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Whatever It Takes to Survive

“I remember screaming and I ran over to my dad, and just as I got there, he fell. My whole world was just turned upside down that day,” Dorris remembers.

When Dorris was just 12, her father was murdered in front of her.

“A very troubled family member came into our home and severely injured my mom and shot my father.  And the life I had always know, died right along with him. I began to live in denial. No matter how hard I tried, I could not get this vision out of my mind,” Dorris says. “In my mind, I just had to play it out as though he were out of town, and he would be back soon. And I knew he wasn’t coming back, but that was the only way I could halfway get through it.
Dorris spent years trying to come to terms with her father’s death.

“My dad was my hero. He actually was. He taught me so much about the word of God. He taught me about music, so he would sing,” Dorris says. “He sang in the choir. My dad was a farmer. And he'd come home at night when he would be so tired, but he was never too tired to put us on his knee and talk to us.”

Dorris accepted Christ as a young girl and sang in her church choir, but after her father’s death she began to numb her emotion pain with marijuana. “Every time I would think about that dreaded scene where he fell on the ground, I would smoke marijuana. And I began to smoke it more and more,” she says. “Then my body began to crave it. So, I started off with an addiction to marijuana, and by the time I was an adult, I had a full-blown cocaine addiction.”

Dorris left her home and family in the small town of White House, Tennessee, and began living on the streets of Nashville. she did whatever it took to survive-including prostitution.

“It didn’t start right away,” Dorris stresses. “At first, I would just sit around other women and they would go out and get money and come back. And I'm thinking, ‘Well, that must have been easy. One time I tried it, and I made it through it, and I thought, ‘Well, that wasn't as bad as I thought.’ I'd trade myself to get out of the cold blistering weather, and I'd trade myself to get out of the hot sun.”

Dorris was arrested numerous times, but it had no effect on her. “My life was full of going to jail and getting out of jail and selling myself as though I was some type of a commodity, to support my habit,” she says. “I was actually in my addiction for over 26 years.”  

When Dorris would return home for short periods of time, her family and friends would pray for her. Her long-time friend, Tabitha Stanton, says “It was almost as if her countenance had just fallen. You could just tell that the insides were hurting.”

For a brief period, Dorris got married, but she returned to the streets when the marriage fell apart. “I had a husband and two children, and for a while I was able to hold it all together,” Dorris says. And then, finally, it just fell apart, because I just couldn't do it anymore. My addiction progressed. I left him because he was an alcoholic, I left him, and lo and behold that's when my life really fell apart.”

The next two decades were a vicious cycle of addiction and incarceration. one day, her mother invited her back to a reunion at her old church. “She said, ‘Dorris, can you do something for me?’ She said, ‘We're having an anniversary at our church, and we need you to come on back home and sing some of the songs that your dad taught me. Could you do that for me before I die?’ And one morning I could hear my mom. She was praying so fiercely that you could almost hear the vibrations coming from her. She was singing and she was praying and singing with all with all her might, ‘Oh Lord won’t you help me?’ And she was praying ‘God, don’t let my daughter go back to the streets.’

“So, I did what I came to do, Dorris says. “I went to the choir anniversary, I sang, and I praised, and I was just on a spiritual high that night. And I thought, ‘Oh my God, there is another kind of high. I don’t have to sell myself, and I don’t have to induce drugs because my body is the temple of God.”

Shortly after that, Dorris ran into her old friend, Regina, who told her about a place called “Magdalene House,” which ministers to women caught in the web of the sex trade and addiction.  She said, "We've got a place for you and you can come on in." So, November the 9th, 2009 I got my life back. I got to go into the Magdalene Program. And they took care of me. They sent me to the dentist. They sent me to therapy. They taught me how to live life when life turns without the use of drugs and alcohol. I got my relationship back with God. And I remembered how to pray again. So, I get high on the Word of God and on the Spirit of God, and it's just like it's breathtaking, and I breathe it in. I haven't had a drug or a drink of liquor in nine whole years. And that's just a testament to how great God is.”

Tabitha adds, “If people can just see the faithfulness of the Lord just by hearing her story, it’s all worth it because the Lord is faithful. What looked like a mess, what looked like there was no way that this was going to get resolved, the Lord resolved it. And He resolved it in a mighty way. A mighty way.”   

Through Magdalene house and their sister organization, Thistle Farms, Dorris began a new life. Dorris was eventually hired by Thistle Farms, where she now works as an ambassador for the organization and as a sales consultant

“We help women all across the globe. And I get to stand in front of people and tell my life story/ And I get to let women know that are in addiction that God is able, no matter what you're going through in life, I don't care if it's your health, if it's cancer, if it's mental illness, if it's addiction, no matter what it is, God is able,” Dorris proclaims. “He has brought me out, He has given me a new life. He has given me my voice back. I'm able to tell people that no matter what, it's going to be okay. I'm not saying that I'm never gonna have problems again, but that's okay, because when you got God on your side, when Jesus is standing there beckoning you, saying, ‘Come on home,’ it's going to be okay.”

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