(By Nick Schneider)
Melissa Dyal missed two Christmas celebrations and two sets of her children's birthdays while she was in jail serving her sentence for a single methamphetamine possession conviction.
"I think I was gone a total of two years and six weeks," she said in explaining that she served time in jails in Daviess, Pike and Knox counties awaiting her sentencing hearing.
She was eventually sent to Rockville Correctional Facility, and she immediately enrolled in the CLIFF program, which stands for Clean Living Is Freedom Forever.
Dyal did well in the program and served as a director for five of the nine months she was in the program.
The focus of the CLIFF program is learn what it is that causes a person to go to drugs.
"If you keep targeting the drugs, you are never going to fix the problem," she said. "You have to learn to change your thoughts and behavior ... with me it was all of the shame and guilt."
She then entered the Daviess County Work Release program where she was employed at Perdue turkey processing plant in Washington. She was released to probation in late August 2010, just in time to celebrate her daughter's eighth birthday.
She's now had time to recollect the impact drugs and her arrest in 2008 had on her life and the lives of her children, parents, siblings and grandparents.
"I look back at what I did to my family and that is really hard. I withdrew from them. I didn't want to have to look them in the eye and lie to them so I just didn't want to come around them ... my sisters tell me it was just like you were gone. We didn't know where you were at, what you were doing. I just isolated myself."
She didn't even associate with any of her old friends from high school or college who weren't doing drugs.
"You quit hanging out with anybody who isn't doing what you are doing," Melissa said.
Melissa said she needed the time in jail to find herself and pointed out, "The best thing my parents ever did was not bail me out. I needed that time. The best thing they did was call Dick Smith from the church here in Odon (Odon First Christian Church). My grandparents called him and he started ministering to me. He's an absolute angel of a man ... he was the one who led me to the Lord. He would talk through things to me so I could understand."
For Dyal, her life today at age 34 is like getting a second chance.
"I just thank God that I am where I am at today and that I didn't die and all of that. I feel like I was close to it before," she said.
These days, Dyal is settled in to a good job as an administrative assistant at Stimulus Engineering, a government-contracting firm located in the WestGate at Crane Technology Park.
She's active in her church, teaches a youth class and has shared her testimony with the church congregation.
Her daughter, Makayla, is now 10 and her son, Caleb, is 6.
Melissa has hopes of continuing her education. She plans to apply to the School of Environment and Public Affairs (SPEA) program at Indiana University in Bloomington in pursuit of Master of Public Administration degree.
Melissa says there is plenty of help out there in the area for "users" who want to change.
Her church, Odon Christian Church, sponsors a women's-only Celebrate Recovery Program that's conducted at 6:30 p.m. on Tuesdays. There's a general Celebration Recovery meeting for anyone at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday's at The Barn on Main Street in Odon.
In Bloomfield, there is a 12-Step Overcomers Recovery Support meeting at 7:30 p.m. every Wednesday at the Family Life Center on the east side of the square.
"People are willing to help and accept you for who you are." Melissa said. "You can walk into any of those places with no questions asked and somebody will talk to you ... or you can walk into a church and ask for help. People are willing to help you. Just know there is hope and people are willing to help you ... the message behind this is hope and anyone can change."
Melissa doesn't hesitate to say that God changed her life.
"The Lord literally saved me. He just picked me up and carried me," she said. "I learned that it wasn't about what I did. It was about what Jesus did. He died on that cross knowing that I was going to have a drug problem. ...The stuff just started coming out. I had more peace and serenity when I was locked up than I ever had in my life," Melissa said. "I mean I just felt like I could relax ... it was the Lord that got me through -- growing in that knowledge, fellowship and prayer and for the first time taking that time and learning who I was."
Melissa has a favorite Bible passage -- Psalm 32 from the Living Word translation -- that speaks clearly to her.
It reads: "Oh what joy for those whose rebellion is forgiven. Whose sin is put out of sight. Yes, what joy for those whose record the Lord has cleared of sin and whose lives are lead by honesty."
Coming back home from prison has been a long, slow, humbling journey of adjustment for Melissa, but it's a road that's been filled with more happiness and peace than she ever imagined.
"I made a mistake. I made a bad choice. There's not anybody that can tell me that they haven't made a mistake in their life. However, some of ours are in worst forms than others. But the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. So I had to change all of that stuff," she said. "You don't want to be around people that you used to hang out with. It's not that I think I'm better than anyone else, it's just that I have to worry about me and my children and I will not go back. I won't do it (drugs) again. I know that I won't."