By: Feli Sebastian
Teresa was already active in the community helping formerly incarcerated women rebuild their lives long before I founded Labyrinth House/Labyrinth Outreach. When she heard about our intention to create an organization only for women, she jumped at the opportunity. She became an important resource for the Board and the staff as we navigated the process of giving life to an idea.
And through this encounter, we became friends. She was so thrilled when she learned about my book, “Broken and Beloved”. She got a copy right away and was present in one of my book signing events. She was also eager to do a review of my book and to be featured in my Facebook page. She readily replied to the questions I sent her. Her replies are honest and transparent.
Below was my reaction to her answers:
Oh Teresa, I’m profoundly moved by your personal journey. I’m once more re-affirmed of the mercy and goodness of God. He was relentless in making you recognize that you are His Beloved through the presence and support of your mom, grandma, aunt, and other people He gifted you along the way, to convince you, You are precious to him no matter what you had done. You are a wonderful role model for the women out there who are still wondering if they are worthwhile!
1. What or who sustained/ sustains you in your life journey?
I have an amazing support system. I come from an long line of strong women, my mom is the strongest and most compassionate woman I know. My grandmother, Margaret and my great Aunt Hazel all showed me the importance of a strong work ethic and the importance of standing on your own two feet. I have the same three best friends I’ve had since school….My circle is small, but I have people like you, Mary, Judge Ron Dozier, people who really set the bar for me. I also must give credit to my upbringing in the Catholic Church, God has been with me the whole time.
2. Where or who did you draw strength from?
I can’t remember ever being afraid, not even in prison. I remember sitting with a woman who was on death row for murder, I asked her what she thinks about all day. She told me she see’s so many women waste their life, coming back and forth to prison, drugs, men, lifestyles….she said “what a waste, I don’t regret killing my husband, he abused me every day, but if I would ever get out of here, I would never come back”. That stuck with me, I don’t ever want to waste another day. My strength comes from my faith and the women in my life, my mom, my clients, all the women out there doing it, every day. I draw strength from the single mom’s, my friend Kim Nord, NP, Dawn Beichner. I used to get high with Amanda, look where we are now. I have the privilege to call these women my friends, I mean I’ve been to prison and smoked crack….and look where God has brought me, I have a job I love, I have family, I’ve been clean for over twenty years.
3. What would you say was the lowest/challenging point in your life?
The embarrassment I caused my family, I was out there bad, smoking crack, stealing money from my job. I remember my daughter watchning me, knowing, I would leave her at my mom’s, my ex-husbands, whoever would take her to keep smoking crack. I was in crack houses, I remember thinking one day thinking “this is where they will find me dead, on a dirty, filthy floor in a crack house”, but I couldn’t stop. My great aunt died, I went through almost 30,000 in drugs, lost my job, got arrested and my ex-husband took my daughter from me. I was out of control.
4. Who do you give credit for staying on course in spite of trials?
Honestly, The Illinois Department of Corrections – Ron Dozier gave me 9 years, it gave me time to complete a year in Gateway to get my recovery started – then three years to go to school in a controlled and structured environment. It saved my life – after that, my work ethic kicked back in, I got my family back, I met you and Mary, I bought a house and I worked, every day, I got up and worked – I went to school – I earned trust and respect and I gave it.
5. What lesson did you learn from those trials?
Never take no for an answer, know your limitations – but set goals. Have faith, don’t give up and under no circumstance – Don’t use!