Peggy grew up with eight brothers, one sister, numerous aunts and a deep grounding in the Baptist church. However, no one ever explained to her during her childhood why her mother left the home and abandoned them when Peggy was just two. It was kept quiet that her mother had suffered a nervous breakdown and was put in a mental health facility. With a mind full of questions and a heart full of sadness, Peggy began acting out and searching for love in other forms.
Peggy made friends easily, however, her friends were usually older and in her early teen years, Peggy was hanging out at college parties. Drinking and smoking marijuana became part of her regular routine. One friend, in particular, could steal prescription drugs from her father, who was in the medical profession, and the two girls would take pills and eventually got into harder drugs, such as cocaine. She became a single parent at a young age, but completed high school, then nursing school and eventually worked at a premiere nursing agency in Nashville. She continually struggled with anger and confusion from the absence of her mother and looked to drugs and alcohol to self-medicate. Peggy was arrested and jailed numerous times for fighting and was well into her 40s when she was sent to jail for being caught with $100,000 worth of cocaine in her home.
Years earlier, Peggy had met Shelia, a woman from the streets. She had witnessed the transformation Shelia had gone through after entering a program called Magdalene. Peggy never forgot that experience and when she got to the point of being tired of her lifestyle, tired of trying to quit drugs on her own and tired of going in and out of jail, she called Magdalene and asked for help.
Peggy has been a Magdalene resident since July 2007 and joined the Thistle Farms team 10 months later. Since she will graduate this year, Peggy is eligible to move to the transition house. However, she doesn’t want any of the three women that now live there to move. She says, “The people that are living in the transition house don’t have anywhere to go and I wouldn’t feel comfortable asking anyone to move out. So, I asked God to guide me and He did.” Peggy answer came through the United Neighborhood Health Service clinic, where she not only gets the medication she needs for health issues (at $500/month) at no charge, but has also put her in touch with someone who will help her, regardless of a criminal background, get a place of her own.
In the future, Peggy hopes to open a transition living house for graduating residents which would also allow her to still be connected to the Magdalene community. Her words of advice to newcomers of the program are, “don’t ever give up. Change will come, but you’ve got to want to change. At least try it – hang out with me for a bit! And welcome to the good life….”