen. It was like my worrying part just kept worrying until I finally had no more worrying left.”

Tammy’s fears were allayed, however, when she arrived at The Mission. She arrived with nothing but the clothes on her back and immediately started volunteering. She soon made friends and developed a good rapport with the staff.

God’s Cheerleaders

She credits The Mission staff for giving her the support she needed to start turning her life around. Finally feeling the freedom to be open and honest with people about her struggles, Tammy was blown away by the unconditional love and “cheerleading” she received in return.

“At every turn, as I faced challenge after challenge, the staff would tell me, ‘Girl, you got this. God’s got your back,’” shares Tammy. “It was a stream of constant pep talks—something I never had, but desperately needed.”

That encouragement and support extended beyond just pep talks. Tammy recalls the time when her daughter was going to get married, but Tammy was recently homeless and living at The Mission—toothless, bedraggled and without anything to wear to the wedding. She felt ashamed and completely unworthy to be a mother of the bride. Upon learning about her need, the ladies at The Mission converged upon Tammy—giving her a complete makeover and even finding the perfect dress.

“All the ladies told me how beautiful I was and what a bright smile I had,” recalls Tammy. “Honestly, it was a day I will never forget … for the first time in a long time, I got to shine!”

Still, Tammy struggled with her addiction. During the day, she would hang out with other addicts in the tents. Though she learned how to toe the line and not be disruptive while at The Mission, she knew it was only a matter of time before “her sins would find her out.” Eventually, she got caught using and faced being kicked out for 30 days, losing all her services. This prospect terrified her because she knew she’d be out on the street. Just as horrific, she wouldn’t be able to shower—a basic necessity that made Tammy feel human in an inhuman situation.

Free at Last

After a year of living at The Mission, Tammy agreed to enter the New Life Recovery program so that she could get free from her addiction—once and for all. It would turn out to be a lifesaver. While there, she got clean and started taking steps towards completing the course of study she had embarked upon earlier.

Tammy now has just two classes remaining to complete her AS degree. While two classes may not seem like a big hurdle to jump, Tammy admits that her history has been sketchy when it comes to finishing things. “I get afraid that I will quit,” confesses Tammy. “Because in the past, that’s what I’ve always done—sabotage myself.”

As to why she defaults to self-sabotage, Tammy describes it as a strong feeling of shame that descends like a dark cloud over her dreams and aspirations. “What I’ve been working on in recovery is shifting that sense of unworthiness—that I don’t deserve to succeed—to who I really am in Christ,” says Tammy. “That’s what the case managers and volunteers are helping me to do—to help me consistently turn my face and heart towards the Lord. Because it’s only in Him that I can find my true identity.”

One tool Tammy has learned in recovery and uses to help kick that shame and self-hatred to the curb is to ask honest questions of the Lord. Questions like, “Lord, is this your view?” Or, “Is that your voice talking?” Tammy exclaims, “After God assures me that all those dark thoughts are a lie from the enemy, I then go to my Bible and use scripture as a sword to cut out those roots of deception!”

One essential step to breaking free from the spirit of shame is learning how to set healthy boundaries with toxic relationships. For Tammy, that even included some of her kids. One case manager in particular helped coach her through the difficult process of saying “no” to her children—especially her son who was always trying to manipulate her into giving him money for drugs (usually by telling her she was a bad mother).

Now instead of giving in, she mentally gives her son over to God, shares scriptures with him over the phone, and then politely disengages from the conversation. “They’re in their mess and I can’t fix them—I can only fix myself,” says Tammy. “That’s probably one of the greatest lessons I’ve learned while here at New Life.”

What Love Can Do

As to her future, Tammy’s prospects are looking bright. Even her smile is looking brighter after New Life arranged for her to get a set of new teeth from a local dentist! Her work prospects are looking promising as well, after a case manager hooked her up with a mentor in the field she wants to pursue. “My mentor, a woman at my church, has been a probation officer and has also worked in mental health,” says Tammy. “Since I already have several certificates relating to counseling and drug and alcohol recovery, it’s a perfect fit.”

Tammy acknowledges that while she has a ways to go to be completely free from the shame and accusations of her past, she’s definitely not where—or who—she used to be. She credits The Mission and the New Life Recovery Program for helping to bring her this far. “Every day, I thank God for placing me here with all these encouraging people, people who clearly do what they do out of love. I’ve been a mom for 29 years and they’ve made me see that now it’s my time to shine!”

About the Author:

Jenni Keast is our marketing content coordinator and a lover of jean jackets, the Great Outdoors, photography and all things mid-century.  Her favorite authors are Holy Spirit (the Bible) G.K. Chesterson, C.S. Lewis, Leif Enger and Walter Isaacson, to name just a few.

On March 31, 2022, Jenni was in a near-fatal auto accident. Miraculously , she survived and is finally back to doing what God has called her to do and what she loves best: storytelling…especially writing stories of transformation of people who were once stuck in cycles of homelessness and addiction but are now living free from the shame and bondages of the past. “So if the Son sets you free from sin, then become a true son and be unquestionably free” (John 8:36)!