Raised in Corinth, Mississippi, Linda McAfee (LuLu) knew the serenity of small-town America in her earliest years. Yet when she turned nine, horror struck—her brother died in a shocking accident that would change everything. In the wake of their son’s death, her parents marriage disintegrated. Not long after, her mother quickly descended into an addiction. Unfortunately, these tragedies would be only the first in a long series which would land her on the doorstep of the Mission.
ONGOING FAMILY MISFORTUNES
After years of navigating life with a parental addict, LuLu found that her life stabilized in late childhood after her mom remarried and sobered up. But by her twenties when she unknowingly married an addict, LuLu spent the next several years putting him through rehab. Her mother would also relapse during this time. Agonizingly, in 2007, her husband died in a fatal car wreck. It was the final straw. Hurting beyond belief, LuLu says she “saw her friends having fun and feeling good.” And she wanted to, too.
FROM CASUAL USE TO INCARCERATION
Initially she continued to hold two successful jobs at both a bank and a pharmacy, though what started out as casual cocaine use with friends quickly turned into a lifestyle. Within a few years, her life plunged into the chaos of unstable employment and uncertainty. After a period of sobriety in 2009 wherein LuLu delivered a healthy baby girl, her struggles escalated again. This time she turned to meth. Within a few years, LuLu got in trouble with the law and was placed on probation. Struggling to stay on track, she violated her parole and was sent to prison.
HOMEWARD BOUND AND DOWN
Upon prison release in 2015, LuLu went to her father’s home in Alabama where her daughter was living. “I stayed clean for a while, but of course I had the bright idea of wanting to go back home to Corinth. So, I packed my daughter up and I went back to Mississippi.” Falling back into the same crowd, she says she got right back into using. LuLu explained that within a year her addiction had gotten so bad that not only was she using, but she began selling.
THE FINAL STRAW
Caught red-handed with a small vault of drugs, her bond was set at $100,000 cash. Lulu spent the next year and a half in jail and lost custody of her child. When she was released, she knew she would do anything possible to get her daughter back. “I did not start using again. I got a job, a car, an apartment. I was doing everything I could to get her back.” But when her court date finally arrived, despite all of her strides towards stability, the judge explained that the amalgamation of all her charges could result in a mandatory 20 year sentence. While it was only a possibility, the suggestion sent LuLu spiraling. “I automatically thought … I’ll never get my daughter back. So, immediately that day, the day I left court I got high. I used again from then—the beginning of 2018—up until I came to Nashville Rescue Mission.”
A WAKE-UP CALL AND A CALLING
In March 2019, LuLu lost two close friends to overdoses on consecutive days. “I was laying in my bed, it was probably four o clock in the morning. I just felt something. God was telling me, “It’s time for you to do something with your life. Get up.” I woke up everybody in the house. I told them, “I’m fixing to change my life. I don’t know how, I don’t know where it starts, but I know that I’m fixing to do it.” Learning a young woman she used to babysit for now worked for a church helping those in need, within a month it was arranged for her to arrive at the Mission.
“I knew that I was exactly where God wanted me to be. If I left, I would be no good to her, to [my daughter], or to anybody else. So, I did the hardest thing and I stayed.”
OVER THE THRESHOLD: A WAY FORWARD
Using drugs up until the day she arrived in June 2019, LuLu says she knew she was finally ready to commit to sobriety: “I left everything behind me. I left the problems. I quit doing everything. I was overwhelmed. But, I gave the program every part of me, because I knew that I had to. Because I knew if I didn’t, I was going to die.” While in the program, her parental rights were terminated. LuLu reflected on her progress. “It was amazing that I handled it the way I did, because it was like I gave it to God. I said, “I still have me, I still have to work on me. If I stopped now, I’ll never see her again. I won’t even see me.”
RENEWAL AND REDEMPTION AT THE MISSION
LuLu greeted life at the Mission with zeal. “I was so active in everything that I could get into, because I was learning who I was again.” When she graduated from the program, LuLu applied for a job in Women’s Guest Services. Leadership knew she was ready for more responsibility, and she was offered the position of Second Shift Lead. She says she truly couldn t imagine being anywhere else. “Yes, I’m doing my job, but it’s not just a job for me, it’s me giving back. Me helping people when—I was in their shoes, I know what it feels like, I know what it’s like to be at rock bottom. I know when [someone walks in and is an addict], and you may not admit it to me, and that’s fine. But I’m going to let you know that we have a place right here for you to go.”
EQUIPPED FOR WHAT COMES
LuLu says she knows that there will continue to be hardships, but that when it comes, she’s confident she can “give it to God and keep going.”
LuLu has now been employed with the Mission for two and a half years. She greets every guest and every day with a smile. “I’m so thankful for Nashville Rescue Mission, and that’s why I’m able to come in here and do what I do, because of what the Mission has given me. One day, I will get in the recovery side to help others, but for now, I know God still wants me right here.”
“So, if I can be that one person in this building that gives others a little hope, a little something to lift them up in their worst days, that makes it worth it. I know that this is why God wanted me here. Because I do have a story, I do have compassion. And I do know what it takes and how to do it. I’m going to let you know that we have a place right here for you.”