Overcoming addiction: One woman's journey from bruised, beaten and high to ‘How blessed we are!’
Former Gainesville resident Jill Frye Talley was living a nightmare just a few years ago. Trapped in a physically abusive relationship, she turned to prescription narcotics to ease the pain – physically and emotionally. The result led to the darkest days of her life, but through faith and the help of a long-term ministry program, Jill was able to take back her life from the grip of darkness. And now, she’s reaching out and wants to help others in the area who are struggling with their own demons of addiction.
Numbing the pain
“I had never been hit before, so when it happened, all trust I had for anyone went out the window,” Jill told the Times. She said she endured intense abuse for a long time, often in view of her young daughter. “Laela was 2 at the time, and one time while he was hitting me, I remember her running into the kitchen and jumping on top of me so he would stop.”
The day after that beating, badly bruised and in pain, Jill said she knew she needed to take something to help ease the discomfort. She started taking Tramadol, a prescription pain medication, to help with the pain. As the abuse continued, so did Jill’s desire to ease the pain, and she plunged into a rabbit hole of addiction that just kept getting deeper.
“Don’t get me wrong. It didn’t start with Tramadol. I believe my addiction began when I was around 16 years old. I was drinking every weekend and throughout the week if I could,” Jill said. “That turned into smoking weed, and then came the pain pills when I was around 22 years old.”
Tramadol led to hydrocodone, which led to Percocet, Jill said.
“At first I thought I was taking it to ease the pain he was doing to my body, but after a while, I noticed it just numbed who I really was.“
Jill climbed the ranks at a local bank near her home, being promoted from teller to personal banker. She said at first the pills didn’t affect her performance at work, but after a while everything began to unravel.
“I got to the point where I couldn’t function without some kind of pill first thing in the morning. So I started calling into work. I called in so much that I got fired,” Jill said. “That day, I kind of just threw in the towel and started living day to day.”
Jill said she began using methamphetamine in addition to prescription drugs. Her daughter lived with Jill’s mother at the time.
“I’d come and go as I pleased to see my daughter. Then I would leave to go get high or to go party,” she said. “I wasn’t being the mom I needed to be or that I wanted to be. I was selfish, and all I cared about was myself. With the drugs, I could just ‘numb’ everything, so I didn’t have to think about it. I wasn’t watching my daughter grow up. I wasn’t there when she lost her first tooth. I wasn’t going to her games. I could go on and on, but I don’t want to. It still hurts too much.”
Jill says the lowest point in her journey lasted about a year and a half before she reached out for help.
“I was staying at this apartment with no electricity, no water and no food. We had our dope pipes, and we did what we could to get our next high. I was doing meth and anything I could to get more pain pills. It was a constant chase of getting something and never stopping,” she said. “I was lying in bed one night, crying, thinking, ‘Is there even a God?’ I prayed that things would change. My hair was falling out, and I felt like there was no meaning to being alive. I had gotten to the point that I knew Laela deserved someone else as her mom. She deserved better than me.”
Finding a saving grace
Jill says she knew for a couple years that she needed to seek help, and her family had begged her to find a rehab program. But even when she began to open her heart to the possibility of a treatment center, the options were dim.
“Everywhere we called was expensive, and it seemed like most of the places only care about money. When you have a drug addict in the family, there is no extra money to spend on rehab,” she said. “I had spent all my money. I spent my retirement. I stole from my mom and her boyfriend. We had nothing left.”
Then, Jill heard about John 3:17 Ministries, a faith-based residential recovery center in Newport, Arkansas, that provides services free of charge to those struggling with addiction.
“When we heard it was free, we were all excited. I mean, I was a little excited, but not really,” she said. “I know that sounds bad, but I was scared to death. And I knew I was going to miss my daughter. Leaving her was the number one reason I would never get help. I couldn’t imagine leaving her. I know I wasn’t a part of her life most of the time anyway, but in my mind at least, I could come and go as I pleased. How selfish does that sound?”
Jill hesitantly agreed to visit the ministry with her family one weekend. Her mom drove her down to Newport. She walked in and was immediately interviewed by the staff while her family waited in the lobby. After sharing her story and the reason she believed she was there, she was accepted in the program. Then the reality came that her family had to leave her while she stayed. She gave Laela a hug and kiss and watched as they walked out the door to head back home.
“I just sat there crying. I went to bed that night sad and missing my family,” she said. “I thought to myself that I’d stay for three months then leave.”
But the longer Jill stayed at John 3:17, the happier she became. Three months had come and gone, and she noticed that she was changing for the better. Jill happily stayed an entire year, graduating from the program on Aug. 28, 2016.
“For me, I had to hit rock bottom to see the light at the end of the tunnel. Before I had gone to the ministry, I thought I believed in God, but I didn’t really know God. During this time, I could feel God working in my life. Not only that, I could feel God working in my family’s lives too. Some people in my family became believers after everything I went though. That’s what God does, though. It brings tears to my eyes just thinking about it.”
Graduation and a new take on life
After graduating the program, Jill made the difficult decision not to move back closer to her mom and other family.
“I knew I had to stay away from Missouri, not because everywhere is bad, but because that’s where my lifestyle of bad had been,” Jill said. “The day I graduated, Laela and I moved into a beautiful transition home. People are placed there to grow even more. They encouraged me to find out what I want to do in life.”
Jill worked while staying at the transition home, saving her money as she went. She then enrolled in school and became a registered dental assistant. In the process of her recovery, Jill also found love in a healthy relationship.
“I noticed a man that was very involved with his walk with the Lord and recovery programs as well during my journey,” Jill said. She began talking with the man, Danny Talley, who was walking his own path toward overcoming addiction. A budding romance began, but Jill made it clear that she wanted to take it slow.
“He waited for me while I was in the program, and he waited for me another year after I graduated the program. I wanted to wait until I achieved what I wanted to at the transition home, not just going to school and saving money, but also working on my relationship with my daughter and allowing the Lord to heal both of us from what we had been through,” she said.
The patience paid off, and Jill and Danny were married July 27 of this year.
Today, Jill is clean and working as a dental hygienist at Teed Family Dentistry in Batesville, Arkansas. Jill says she, Danny and Laela are living a happy life. Laela, who struggled in school before, is now excelling.
“She comes home from school proud of herself, and she comes home knowing she has a loving mom and dad waiting on her to get off the bus. I can’t explain how blessed we are!”
Jill and Danny are still very active in attending recovery groups in the area, including Celebrate Recovery in Batesville.
“It’s where I first heard the Lord speaking to me. I encourage trying the one down here in Batesville. I know it’s a drive from Gainesville, but what an experience it is!”
Reaching out to others
Jill says that, more than anything, she hopes her story will inspire someone to take the steps needed to reclaim his or her life from addiction.
“I would tell someone struggling with an addiction of any kind, because it’s not just drugs and alcohol, it can be food or anything, I would tell them that it doesn’t have to be that way. Even though you might be scared of change or of leaving your kids, getting help would be the best decision you will ever make. You have to ignore what your thoughts are telling you in your head – like you can do it on your own, you don’t want to leave your kids, or it won’t work for you. That’s all lies to keep you in the insanity,” Jill said.
Now she says she wants to help those who are struggling or need encouragement.
“If I can be any help at all, find me on Facebook or email me firstname.lastname@example.org. Take the first step and find a rehab to go to. If you are serious about it, I want you to know from my experience that I believe you need to be in a program for at least a year. Anything less is a waste of time. A person has to change, and that takes time. I am two years clean now, and I never thought that would happen. I thank God for that every day.”