Success Stories

Wendy Found A Way Out

My name is Wendy Henderson. I was born to an unwed 17-year-old girl who was sent to California to have me. Back then that was a way to protect the young girl and avoid a lot of disgrace to the family. I lived there for only a short time after I was born.

My mom was a strong-willed and strong-minded person. She ran away from home back in Memphis and left me there to be taken care of by my grandparents, Madear and Daddy. They were hardworking, church-going people.

As far as I can remember each one only had two jobs in their lives. They only went to school for a few years. As a matter of fact, my grandmother couldn’t read or write. They were strict disciplinarians and I didn’t have many friends.

My mom and I never really had a relationship. I thought she hated me and my father, and I felt like it was because I messed up her childhood. I lived with her off and on but never for any long periods of time, 3-4 years at a time.

My aunt, great-grandmother, grandmother, and grandfather were the main people in my life and they loved the Lord and made sure I did too. We always had nice things and lived in the finest of homes, but the material things didn’t make up for the love I was seeking from my mom. She always loved men more than she loved me. So I turned to my pets for that lost affection and love.

I went to a mostly all-white school in Houston, and being dark-skinned, I never could fit in with the crowd. They used to call me ugly names. I could never find anyone to accept me for who I was, so I drowned myself in books, music, and animals. Those things made me feel like I was somebody.

I never was much of anybody growing up, but I knew my grandparents loved me unconditionally. They were the only ones. They never turned their backs on me or took sides with any outsiders, but unfortunately my mom did. I never was good enough or could do enough to please her. I really think she hated me. She loved my sister and brother. We never had much to do with each other growing up. Only since I have been grown have my sister and I built a relationship. Even in my addiction she always tried to keep in touch.

I had one true friend and he was gay. Back then I didn’t know what gay meant. I just knew he wasn’t as rough or masculine as the other guys I knew, but he was my best good friend. My mom didn’t have a problem with me being around him or doing things with him. I guess because she knew something I didn’t know.

Things were great. I had someone I could relate to and we just did the things teenagers did without feeling judged or being put in a category, being accepted for who we were.

Without warning we packed up and moved to another part of Houston. I didn’t even have a chance to tell my best good friend goodbye. There was no way to keep in touch. That was my first experience with losing someone I really cared about.

Things went downhill from there. I was placed in a mostly white school. I was shunned, picked on, bullied, called names, ostracized, and rejected. I didn’t really know what being discriminated against meant, I just knew something about these people and me in this situation wasn’t right. The teachers didn’t like me. My classmates didn’t like me. My mom didn’t like me. So I tried to run away from home and to commit suicide, but none of it worked. So my mom packed me up without notice again, and this time sent me back to my grandparents' house. They were at the airport with open arms and were overly excited to have me back.

Living back in Memphis I went to school and did well, graduated, and got a job with the IRS. I thought I was on top of the world. They were very proud of me and I of myself. I worked at the hospitals, doctors offices, JMGR, and NBC just to name a few. Life was grand.

I got pregnant, and it was the best thing that could have happened to me and my grandmother. It felt like I was her surrogate. She prepared for the baby more than I did. She bought me a house on the same street, four houses down. We would raise Neko and be together as a family forever.

Then one day God decided it was time for her to come home. That was my second major experience losing someone I really cared about.

My grandfather was lost when she died and he had no clue how to manage anything around the house. He provided and my grandmother maintained, even though she couldn’t read a lick. This is proof that God will provide and His grace is sufficient. Her death was so much that he had a stroke and 18 months later God allowed him to go be with the one he loved.

From that point, the insurance money caused sister to be against sister, brother against sister, and mother against daughter. The family took everything my grandparents had ever given me and literally kicked me to the curb. House, car, they even tried to take my son; I mean everything.

Consequently, I turned to the only place I felt I was loved: sex, drugs, and rock and roll. The underworld was so fascinating to me and the money flowed like water.

I turned my back on the only person who needed, depended on, and loved me: my son. It happened so subtly, that when it actually hit the fan I didn’t even know it had happened. My addiction and lifestyle convinced me I was helpless, hopeless, and good for nothing, just like I had felt growing up. So I allowed my son to go to foster care. I kept saying “He shouldn’t be penalized for my failures. He still deserves the best.” That was my fourth major loss of someone I really cared for.

My son and I used to be like two peas in a pod. Now we hardly talk at all. He is in the navy now, and I reach out to him but he refuses to forgive me for what I did. In actuality, what I didn’t do. I think that’s the brunt of all my pain and despair.

From then I went to jail a few times on petty charges, and always got out just to trump myself with something else. All the while, trying to find someone or something to fill that empty space. I would cry out to God but it seemed like He didn’t like me either, thinking I had done too much. If my family didn’t like me, who would? And why was Madear always telling me to look to the hills from whence your help comes? No one seemed to hear my cries.

The final straw was when I met this guy from Chicago. He was my knight in shining armor, everything I longed for, every quality I saw in my grandfather, all the love I got from my grandmother, all the material things I got from my mother, all the guidance and dependency I gave to Neko he was and even more.

I thought God had finally answered my prayer. I can get my son back and we can live happily every after. It turned out that he was Satan himself. I saw things, felt things, said things, watched things, allowed things, begged for things, that no human being should have ever seen, been exposed to, or reduced to.

How did this 180 degree rotation ever occur? I felt like Solomon. My tears were my pillow. I tried to get away but he would always find me, using those smooth talking sweet nothings to get me right back to the place I dreaded. I felt there was only one way out and that would be death. I just couldn’t figure out the best and less messy way to do it. I couldn’t shoot myself because I hated blood, not that I would have seen it, but just in case. I ruled that one out as too messy. I thought maybe I should just make someone really mad and they would kill me. That didn’t work, however, I ended up with a scar on my face that I’ll have to live with forever and see every time I look in the mirror.

So I decided to take $3,000, buy some drugs, smoke, not eat, not drink, not sleep, and I would die by the things that I thought would save me. I threw away all that money, passed out, woke up two days later, and he called the police on me. I had a felony warrant and went to jail. Looking back on everything that happened, I can see that when I was looking to the hill from whence my help comes, it finally came.

Well, I wish there was a happy ending to this story, but the truth of the matter is it’s just beginning. Now, thanks to what God has done through The A Way Out Program, I am off the streets, in a safe place, brushing up on my software skills, learning how to discern the voice of God, His character, and enjoying having a Spirit-led conscience.

My son and I are not talking, but I believe that in God’s timing He will restore our relationship and put forgiveness in his heart. My sister, aunt, and I keep in touch and occasionally have lunch or dinner together and that’s encouraging. I pray that before my mother leaves this earth that we will be able to mend all those broken pieces.

I thank God for His grace, mercy, and favor, and continue to pray that everything I do and say will be done to glorify Him because if it had not been for His love for me, I don’t know where I would be or even if I would still be here.

To be continued. May God bless everyone who reads this and their families. The ladies in A Way Out have made bad decisions, but we all need people who love the Lord to give us a second chance so our old choices won’t be what determines our future.

Audrey Found A Way Out

As a child I was born to a mother who had been diagnosed with cervical cancer and a father who was a career criminal. By the time I was six years old my father was sentenced to three life sentences and my mother passed away when I was eight. 

The week my mother passed away I moved in with her half-sister in Michigan. My family thought it would  be the best thing for me since I would have a mother to raise me. I was there for a year and in that time I was physically, then sexually abused.

I went home for the summer to my grandmother’s in Tennessee where I had lived with my mother before she had passed away. My grandmother knew me well. She didn’t know exactly what had happened, but she knew I wasn’t the same little girl who had left, so she decided she would raise me.

By this time I had already started down the road to destruction—lying and breaking the rules was part of who I was. Then my brother sexually molested me. I believe my grandmother was doing what she knew to do, but she had never encountered a child with the emotional and behavioral problems I had, so she became emotionally numb toward me over time, and somewhat physically abusive. Sometimes she would really try with me, but I still wouldn’t respond to what she considered reasoning with me, and her spankings would sometimes get out of hand.

When I was fourteen my sister who is thirteen years older than me had moved back to town and was very much a drug addict. Not long after she came home she helped me run away, lose my virginity to a man who paid her for my sex, and begin to smoke crack. All of these  life-changing events happened over the course of one day.

Crack was instantly the love of my life. It was the only thing I could do that made me happy and not feel what was real and depressing in my life. I began offering my body daily to men in exchange for drugs or money. I was out of control. The police wouldn’t help my grandmother, they would only pick me up and bring me home. That night or the next I would be gone again.

Eventually my grandmother had me put in a placement home, but the girls I was with were older and more experienced in the world, so they just taught me more ways to scheme and I ran away back to my grandmother’s. Finally I was locked up until a couple of weeks after I turned eighteen.

I was only out of my placement for about thirty days before I went to jail for prostitution and was in and out for similar charges until I was nineteen. At nineteen I met a girl who was older than me in jail and she got out first, so she picked me up and the next day we stole a man’s money and his Ford Explorer. He threatened to have me arrested but I had also been trading sex with a detective that told him I had proof he was molesting me as a child and I would tell it, so no charges were ever filed and I got to keep the money and the car.

I lived in Indiana, still selling my body for the next four years and when I went to jail I was pregnant. I had been messing with a local dope boy and this baby was his, but I was on my way to prison. The judge let me out in order to have my baby, but I would return to finish my time. I only spent four months with my baby, then adopted him out and returned to prison. In a short amount of time I was pregnant again but would be having the baby in prison.

By now I wanted to die. Two babies and I couldn’t raise either due to the choices I had made. While I was in prison I met a lady preacher who told me she would temporarily adopt my baby and return her to me when I got out. I had my little girl in February and would get out in June. To me that sounded great. So I turned my baby over to her, then she stopped visiting me and did not bring her to me. She used God to cause me to trust her, and for a long time after this I stopped believing that He even existed. By now I was about 25 and I was so out of control on the outside, but the inside of me was even more of a mess.

I was in and out of jail over and over—more in than out. One of the many times I was in jail after I had moved back to Tennessee I heard of a program called A Way Out. I called and spoke to Jackie Willcutt, then Carol Wiley and they agreed to let me in their program. I came around Thanksgiving time, and they were the nicest people I think I had ever met in my life. They told me about God, showed me His love, and I really wanted all that He had to offer. I prayed and asked the Lord to forgive me, and I thought that was it, but for me it wasn’t. I was still straddling the fence—wanting to please God but also wanting to please myself and be in a homosexual relationship. Needless to say, I left the program. Back on the streets, this time living harder than I ever had before. Here and there I laid my head, sometimes not getting a bath for three days at a time.

One of my times entering jail I was told I was pregnant, but I didn’t believe it. I was released to go and do the same old thing. March of this year I was in a drug house that was busted by the police. A good amount of drugs and firearms were found. When I first went to jail they checked myself and the baby out, and only by God’s grace and mercy we were both fine. I thought I would be going to prison again and I didn’t know what I could do. I was almost suicidal. One day I decided to call Mrs. Carol at A Way Out and just tell her what happened, then ask her if she knows of a program that could help me. In the midst of this I had begun to pray to a God I thought was there, but wasn’t sure. I told Him, “God, if you just get me out of here so I can raise my baby and you let her be healthy I will never use drugs again. I will live my life to please you.” Well, that next day Carol and Jackie came to see me and said if I got out of jail they would allow me to come back there to A Way Out. After many court dates I was released. Lacey Craig picked me up and brought me back to the same house I had left, and it was the most wonderful feeling I could remember feeling in a long time.

May 1st I was released and 21 days later, May 22nd I delivered a beautiful baby girl who I named Katherine Dale Birdwell after my grandmother, Catherine Dale, who raised me. Since that day I haven’t gone back on my word to my God. I am clean, a good mother, and I follow Him. He has shown me so much grace, so much mercy, and has even blessed me to get back in touch with my first baby. We are slowly building a relationship and I can truly say that He is restoring what the locusts had eaten in my life in many ways.


Emily Found A Way Out

From the very beginning of my life, as far as I can remember, I knew I was different. Being born into a dysfunctional family of 12, and having parents of different races was hard. We were very poor and didn't have much to live on. My mother stayed busy helping my older brothers and sisters with their issues. She never had time for me. I felt like she didn't even notice me. I thought, “Why was I born into a family who didn't care about anyone or anything?”

At the age of seven my life began and ended at the same time. I went to spend the night at my sister’s house and as I fell asleep I woke up to my sister’s boyfriend molesting me. That night would change my whole life forever. I felt like I couldn't tell anyone and I thought it was my fault. That little girl who enjoyed playing outside was gone. I would never be the same.

I had behavioral problems at school and I didn't get along with others. I started taking medication at a young age. At the age of nine I got so depressed that I was sent to the children’s psych ward. At that point in my life, I was already out of control. I was convinced nobody would understand. Throughout the rest of my childhood I continued to be molested and abused by others. What hurts the most is that my parents failed to protect me again and again. Everywhere I turned there was somebody there to hurt me.
I started to self-mutilate. Punishing myself made me feel like I had some control over my life. Most of the time when things got hard I was just ready to end things. Many times I either ran away or attempted suicide. Looking over the course of my life I can see that God delivered me from many situations that could have easily led to my death.

At age 18 my sister introduced me to prostitution. I had believed that I was not capable of getting or keeping a job because of my emotional instability. Prostitution seemed like an easy way to make money, and at first I enjoyed feeling like somebody wanted me. My alcohol and drug use became more intense as time went by. I felt like I needed it to continue to get through the work. I felt bad about what I was doing even though I liked the attention I was getting. Everyday seemed harder to carry on.

More than anything I longed to get what I did not receive as a child—love, protection, and belonging. I was angry when I didn’t get what I needed. I looked to men and friendships to fill these needs rather than to God who can fill all of these needs and much more. I was broken and full of shame. I couldn’t even look at myself in the mirror. My life began to change when I became pregnant. I struggled to find a safe place to stay for me and my soon to be baby boy. I was going to be a mother, and I just knew I was finally going to be happy and complete. But I soon found out that being a single mom isn’t easy. My son’s father didn’t want to have anything to do with the baby, and at three months pregnant I moved in with another guy who I thought I loved and would marry. I wanted my son to have a father, so I endured domestic violence while I was pregnant. My son, Jordy Neymar, was born August 11, 2011. After his birth the abuse got worse and I finally was fed up enough to leave. When I left God, began to use my unplanned pregnancy to change me for the better, and continues to use it to this day.

The one thing my mother did right was she always had us in church growing up. I knew of God, but I didn’t have a relationship with Him. After leaving the abusive relationship I was stuck. I had nowhere to go that would be safe for my son and me. I called a friend, Kelly who I had known through church growing up, and she offered for Jordy and I to move to Memphis to stay with her and her husband, Justin.

In Memphis I continued to struggle with believing I was worthless and that I didn’t belong. Kelly helped me find help through The A Way Out Program. Through counseling and IOP classes I realized I was lost and I prayed for Christ to forgive me and come into my life. I began a personal relationship with Him, and began to really grow and mature. Everything was different.

I have found that God can provide everything I need, but didn’t get as a child. Now I know that I do not have to punish myself for my shortcomings because Jesus has already paid the price for my sins and I am fully forgiven. I am learning how to be a healthy person so I can be a good mother to Jordy. Jesus showed me that I am worth more than what I had ever thought and that I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me. My past abuse does not have to define me, and I have a choice to never return to my old life, but look forward to my new life in Christ.

Through The A Way Out Program I have begun a process of healing and God has sent some strong Christian women that I trust to love me well and to model what it should look like to follow Christ. I know I still have a lot to learn, but I am in a safe place where I can receive the help I need. I know that there will be hard days ahead; still I praise God for the changes that He is making in my life.


Cassandra Found A Way Out

I was born in Bolivar, Tennessee, the youngest child in a large family.  I was an intelligent, precocious child, who trusted absolutely everyone. Although I had both parents in the house, my father was an alcoholic and was often abusive to my mother.  Yet I still remember growing up loved and happy.

When I was nine years old, my parents divorced.  My mother, my older sister, and I moved to Michigan.  Once there, she was reunited with a childhood friend who she soon married.  My life changed drastically when my mother married this man.  He began molesting me when I was ten years old.

Most people knew my stepfather as a quiet, meek individual.  I knew him as a person who was sneaky and clever enough to make me seem to be a bad child who misbehaved, set fires, and hated everyone for no reason.  My mother never accepted that this had happened to me.
As I look back over my life, I know that this trauma in my childhood set me up for a long string of bad choices and decisions, including drugs, crime, and working in the sex industry.  My stepfather’s actions planted a tiny seed in me that said I was worthless, and I believed it. 
Everything that I did stemmed from that belief.  That tiny seed was watered and it grew.  I ended up alone, in and out of jail, and addicted to drugs.  I was basically doing anything that would help me to kill myself.  I came very close to succeeding, but I had been introduced to God as a child.  I could feel this same God saying, “No,” to killing myself.  But I was too angry at Him to listen to anything that He had to say.  So, I began to search for my own answers and  solutions. I repeatedly entered drug treatment  facilities desperately searching for someone to cure me from all that ailed me.  No one could.  I was treated at eight of them, sometimes completing their programs and sometimes buying drugs on my way home from them. I wondered, ”Why couldn’t anyone fix me?”  I finally decided that I would die on the street, my body would go unclaimed, and I would be buried in a pauper’s grave. My very last time in jail, I was at the end of my rope-- the part that forms a noose.  I was wounded, tired, and ready to die. Suddenly I felt something very pure and sweet descend upon me.  I knew that it was the presence of God.  He was there in that jail cell with me. He was there to save me!  God said, “My precious little girl, I’ve watched you spin your wheels all these years trying to flee from your pain.” God said that I had been looking for a person or place to heal me, when that’s His specialty.
So, the Creator of the universe, the Alpha and the Omega, Jehovah Jireh told me to get up off the floor, dry my tears and together lets go rewrite your story. Page after page, we wrote a new story of restoration, healing, and dignity into my shattered life.  We erased the nightmare in which I was a victim, stripper, and addict; and we wrote that I am a lady of honor and integrity-- a virtuous woman.  As we wrote, I   realized that God was saving me from everything and everyone who had ever let me down, hurt or abused me. He even gave me back my dream of being a nurse.  Since that day, I’ve never committed another crime, used another drug, or returned to jail. 

Still I was consumed with anger, hatred and unforgiveness for my stepfather, even after his death. It had built a wall of iron around my heart. Then came the epiphany!  Through the grace of Jesus Christ, I had been forgiven much.  Admitting that His grace was for everyone, including my abuser, was hard--very hard.  After much prayer, it was revealed to me that the molestation was not the barrier to my healing, the unforgiveness was. I knew then that the only way that I could step out of my nightmare and into the world was to do the unthinkable – forgive this man, completely and whole-heartedly.  Could I do it?  For my own benefit and per God’s instruction, I had to do it.  The blessing that made it easier was the fact that I knew that he would be dealt with by a God who adores ten year old little girls.

As I forgave him, the lock that had encased my heart for so many years opened; and chains of defeat fell from my body. That is the moment when I knew that I had truly, truly won. I am no longer alone.  I am reunited with my family. My beautiful twin nineteen year old children are back in my life.  I am also a licensed nurse.  I am part of A Way Out, a program that’s committed to helping women like me get out of the sex industry.  It’s been my God-send. One of the best gifts I have received during my time at A Way Out is my mentor Linda Tichenor. She was a perfect match. She’s funny and sweet and beautiful, but most of all she’s a Godly Christian mentor who I can strive to be like. I love Mrs. Carol Wiley, our program director, for a million reasons, but most of all, she is strict with me and can correct me, but you know what’s funny? It’s covered with so much sweetness that it doesn’t sting. I know it’s because she loves me, and that she wants what is best for me.


Laketa found A Way Out

Since entering A Way Out in August of 2009, Laketa has completed the IOP classes, graduated from HopeWorks, and completed her GED. She has also re-gained custody of her three children, and has purchased a home through Habitat for Humanity. This is Laketa’s story in her own words.
My early childhood really consisted of my mother having to go to work almost every day and leaving us by ourselves if no one could keep us. One time I got in trouble because I opened the door for this man when my mother wasn’t there. My oldest brother was busy playing football, and my mom had to go to a lot of meetings when he was trying to get drafted by the NFL. He played for the Detroit Lions and for the Green Bay Packers. They even put my mom’s picture in the paper.
My mom never really had too many men over, because after her and my dad split, I guess she didn’t want to deal with anyone else. That’s when my mom started drinking every day and playing sad songs. But I never saw her drunk. I just knew she drank.
As I became a teenager, things were pretty much the same. My mom really never taught me too much about growing up and dating except that “There’s no man in the world worth having a baby by.” That was it. I think that it wasn’t enough, because that had me scared about dating. When I finally started dating when I was nineteen, I was really naïve. My first boyfriend was a street-corner guy and he hid me in his house from his baby-mother. I didn’t really understand that he was only using me, and I didn’t think about it because I just wanted to be loved. When I realized that he didn’t care I was crushed. I started smoking weed. He had me there because he knew that I would give him money. I was working two jobs. I was a cashier at Rally’s and at the casino. Every time I got paid he was all in my face trying to be nice. I gave him money every time thinking that it would help him to love me, but it didn’t. I started drinking gin and juice. It was fun.
After I had my girls I got my own apartment. My kids’ dad was no better. After four years I broke up with him and was alone again. Me and my sister started smoking primos. Soon I had to leave my apartment because I had lost my job. I was depressed. I didn’t even go and get my unemployment and food stamps. I just stayed in the apartment and my mom would bring me food. I was completely isolated.
When I moved back home I met this older neighborhood guy that convinced me to smoke crack with a straight shooter instead of primos. I tried it. Everything went down fast. Me and my sister spent so much money we couldn’t even count it, and from there I began my life of drugs and prostitution.
After my mom died in 2005 I ended up homeless and a hopeless crack addict and prostitute. This continued for three years. I was incarcerated 13 times and would get out and go back to the street. In August of 2009, I was working in the kitchen at Penal Farm and a guard came and told me to pack up my stuff. I panicked and called a number another girl had given me. Ms. Carol was working late at CCV and answered the phone. I told her I was about to be released before we could have an interview that was scheduled the next morning at 10:00. I was scared because I didn’t want to go back to the street. Ms. Carol told me to give her 10 minutes and call back. I did and she told me that she would pick me up and that I could live at Women Ablaze while in AWO.
Since being in A Way Out I rededicated my life to the Lord, and enjoy singing to His glory. I now have a job with the Lowenstein house and am in the process of being reconciled with my kids. I am learning to be a mom to them and my heart really longs to spend time with them. The A Way Out Program has helped me get my life back and find new hope in Jesus.

Deborah Found A Way Out

                  Hi, my name is Deborah. I can remember in my early childhood being very poor with a single mother raising sixteen kids on her own. We moved to California—it was good and bad. It was good in the beginning because I attended a school that helped my mother with us as far as giving her vouchers for clothes and shoes. Also, I had a speech problem that was very bad and the kids used to tease me, so the school nurse talked to my mother and I had a tutor three days out of the week after school.

The bad side started in junior high school. I started hanging around the wrong crowd. Things started getting bad when we would meet up at our house to walk three miles to school. We started skipping school and smoking weed. Some of the parents approved of that. I thought it was cool. As years went on, things got worse. We moved back to Memphis when I was in high school. I continued to skip school and smoke weed. I got behind, so I dropped out. Thankfully, I got my GED in ‘83. I got pregnant with my daughter in ‘85. Later I found out her father was living with another woman. I was depressed, stressed out, confused, and hurt. I just wanted the pain to go away, so I decided to try crack because I always heard it would take your mind off things and you wouldn’t care about nothing or nobody. How true! So March 17th, 1989, I tried crack for the first time in a joint and I enjoyed it, so that’s when I started smoking crack uncontrollably. I lost several jobs, my appearance fell, I started doing things for money—sex and so on.  Even though I grew up in the church, I got caught up in bad relationships and in myself. I felt bad about the things I had chosen to do in my life.

I knew I could not turn back the hands of time, so I asked God to show me a better way. He let me to read Psalm 23 and 51 every day, all day in jail. I asked God to strengthen me where I am weak. I also asked for wisdom, knowledge, and understanding of His word, and to let His word be the nourishment of my body, mind, and soul. Out of all that, I began to feel different on the inside. On March 4, 2010 I met Mrs. Carol Wiley. She went to the jail to interview me for A Way Out. On April 23, 2010 I was released and Ms. Carol arrived to pick me up. She gave me an ultimatum: I had to have a church home, I had to attend Tuesday night bible study and Thursday night Celebrate Recovery, as well as daily IOP classes for 17 weeks. Within all of that, I began to learn of God—how to accept and grow in His love, how to be grateful, and how to love others. I learned how to deal with my inner-most feelings, how to cope with life, and how to live life abundantly in Christ, clothed in strength and dignity.

Now I have completed the IOP classes through A Way Out as well as HopeWorks personal and career development program. I continue to attend the weekly bible study and other required classes as a part of A Way Out. I am a member of Central Church, where God led me to be a part of a women’s bible study called Learning to Lean, where I also met my A Way Out mentor, Ms. Pat Sharp. I am currently seeking full-time employment. I eventually want to go back to school, and am exploring those options for the future. Through all of this God has shown me that it is never too late for Him to change my life. Through the A Way Out program, God is continuing to show me His grace and mercy and I am thankful to be blessed and highly favored!


Hope Found A Way Out

I was born to a single mother. She was in and out of marriages when I was younger but she did the best she could due to her circumstances. When I was 6 years old, my mother’s husband began to sexually abuse me and this continued on for 3 years. When I finally got brave enough to say something, my mother pressed charges. He pled guilty, and was given a year in jail with work release. Needless to say I had major issues with authority figures from an early age.

When I was 12 years old, I visited a church with a friend of mine and it was then that I prayed to receive Christ. However, in the years that followed I went far from what I knew to be right and true. At the age of 13, I began using drugs. This made all of the pain I experienced go away for a little while. At the age of 17, I began dancing in the topless bars and became very comfortable with that lifestyle. I was arrested the first time at the age of 18, but that didn't stop my out of control lifestyle. At 20, I became pregnant with my little girl. It is only by the grace of God that she was born healthy because I continued to use drugs throughout my pregnancy. When she was 3 months old I was arrested again and this time the charges were much worse.

I went to prison when Hayle’ was 1 and as soon as I got out, I picked up where I left off. The only difference was that this time I had a pimp. Just when I thought I couldn't do worse, I did! I finally realized I needed help so I called a treatment center here in Memphis and have been in Memphis ever since. Now I could write a book on all the bad things I've done, but I would much rather tell you about what God has done since I gave my control of my life over to Him.

When it was close to time for me to leave the treatment center, I told my counselor that I wasn’t ready to be on my own. She called a long-term residential treatment center. When I interviewed with Moriah House, they told me about The A Way Out Program. I came in a very broken person, but the AWO Director, Carol got me into extensive personal counseling and parenting counseling. I have graduated cosmetology school and am moving forward with my career in hair. The program helped me with all expenses and needs during school and praise God for that. I was given a car from an anonymous donor and it really blessed me and Hayle both. I am a member of Community Bible Church. That is where I met my dear husband. We will be married for a year July 11th. I walked down the aisle to "I have decided to follow Jesus"! Everyone who knew not only my story but my husbands as well cried. I have graduated this wonderful program and now serve as a teacher of Celebrate Recovery for AWO. It has been an honor to have been with such a wonderful program and praise God a door opened for me to still be plugged in. Thanks for taking the tome to read my story. I hope you were as blessed as I am for sharing it.


Cindy Found “A Way Out”

My name is Cindy and I have a twelve year old daughter and a five year old daughter. I was born in Corinth, Mississippi where as a child I was active in church and was a Girl Scout.

My family of origin was dysfunctional and unstable with my parents arguing and fighting a lot. Sometimes I would be afraid to get out of bed. When I was in the third grade we moved from Corinth to Memphis. It was just a couple of years later that my parents divorced.

When I was thirteen, I began experimenting with drugs, cigarettes, alcohol, and sex. I had a steady boyfriend and we went to concerts and parties where we partied hard with our other friends. In my search for my own identity, I tried it all. I was; “prep”, a “punk rocker” and a “metal head” and I could never seem to figure out where I fit.

When I turned eighteen, I moved out of my mother’s home and moved in with a guy, who I met to purchase a joint. I had known him for one whole day. He eventually introduced me to hard drugs. At this point, I didn’t stay high all the time, but I did my share of partying hard.

After living together for two years we got married and shortly thereafter moved to Florida. I started topless dancing in Florida to pay our bills until I got pregnant with my oldest daughter. By the time she was born, I had all I could take of the drugs and my husband. I wanted a better life for my daughter.

I moved back to Memphis and lived with my mother and filed for a divorce. This was a relatively good period for me as I didn’t do any drugs and I managed to get my GED and start college. My baby and I moved into our own apartment where we lived for two years and then I purchased my first home.

About three months after purchasing my home, I discovered that I was pregnant and my boyfriend moved in with me. I actually contemplated abortion, but somehow the Lord kept me from doing that. My boyfriend and I had job changes, my relationships and habits continued to change and I relapsed losing everything.

With basically just the clothes on my back, my children and I moved in with my mother. Shortly after moving in with her she took custody of my children. Between binges, I would try to get well. I prayed for God to take it away or let it take me. I didn’t have the guts to kill myself. I tried a couple of different long-term hospitalizations and out patient facilities, but within a few months after discharge I would end up using again. I would tell my mother I was going to an AA Meeting and go buy crack. I left my children frequently with my mother and I would stay gone for days and eventually months. I ultimately got into prostitution and I lost all hope for recovery. I was just wandering around, dead on my feet, mostly unconscious of the world around me. I really wanted to die!
I was arrested in Arkansas for drug paraphernalia. While I was incarcerated, my mother called Citizens for Community Values of Memphis and spoke with Carol Wiley, Director of the “A Way Out” Program. Carol came with my mother to the jail in West Memphis, AR and interviewed me to see if I was serious enough about my recovery to enter the AWO Program. This was the first time I had ever heard of this program, but I was ready to make some drastic changes in my life.

This decision didn’t come easy. It took my being arrested and getting so sick while in jail that I had to be moved to solitary confinement. While in solitary, I picked up the AA Blue Book and the Bible. It was here I began to pray and write letters to try and make amends with all of my family.

Carol deemed that I was a good candidate for “A Way Out” but that I also needed to be in a residential program. She referred me to a program that AWO partners with and I lived there for almost two years, working both programs. During this two year period, I have managed to get my life back on track.

“A Way Out” has provided me with a mentor, individual counseling with a professional counselor, parenting classes, financial management classes, Bible classes, and many other Biblically based recovery classes on boundaries, self-esteem, and other addiction related issues. I have truly matured and grown in faith in God and in myself.

AWO has met many practical needs for me and my children like clothes, groceries and gas. I have been given an automobile which was donated to me through AWO. I have not had to worry about anything, but working on my recovery and becoming a better mom.

As for being a better mom, I went through months of custody battles over my oldest daughter and finally God made provisions which enabled me to regain custody. CCV’s “A Way Out” Program made this possible by providing me the legal representation I needed to get my child back. They paid every dime. I now have full custody of both my children and I love spending time with them and being a mother. My family has been restored.

My mentor, counselor and Carol have been and are still being a blessing to me. That talks to me and offer godly advice, which wasn’t always what I wanted to hear, but they always have the right answers.

I graduated from the residential program in March of 2005 and moved into a house in May. Everything in my home was provided to me through the generosity of donors of both the programs. I am still active in the transitional phase of CCV’s “A Way Out” Program and attend weekly Growth Group with them and I am beginning to lead the group some of the time. AWO is still helping me financially on an as needed basis, giving me time to adjust to being on my own and to reach a salary level that will enable me to be totally independent. I am active in my church and I am still growing as a woman, a mother, an employee, and a citizen. I have seen God work miracles in my life, too many to mention.

I know I wouldn’t be alive today if it weren’t for the love, support and acceptance that I received in CCV’s “A Way Out” Program. I thank God everyday for what He has done in my life and my children’s lives.


Marilyn Found “A Way Out”

Marilyn's career as an exotic dancer started in 1985 at the age of 18. Her visions of fame and success turned to disillusionment and desperation over time as she turned to alcohol and drugs to anesthetize her disappointment and to enable her to do what was required of her in the clubs.

Her life was in a downward spiral and she felt helpless to reverse the plunge. She had made attempts to leave dancing several times, but always went back because she believed that she had no other recourse to provide for her family. After several difficult relationships and the birth of her two children, a son, who is now 17 and a daughter, who is 13, Marilyn married in 1999. She made the decision to try the recovery process for her addictions and to begin to get her life in order.

Marilyn came to the "A Way Out" Program in January of 2003. Her resolve to work a recovery program was evident from the beginning and she was very resourceful in finding resources suited to her needs. She was graduated from CCV's "A Way Out Program" last month with a Certificate of Completion for finishing eighteen months in the program. While in the program she had to deal with some hard issues such as marriage problems, difficulties with her children, low self-esteem and bouts with depression. Amidst her problems she continued to persevere to complete a boundaries study, several Beth Moore Bible studies and to participate in processing groups and a 12-step study and a parenting class. CCV helped her get her fines paid and her driving license back and she is now gainfully employed.

On graduation night Marilyn said that being a part of the "A Way Out" Program had helped her know how to relate to her children better, to feel better about herself and most of all to know how to have a relationship with God. She is a precious lady who has learned to work hard, stand firm, and start a new life in Christ. Marilyn found "A Way Out" and traded dancing in the dark for living in the Light!!!!


Rita Found “A Way Out”

My name is Rita and I am twenty-four and I would like to share my story with you. I grew up in a family that I always thought was normal. I was twenty-three years old when I realized that they weren't. I was sexually abused as a child, with my earliest memory being age four. The abuse continued until I was eleven. I was made to adjust and I learned from my mom that sexual abuse was not a big deal. I carried that attitude with me for a long time.

I left home when I was seventeen and lived in programs like Job Corps and later shelters. I was doing drugs and therefore was unemployable. If I did get a job, I didn't keep it for long. I also lived with friends, boyfriends, and by the time I was twenty-one years old, I was pregnant.

At age twenty-two, I was a single mom and couldn't make it out on my own and now that I had a baby, it was really hard. I didn't want to be a mom and I sure didn't know how to be a mom. In fact I was an awful mother, I cared more about getting high and talking to guys.

My lifestyle was obvious to the pimps that lived in the Budget Suites Hotel where I was living after Abel was born. I now know different pimps and their hookers played on me to get me to choose a pimp by giving me many compliments, gifts, and anything I needed. The day I chose to be with a pimp, my son, Able, was five months old and he had to go to the hospital with pneumonia. My soon to be pimp went with me to the hospital, where he asked questions of the doctor about stuff I didn't know to ask.

The pimp's actions at the hospital seemed proof to me that he cared about me and my baby, so within a couple of days, with his encouragement, I got dressed, did a lot of speed and we drove to a street where a lot of hookers worked. I was really nervous and thought about how nothing was working right in my life. The pimp told me to get out of the car and call him when I turned my first date.

My first night I made $300.00, but it was the hardest night I would ever have, all the rest were somehow blocked out and not as difficult as that first night. I continued to be involved in prostitution for one more year. During this time, the abuse that my son and I went through was unreal. After one year, I was tired and considered all used up. My pimp had another "new" girl, so he began using my son to keep me with him. He would take Abel away from me for days, until he felt I acted right or until I made enough money. Sometimes he would take him away for no real reason, but to torture me.

The day I met Carol Wiley, I had experienced a really bad night and had been dropped off in Arkansas somewhere. I had to take a cab back to Memphis and because I only had $60.00 left my pimp would have nothing to do with me and wouldn't let me see my son. It was about 9:00 a.m. and I was standing by a pay phone outside a dry cleaners. A girl who worked there invited me in and offered me a drink of water. To my surprise she told me that she had been with a pimp for ten years and told me how she had been burned with an iron and other awful experiences she had experienced in the sex industry. As I listened, I thought I could easily waste my life and lose everything that I have in me to be a decent human being. Actually, this was the first time anyone had legitimately tried to help me. You see this girl was in CCV's A Way Out Program and knew Carol Wiley. She called Carol and asked her if she could come talk to me. Carol came right away and after talking with her, I wanted to leave with her right then, but my pimp had my son and I didn't want to leave without Abel. I went back to work and waited for him to bring Abel back, which he did three days later. This was my opportunity to leave so I called Carol and she came and got me and Abel and I have been with CCV every since February 19, 2002.

Carol helped place me in a long term Christian based residential program. I now love all the people in Moriah house, they are very special to me, but I didn't always feel this way. I had to reconstruct my life and let people tell me what to do and I had to deal with myself: I had to come off drugs: I couldn't have any male relationships; I had to learn to be a mother; I had to become responsible and accept structure; and I had to learn patience. All of this was very hard for me and one day after being a Moriah House for two weeks, I went to Mrs. Beverly's officer and said, "I'm leaving, tell Carol I couldn't do it." Mrs. Beverly asked where I was going and I told her I was going to catch a cab to find my pimp before he left the state. I know this sounds crazy, but I was in bondage to all that chaos. Mrs. Beverly told me a story about a frog. How if you have a frog in a pan full of water and slowly turn up the heat the frog will never jump out and will eventually die. But if you throw a frog into boiling water then it will jump out. I decided to stay.

I have consistent support from CCV and Moriah House, but there is no way I could made it without my Lord Jesus. He has carried me and released me from all that mess and chaos. He has saved me and He loves me. I have grown in the Lord through Bible studies and with the encouragement CCV has offered me. I am now in college studying graphic arts. My first semester my mentor got me a backpack full of school goodies and she helped me get registered. She took me to Bible study every Tuesday and to counseling on Wednesdays. My first semester in school was probably just as stressful for Carol as it was for me because she helped me write my papers and on short notice. This encouraging environment has grown me up. I will never be the same.