At the age of 24, Lindsay Holloway, a Baxter, Tenn., native, was arrested for the possessing and selling of stolen weapons; addicted to IV drugs, she faced 10 years in federal prison and $1 million in fines. Holloway is one of the rare few who have escaped a destructive life and yet returned to her former peers to offer them hope that they too, can escape.
It wasn’t always that way. Holloway, 31, grew up in a middle-income, church-attending family. Her parents divorced the same year she became a Christian, at the age of 12. But there were greater spiritual aspects at play in Lindsay’s life.
“I felt like I had to perform to be accepted,” she said. Throughout middle school and high school, she had joined a combined total of 14 clubs. In high school, she started partying.
“By 16, I was doing meth (methamphetamine) with friends,” she said. “But I didn’t have to ‘perform’ for them.”
The slippery slope
The last semester of her senior year, she dropped out of school. She had learned how to cook meth. Four years later, she had graduated to IV drugs and was addicted to painkillers.
“Pills were mental and physical––without pills I was sick. You had to feed the addiction to get out of bed to do anything productive,” Holloway said. “There was nothing I could do about it.”
In and out of the court system, she said that she didn’t really want help.
“I was convinced I was worthless, and I couldn’t do any better,” she said. “People look at us, at junkies, like we’re worthless. Drugs do not discriminate.”
It was a spiral that led her to contemplate ending her life. One September day in 2010, Holloway caught a glimpse of herself in the mirror while applying her makeup. She had planned to “accidentally” overdose that day.
“I saw that I was dead, there was no life in me,” she told me, struggling to maintain composure. “I prayed, ‘Lord, come save me, or I’m going to come live with you.’”
Soon after, federal police knocked at her door to arrest her. Normally, she would have fled, but she immediately knew it was the Lord intervening, Holloway said. She received another gift of grace while at court. An aggressive prosecutor aimed for the highest sentence, she said, to use her as an example to other Middle Tennessee drug users and minor criminals. She was facing 10 years in federal prison and $1 million in fines, at the age of 25.
The gift of a second chance
But the insight of her intake director at her rehabilitation program, Kristy Pomeroy, saw her potential. Holloway was admitted to the Nashville- and Chattanooga-based Next Door program, which eventually helped her “get clean” from drugs, strengthen her faith, and launch her back into a life that was looking up.
“I never had people who knew my past, and knew what I had done, and still looked at me like God did,” she told me.
Holloway prayed, and said that the next time she returned to court, she had a new prosecuting attorney. This one had looked into her case and told her to “keep up the good work” in rehab, knocking her sentence down to two years of probation and $2,000 in fines.
Soon, Holloway began sharing her testimony to anyone who would listen––women at a “halfway” rehabilitation house, to churches, and elsewhere.
“It rose up even more hope in me because he was seeing me as a person and not seeing me for my past,” she told me.
When she returned home, she met her now-husband, Derek, a former addict who had also recently moved to her hometown after spending several years in prison––during which he had earned his carpentry certificates and become a licensed minister. The couple has found that their ministry’s impact has doubled with their collective testimonies and miraculous meet-cute.
A woman with a mission
In the Putnam County Jail, where Lindsay spent time, about 90 of the 380 inmates are women, who collectively live in a space built for 32, according to the ministry’s website. The jail has about an 86 percent recidivism rate, meaning that nearly nine out 10 inmates return due to another crime after being released.
While Holloway began serving the jail through her church, Life Church, she quickly was offered leadership opportunities. At the end of 2017, after nearly two years, she had officially launched her own nonprofit, This is Living Ministries, which aids women affected by incarceration and addiction to gain life skills and spiritual freedom.
“‘Once an addict, always an addict,’ I don’t believe that––that’s not what the Bible says,” she said, pointing to the fact that her desire to return to her old habits is “totally gone.”
Currently, the program collects clothing for former offenders in a five-county radius in Middle Tennessee, aids them in applying to halfway houses or other transitional programs, funds bus tickets or other transportation, and is fundraising for their own women’s halfway house since many programs are out of state, Holloway said.
“I want to teach these girls what it took me five and a half years to learn,” she said. “Women who come right out of prison have no safe, clean environment to go––usually because they’ve burned most of their bridges. They have no life skills.”
She helps them with their budget, their resume, their job applications.
“The girls all know me from my past––they know me from my bad reputation,” she said. “Some of them don’t even recognize me (when I speak at the prison), because I look and carry myself differently. Now, they’re drawn to Derek and me, because of our stories . . . Having lived it, the girls know I’m not asking them to do anything that I haven’t already learned the hard way.”
Another arm of their ministry is helping women with their desires to be better wives and mothers, through custody support, child services support, and biblical teaching. And the results are exciting, even months into her work.
“One of the girls I first used (drugs) with is now full of the Spirit,” Holloway said. “I personally drove her to Michigan to go to treatment. And now she’s coming back (to Tennessee) to help with the ministry. . . . The Lord’s returning a lot of my old friends, and now I’m getting to see their lives prosper.”
Holloway is praying and planning for a greater capacity to serve Middle Tennessee. The plan for This is Living Ministries is to be filling needs to rehabilitate 40 women—whether that’s housing, job training or basic needs to get back on their feet. Her husband also desires to open a men’s house in the future.
“The Lord chooses those that are unqualified and makes them qualified,” she said. “It’s him, not me, and it brings more glory to him.”