There was a time when Shannon Phillips was mentally in a tough place, the result of abuse and drug addiction. She would wake up wondering “Who can I hurt today?”
Now, the 44-year-old Columbus woman rises from bed thinking, “Who can I help lead to the Lord?”
It is quite a difference.
“I give much of the credit to Valley Rescue Mission,” she said.
Phillips is a graduate of the Valley Rescue Mission Recovery Program for Women.
Having earned her GED, she was recently promoted to lead retail associate at the Valley Rescue Mission’s store on Veterans Parkway in Columbus, putting her in a supervisory role.
Once homeless, she spent time as a resident at the Valley Rescue Mission Women’s Center, formerly Damascus Way. Now, Phillips has her own apartment and is working toward getting a bigger one.
She has reconciled with her three children, all of whom she lost custody of along her journey, and visits with two “precious “ grandchildren.
Originally from Carrollton, Ga., she has lived in several Georgia and Alabama cities and has been in and out of jail several times.
Her mother died from an aneurysm when Phillips was 12.
She said her father was involved with drugs and had nothing to do with the family.
Her mother’s husband sent Phillips and her brother to live with a grandmother.
Phillips said while there, a friend of her grandmother sexually abused her.
“When I told my grandmother, she told me that I should have stayed away from him when he was drunk,” Phillips said.
The girl began to drink alcohol, smoke marijuana and get in trouble with the law.
She swallowed pills in a suicide attempt.
“It is terrible to be abused by people who are supposed to love you,” she said.
Phillips said she lived for a while with her father, who forced her to clean and cook for the large family he now had.
She got pregnant while she was still a teen, leading to a marriage that ended in divorce.
She began not just using methamphetamine, but also manufacturing it.
“I was in and out of jail a lot for different things,” she said.
The last time something happened.
“Something compelled me to talk to a God I did not know,” Phillips said. “I prayed that he would take me away from all that was going on in my life.”
Phillips said the next day she began to feel different.
“I did not understand deliverance,” she said.
She attended Bible study in jail and when released after a year, she began to look for a program that would help her. That’s when she discovered Valley Rescue Mission.
“I believe God intervened or I wouldn’t be here. I felt like God had his arms around me the whole time,” she said.
Phillips said she has been drug-free for five years. She loves her job.
“There is so much I gained through the mission’s faith-based 12-step program. There was Bible study but there was much more,” she said.
Life skills, good nutrition and conflict resolution were emphasized in the nine-month program. There was counseling from the Pastoral Institute.
“I had to learn how to interact with people. I had to learn to forgive those who offended me and also how to forgive myself,” she said.
She learned not to resist or run from the difficulties in her life.
Phillips said when she entered Damascus Way, it was like the “long arm of God” had come down to save her and other women.
“For the first time I really felt safe,” she said.
She said God was “able to cleanse the demons from my soul.”
Deborah Hunsinger is director of the Valley Rescue Mission Women’s Center.
“Shannon is a wonderful person. What impressed me about Shannon when she first came here is that she was determined to change and do what was needed to improve her life. I admired her steadfastness. She was very serious,” Hunsinger said.
And that is important.
“To succeed, someone has got to really want it,” Hunsinger said. “It can’t be because someone else wants it for them or to stay out of jail. Shannon wanted it.”