The ultimate Christmas gift
By Sparta Live | December 2, 2013 12:00 am
Vonette Murphy and a group of volunteers visit the White County jail at the invitation of the sheriff, Oddie Shoupe, for a 12-step addiction program; the program is not funded by any group and is run by the volunteers themselves. Every 12 weeks, 20 new people who sign up for the classes are admitted to the program. Four women and four men go in weekly to speak with the inmates.
The program is based on Jeremiah 29:11, which states:
“’For I know the plans I have for you,’” says the Lord. ‘They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.’”
“I want people to have hope again,” Murphy said.
Dr. Margie Wynn is the creator of the program the group uses, Rejoice and Recovery. A 12-step Bible, Life Recovery, is made especially for those battling addiction; however, the program identifies addictions in many avenues beyond drugs and alcohol. The program recognizes a wide variety of addictions in life, maintaining that filling one’s life with things to fill a void is a state of addiction.
Life Recovery uses figures in the Bible to relate to those battling addiction. Murphy explained.
“Jonah had to get to a place where he realized that he was out of control in his life,” she said. “That was in the belly of the whale. He was powerless. So when the girls are in the jail, they are powerless. They have no control over their lives anymore. They don’t get to make choices. We get to choose what time we eat. We get to choose what time we take a bath. We get to choose what clothes we’re going to wear. These girls don’t get to make choices. “
Using these figures humanizes them to inmates, allowing them to also see imperfection in even the authors of the Bible, just like them.
“No one has done so much that he or she cannot rise above it,” Murphy said.
Murphy has acquired close friendships along the way. She often accompanies those in the program to court dates for support. She believes in being available for those in the program, whether it means sitting in the car and talking for hours or driving someone to rehab at 2 a.m.
Stephanie Dulaney, one of the graduates from the program, stated,
“I can call these ladies at any time of the night. If I need them, they’re right there. They don’t judge you for anything. They’re not there to judge. They say, ‘How can I help you? Can I pray for you?’”
Dulaney was released during step six of the program. However, she continued with the program even after her release, often having to walk to class in rain or snow.
“There is no way that I would be where I am today if I didn’t have this program,” Dulaney said. “Those lessons are not only Bible-based, but you have to dig deep in yourself. I found out so much about myself, the root of my addiction, the root of my problems. I learn something new every time I do it; there’s always a new interpretation.“
Dulaney has endured difficult times; however, she has taken control of her life and risen above. She now occasionally teaches the class.
“I’ve seen my best friend shot,” she said. “I have seen drugs coming, but for these people to see how I’m doing gives them a little hope. They think, ‘If this girl can do it, maybe I can do it, too.’ I want to show people that it doesn’t matter where you’ve been. It only matters where you’re going. If you have the willpower, you can get where you want to go.”
Dulaney and Murphy, although great friends now, lived within walking distance from one another for years and never had contact until the program. Murphy reflected upon this.
“This was a little girl from my neighborhood,” she said. I could have thrown a rock to her house, and our paths had never crossed until the program.”
Murphy has seen the benefits of the program in her own life. Fifteen years with a panic disorder left her unable to drive. Murphy began driving again for the program.
“I have to show them that I can overcome my problems to give them the example,” she said.
There were no female trusties before this program, and the first female trusties graduated from this program. Murphy is very thankful for this opportunity.
“I want to be sure to thank Oddie Shoupe for this invitation to do this in our jail,” she said. “There are very few jails around that allow a program like this. We just want to offer people hope.”
The end goal is to have a halfway house for those coming out of jail to help them transition into society again.
“I’m not there for any church agenda,” Murphy said. “I’m there because I love White County. I never want to give up on my county.”