How I Became A Jesus Freak
I spent 19 years of my life as an addict.
Until I met God.
This is the story of my formal introduction.
December 13th, 2006 I woke up in the Nez Perce County jail holding tank. I’d been banging on that steel door, begging for more toilet paper. They didn’t bring any. I’d been crying all night. Sobbing uncontrollably. Snot was running down my face. I didn’t think I could cry more tears. But I did, and they wouldn’t bring me anymore toilet paper.
I could imagine they got a lot of crybabies in jail. But I was locked inside my own mind, reliving the last several days. My thoughts were filled with images of terror, sorrow, fear, and regret.
I relived Randy, my boyfriend, coming through the door with that big smile on his face, telling me, “I decided I’m running away with you! I love you, and nobody is gonna take you away from me! We’re gonna get sober together!” His face was so happy, so hopeful, and he’d come at 3 a.m. that morning on the 2nd of December to help me pack our house, because my time of running from felony probation was short. But three hours later, I was pounding on his chest as he lay on our bedroom floor, having seizures, his life slipping away. My head was filled with the sounds of my own screams, begging him not to leave me.
I couldn’t get rid of the image of my little girl standing in the doorway in her night gown, watching me try and save him, and me screaming at her to go outside and wait for the ambulance in the snow. I didn’t want this image, the image I couldn’t get rid of, to haunt her.
I relived the moment I stuck my fingers in his mouth because he was biting his tongue, just as the 911 dispatch told me, “whatever you do, DON’T put your fingers in his mouth!” I relived screaming at him not to leave me alone in this world, and the moment I felt him leave his body, and I kissed him, my tears dripping on his face.
I relived the moment the paramedics came out to the living room where my daughter and I sat, and said nonchalantly, “well, we couldn’t revive him.” I couldn’t get rid of the scream that came from my daughter’s belly, the terror on her face at those words.
I replayed his service in my mind.
I relived these moments over, and over, and over...
And the memories of the day before I woke in this jail, when I stood in that same bedroom where Randy died, and I screamed at this “God”, to take back this life of mine! I didn’t want it! I didn’t ask for a life of addiction, of pain and regret. And moments later, that probation officer I had been running from, quietly rolled up to my house. I’ll never forget the sound of the gravel crunching under his tires. I was too tired to run. Too broken to fight anymore. I looked at my little girl, standing with her dog on our porch. Her eyes were filled with fear. I absolutely broke. I was finished. He waited for her to be driven away before he cuffed me and loaded me into his car, and took me to jail. My little girl lost everything in a matter of days. The only dad she knew, her mom, her home her school and her dog.
So here I was, waking up in jail, thinking I was being taken back to Walla Walla to appear before the judge who sentenced me to felony probation. I was transported north to Spokane, where I couldn’t deal with the pain and images in my detoxing body. Thirteen years of addiction takes a toll. I banged my head against the jail walls, couldn’t form a thought to communicate with those who were around me. My mind relived events over and over.
Periodically I would hear an officer outside my cell say, “Tannahill, you’re gonna be alright.”
I was put on a bus, by myself, and when I asked the driver where I was going she said to prison.
This couldn’t be. I hadn’t seen the judge. It didn’t work like this did it?
The driver, looking at me in the rear view mirror and said, “oh come on, it’s not like you haven’t been there.”
I hadn’t. I looked out the window, all hope lost of going home. My son would go another Christmas without hearing from me. I looked at my hands in cuffs, chained to my waist, chained to shackles on my feet, and pinned to the floor of the van. This was just a mirror image of what I had been living in a life of addiction. The real prison was in my mind.
I could sense the driver looking at me as tears were streaming down my face. She said, “I guess you haven’t been to prison.”
I was sent to the doctor once they dropped me off at Pine Lodge Women’s Correctional Facility. I wasn’t responding to people, still stuck in my head. They decided not to segregate me, and assigned me to a cell where there were two bunks, 4 lockers, and a desk. I had 3 cell mates, but when I arrived they were out and about.
For the first time in 3 days, I was able to take a shower. I stood in that hot water, tears running, no hope of seeing a judge, no hope of bail, no hope. Nobody even knew where I was. I wept with my head against the wall, too weak to stand up. My thoughts were that I just wanted to die. I didn’t want to feel this anymore.
That’s when I heard the voice. I heard it in my heart, plain as day.
“I know you want to die, but I am going to teach you how to live.”
I finished my shower, and went to my cell. It was still daylight, but I climbed into my bottom bunk in my new orange attire. I lay on my side facing the wall and rocked back and forth, so sorry that I couldn’t keep Randy from dying. So sorry that I my little girl had lost it all because of me. So sorry that I wasn’t there for my son…so sorry.
While I rocked back and forth I said the words “Help me Jesus…” and before I could get that whole name of my mouth, I was swallowed up with a warm electrical current. I had never experienced this before. I felt like I was being electrocuted, with no pain, just wave after wave of warm flows of current. I would cry uncontrollably, and then laugh uncontrollably. On and on this went. I was letting go…and then breathing in.
Something happened to me that night. For the first time since I could remember, I was filled with hope. I was full of joy. I had no craving for dope. Surrounded by high fences and barbed wire, and no explanation of how I got there, or how long I would stay, I found freedom I had never known in my life.
The desk in our cell was under a window, and directly across from our window was the Chapel. I waited. I waited for Chapel. When we had yard movement, and we were able to choose where to go for a couple hours, either the library, the gym, or crafts, I made a bee line for that chapel. I didn’t know why. I just needed to go there.
A little old lady walked around with a wicker basket full of little cards. I drew one out, but two were stuck together. She said they were both for me. One said it was time for healing, to stretch out my hand. The other was Mark 11:24 Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask for in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.
I took this to heart. I went back to my cell, got on my knees, and said, “God, I don’t want to be an addict anymore…AND…I want to go home the day after Christmas.” I had been told by the other inmates that I wouldn’t see anybody until after Christmas, and so I prayed accordingly. I walked around with that card in my pocket, holding onto it, and holding onto the promise it held. The women told me I was crazy, I just got there and I wasn’t going anywhere.
Finally I was called to the Shoe, where I met with a public defender that encouraged me to take a plea agreement. I rubbed that card in my pocket, and as wise as his counsel sounded, I declined. He asked if I was innocent of these charges, if so we could have a hearing. I said no, I was guilty of all of them. He said I would have to serve 30 days apiece, and there were 9 charges. I told him God had told me if I believed Him, I could leave on the 26th, which was a week away. He shook his head, closed my file and left. The women told me what a fool I was for not taking that plea agreement. I held firm. A day or so later he came back. He shook his head and told me, “You need to consider this a gift, because somehow your hearing is set for the 26th.” He couldn’t believe it, but I was beaming. He assured me that even though the date was set for the 26th, anything could happen, and I for sure had no chance of being released that day. It just doesn’t work that way. I held firm.
I won’t say there wasn’t fear, because as much ado was made over my little prayer card in the cell block, it had become a big deal. Women were arguing over what would happen to me. Would my faith set me free? Was I going to be let down? I would stand outside in the snow; we couldn’t leave the wooden deck. I would sing a country song from Rodney Atkins, “If you’re going through hell, keep on going, don’t slow down, if you’re scared don’t show it, you might get out before the devil even knows you’re there…”
On December 26th, I sat in the Shoe. Due to the holidays, my paperwork had been pushed through, signed off, and the prosecutor decided to agree to time served. They told me I still wouldn’t be released that day. But I went to the woman who does the paperwork and release of property. I gave her my little prayer card. She reluctantly signed me out.
I walked out of the women’s penitentiary that day. The day God said I could, if I believed He would.
I have never looked back. I have never craved drugs since. It’s been more than a decade, no drugs, no alcohol. I was absolutely delivered.
He made Himself so real to me, that all I wanted was to know Him, this Jesus who set me free.
All I wanted was to love Him.
How could I forget the One who saved me from a life of pain, misery and death? Everything I have done since that day, has been with Him in mind. He is my source of Love and Life. I am my Beloved’s and He is mine. If you have never felt like you needed to be saved, you may not understand the love of a Savior. You would give your all, and gain everything.