From Prisoner to Princess

Tina mug shot
Tina Cook’s mug shot from her past life

Emotions and feelings have held Tina Cook captive for most of her life. They stemmed from false ideas that fueled behavior that wreaked havoc on her and her family. She was trapped in deception but eventually she found a way out to the truth. This is her story in her own words.

Looking back, I was saturated with the belief that there was something wrong or 'lacking' in me, that I was unworthy, unlovable, didn't measure up and never did anything right. This mindset chartered a path of destruction that took me very far from the truth of my real identity.

I began people-pleasing, performing, and approval seeking as a pre-teen. I later became an easy target for drugs, sex, and rebellion in any form. Unsurprisingly, by age 15 I was pregnant and before I turned 16 had undergone an abortion that left me unable to ever have children. Right after my 16th birthday, I tried to commit suicide and was committed to a psych ward.

Promiscuity, abortion, and my attempted suicide propelled me into a world of shame, regret, and guilt. Even worse, I developed a detrimental belief that God was punishing me for what I had done, by taking away my hope of ever becoming a mother.

All of these emotions further validated my belief that I was worthless. I was caught in a trap that I simply could not find my way out of. The more I tried to make the feelings of inadequacy go away...the further down the rabbit hole I seemed to travel.

Tina now
Tina with an instagram filter reflecting her royal status now.

I used anything and anyone: alcohol, drugs, material things, and sex with lots of men to try to escape from my reality.

Eventually, my life was unrecognizable to me in those cold moments of clarity that hit me like a ton of bricks! But, one more drink, one more line, one more hit, one more man...and I could make it go away again for a while.

I was estranged from my family, homeless, owned nothing, sold my body for money, then spent it all on drugs, as soon as I got it.

I had been voted 'Best Dressed' by classmates in High School; now, I was swapping dirty clothes with people so I would have something different on.

I had been in and out of jail since 1989 and it was now October of 2011. In fact, in the previous nine months I'd been to jail three times already, was currently bonded out by a man who I don't even remember meeting, and had just missed my court appearance, when I got arrested again smoking a hit of rock-cocaine. But, this time a series of events took place that sparked a change in me.

I am a new
creation
and the
life I’m
living is a
do-over.

First of all, I was convinced that I was going to die in the sorry state I was in, as my recent prison sentence wasn't the 'party' I had had during my other incarcerations. I kept to myself and was in deep thought about my life...how I was raised by a good Christian woman and where I had come from, how I was living now and where I had ended up. The realization of it all was heart-breaking!

It was at this point that I came to the end of myself and fell not only into the arms of Jesus but began to fall head-over-heels in love with Him as well! This life-altering event freed me to take action by joining the jail's working pod so I could be productive and have a semblance of normalcy with a schedule to follow. I started attending the Bible studies that were offered. I began asking for help, applying the steps from 12-Step programs that I had learned during my many recovery attempts, and reading things that edified me instead of fiction novels.

Tina young woman
Tina as a young woman in the 1980s

One of the first books I read was Joyce Meyer's Battlefield of the Mind. In it, she explains the importance of thinking about what you are thinking about. So, as I sat at the industrial sewing machine making inmate uniforms, I began to consider, "What are you thinking about right now, Tina?" I was distressed that in spite of my sincere belief that I wanted to change... I was sitting there thinking about how to find my drug dealer and johns when I got out.

The book told me to replace this ungodly, against-my-will thinking with good thoughts. That was when I began to practice thinking about what I was thinking about and replacing it with Bible verses, with memories of my life that were worthwhile and full of promise, and with mental snapshots of my family.

Not long after that, my father died. It was that terrible - not only could I not go to his funeral, but my family did not WANT me there! I made a vow to God, "I'm going to stop missing out on the important stuff in my life!" About a month later, I found out my mama had terminal cancer.

My mother had been the constant in my life, although my behavior had finally caused her to release me to God to protect herself from the pain my lifestyle caused her. So, I made another vow to God, "My mama may never talk to me again, but I'm going to live everyday so I'll be available just in case she wants to!" A year later, I was holding her hand when Jesus led her into eternity.

Tina Cook
Tina proudly displaying her Bachelor of Science in Addiction Studies.

I celebrated eight years of sobriety on October 28, 2019. Emotional freedom has come at a great cost to me but the rewards of attaining it are priceless!

I made a lot more vows to God (and kept them!) that I believe have been critical in my ability to remain on the path of recovery. The first one was that I would stop looking for a man and start living for THE Man (Jesus)! The next vow was to leave behind those regrets...all that shame and guilt that held me in bondage, and live the life I wished I had lived.

I am a new creation and the life I'm living is a do-over. I'm getting a second chance to be a new and improved me. That doesn't mean it's always easy! But God is good...and with His help I've learned how to find the purpose He created me for.

In October 2014, I graduated university Magna Cum Laude with a BS in Christian Addiction Studies and Urban Missions. In June 2016 I officially became the Executive Director of a local non-profit agency.

I am also an Alabama and Nationally Certified Addiction Counselor. It took commitment & determination on my part not to quit because I wanted to, many times, which is old behavior for me!

I am convinced that freedom comes when we face the fact that we can't change ourselves and that no one else can change or fix us. We can then embrace that there is only one who can set us free and that is The ONE, Jesus who created each of us. Today I am a free woman...today my life is God's story of triumph.

I am Princess Tina: beloved daughter of The King.

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