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A Story Told By Some

Sandi Hutcheson
Shining Light Ministries Article
July 23, 2009

Casey* sits down on the curb in front of the Henry County jail to wait for her ride. Next to her is a plastic Ziploc bag containing her personal effects – a toothbrush, a bar of soap, a picture of her daughter, and a few dollars in change – the sum total of what she’s accumulated at the age of 40 because everything else she’s owned has been pawned to pay for her drug. She’s just been released from jail, and she waits for the only person she could call to come get her – the old boyfriend, who is also her dealer.

“…to see a girl walk out of here with her head held high? That, to me, is worth a million dollars.”
– Teresa Bestwick, Founder

This is the scene Teresa Bestwick paints in describing how she was inspired to open the Shining Lighthouse, a halfway home for women in Henry County. Prior to the home’s opening, she says, these women were “thrown out like trash,” because there was no facility to give them, “a warm blanket and a big fluffy pillow, a place to hide while they figure out what went terribly wrong.”

“Rock bottom” is the familiar term describing Casey’s desperate situation, and it is also the first of the Twelve Steps, the recovery process upon which the Christian ministry is based. According to recovery literature, the First Step toward getting better is in simply admitting that the addiction has made life unmanageable.

The “girls,” as Teresa calls her residents, spend one year in the home working through the Twelve Steps and restoring their lives to a manageable state. “Meth addicts get so disoriented that they have to be taught to live again,” she explains. “They have to learn to take care of themselves, how to pay their bills, and how to hold a job.” For that reason, the home is very carefully structured. Residents are expected to rise at 6 a.m. to meditate, exercise, eat breakfast, and shower. They have assigned chores, including working in the garden that provides some of their fresh vegetables. Teresa describes herself as a hard taskmaster, going behind the girls with white gloves to make sure the work meets her standards.

Her standards are high, and Teresa is unapologetic about her hard-nosed approach to the recovery process. “I don’t cosign for any crap,” she says, explaining that recovery never really happens until a person gets “gut-wrenching honest” in every aspect of life.

She would know. Herself a veteran of the recovery process, Teresa explains that part of her motivation for volunteering in a ministry of this magnitude is the Twelfth Step, which states, “Having had a spiritual awakening as the result of these steps, we tried to carry this message to other addicts.” Very simply put, you can’t keep what you refuse to give away. Plus, using the pain of her past to help others ensures that none of that hurt was wasted. “God had a plan all along,” she says.

Former First Daughter Patti Davis has famously written about her previous addiction to speed, heroin, and cocaine. She says of places like Shining Light, “I wish so badly now that I had been able to go into a facility like the ones that abound now. An environment devoted to pushing me into wellness. An environment with people who had already stumbled down the road that was before me, people who could teach me, console me, shake me up. People who knew my excuses, my rationalizations, my manipulations even before they came out of my mouth.”

In other words, people like Teresa Bestwick, who points out that, although it’s expensive to maintain a facility like the Lighthouse and she is consistently seeking both volunteers and financial support, not having it costs more. For example, it costs $8,000 per year to house a resident at the Lighthouse as opposed to $25,000 to keep her in jail. But the spiritual and emotional benefits are the ones that motivate Shining Light. “The ones who don’t get help die with a needle in their arms,” Teresa says, her eyes filling with tears. “But to see a girl walk out of here with her head held high? That, to me, is worth a trillion dollars.”

*Not her real name

For information on how you can donate to or volunteer with Shining Light Ministries, please call 678-325-9025