I went from A student to addict to advocate. A second chance made the difference for me

I was an A student in high school who started looking for acceptance in the wrong places. I began doing drugs and eventually dropped out. Within years, I was addicted to painkillers and bouncing in and out of Putnam County Jail. At the age of 24, I was in despair.

One day, I made a plan to end it all. I gave God an ultimatum: “Come save me or I’m going to come home to you.” Then I had a “last meal” with my grandmother. She even made my favorite food. I thought it was my time to die.

Within hours of my prayer, federal agents surrounded my house. Instead of panic, I felt relief. I sensed it was divine intervention — that I was getting a second chance.

After being arrested by federal law enforcement for selling stolen weapons, a way that I financed my drug habit, I faced up to 10 years in prison and a $1 million fine. But my lawyer and a reentry program director believed in me. They saw that I needed help and fought for me to get the support services that would change my life.

Reentering society proved to be incredibly challenging

I served my pre-trial probation at a rehab facility. In therapy, I dealt with the trauma of my past, took accountability for my life, and — for the first time in years — looked to the future with joy and peace.

I returned to court a different person. I decided to plead guilty and accept whatever God had planned. The court officials sentenced me to just two years of probation, and my fine was decreased to $2,000.

My life was changed forever.  I needed accountability for my actions, of course. However, I was given a second chance by entering a faith-based, holistic recovery program instead of serving time in prison. My life was given back to me.

This kind of justice went beyond merely punishing me for my wrongdoing. It restored me. It gave me a chance to build a new life and community.But when I returned home, I experienced firsthand how much financial, structural and moral support a person needs upon reentry. Finding help isn’t just logistically difficult – it’s emotionally difficult, too.

Second chances don't happen unless we intervene

In time, I met my husband, and together, we started This is Living Ministries (TILM), which offers formerly incarcerated women the life-changing help I received. I’ve spent the last six years dedicated to equipping them with the knowledge they need to succeed. We also help with physical needs like clothing, housing and transportation.

We encourage participants to work on behalf of others and serve in their communities, too. While TILM participants are in our program, they are required to pay their court fees. They get jobs and become better people for themselves and their families.

People can change. Too often, they simply aren’t offered the opportunity to do so.

But this second chance needs to start somewhere. It doesn’t happen unless we intervene. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the help of others at every part of my journey.

My hope and mission today is simply to make more second chances possible here in Tennessee. My personal calling is obvious, but all of us have a chance to change lives. Every one of us — lawmakers, judges, neighbors — has a chance to help uplift men and women facing incarceration.

Lindsay Holloway
Lindsay Holloway

Help us bring peace and hope to those who need it most. Help us heal each other and grow together.Lindsay Holloway is the founder and executive director of This is Living Ministries, an advocate for justice that restores in Tennessee’s criminal justice system as a Prison Fellowship Justice Ambassador and a criminal justice hero for Beacon Center of Tennessee.

This article originally appeared on Nashville Tennessean: Second chances: I was an A student turned addict turned advocate