Jacqui Strothoff: Drug-Free with Jesus
By Renelle Roberts
The 700 Club
When Jacqui Strothoff was eight years old, she was molested by a relative. She soon learned that she could numb her feelings by taking pills found in her parent’s medicine cabinet.
“I immediately got a message that when you’re feeling rotten and really bad or afraid or confused, you can take something.”
Jacqui was the oldest of six children and never quite felt like she fit in. She longed for intimate attention and found it at age 14 with her first boyfriend.
“As soon as he found somebody else that he liked better, he dumped me and it was such a profound sense of rejection,” she says. “It felt like he was validating all the things I’d thought about myself -- that I wasn’t worth anything.”
So alone in her room, Jacqui slit her wrist. Her parents found her unconscious and took her to the hospital. She survived the ordeal and soon found another boyfriend. She got pregnant, and they married when Jacqui was just 16.
She says, “He started physically abusing me. It was really frightening to me, and I was trying to figure out what I was doing that was causing him to be like this and treat me like this.”
When Jacqui was six months pregnant, her husband beat her so badly she went into premature labor. Her baby was stillborn. When she went home, she developed an infection.
She says, “By then the doctor said the infection had spread through my uterus. I was left sterile, and I would never be able to have children.”
Jacqui ended her marriage and moved back home with her parents. She was just 17. She needed a fresh start, so she finished high school and went to college. But one summer, she met a group of kids who introduced her to the drug that dominated her life for the next ten years.
“They shot me up the first time with heroin. When I felt it, it really was the thing I’d been looking for my whole life. Because it really did make it all go away.”
For the next several years, Jacqui did anything to get money for drugs.
“I had to prostitute myself. I had to sell my body in order to be able to get heroin. I robbed people. I robbed stores.”
One night she, her boyfriend Michael, and their friend Larry were getting high when Michael passed out. They thought nothing of it because that was normal.
“I looked over at him, and he was blue,” she recalls. “He had white foam all around his mouth. I realized that he was dead.”
Jacqui and Larry panicked. They were afraid to call the police. So they needed a plan to get rid of Michael’s body.
“It just so happened that Larry was working building apartments at a construction site, so he had the keys for the bulldozer. We wrapped him up in a rug and got him out of the apartment that way. We pulled him down the stairs, put him on the back of the truck, drove over the bridge and buried him.”
When the police eventually found the body, Jacuqi was charged with unlawful burial of a body and admitted to a mental hospital for the criminally insane. When she explained to the psychiatrist what she and Larry had done, he didn’t believe her story and simply called her delusional. She was released and moved into an apartment. That’s when Jacqui’s 19-year-old brother Roger paid her his last visit.
“I asked him if he wanted to try coke. He said okay. So I injected the cocaine into him, and he went onto convulsions. I just kept screaming, ‘Breathe, Roger! I need you to breathe!’”
Her brother died in her arms. Once again she was committed to a mental hospital and deemed a danger to herself and society. It was there that Frank, a friend of Jacqui’s father and a Christian visited Jacqui in the isolation ward. He talked with her about receiving Christ as her Savior.
“It really was the one thing I had never tried before,” she says. “I said, ‘Yeah, all right.’ I prayed the prayer with him. I didn’t feel anything. Nothing felt different to me.”
Frank left a book with Jacqui about a woman who overcame drug addiction through a Bible-based drug rehab program called Teen Challenge. When Jacqui was released from the hospital, she called the teen challenge number on the back of the book. To her surprise, there was a welcoming voice on the line.
“She was like, ‘Oh, we’re so glad you called! We’ve been waiting for you!’ I was like, ‘Waiting for me? You don’t even know me!’ Frank had called her when my brother died and said, ‘You’ve got to start praying for this girl.’”
Jacqui went to the center, but after one night, she told the director she’d made a mistake and headed out.
“She said, ‘Listen, if you’ll let us pray for you and you’ll agree to stay here for 24 hrs, I’ll drive you back to town and put you on the bus myself.’ I felt this fire that exploded in my belly. It started racing through my whole body.”
Jacqui had a life-changing encounter with God. She no longer craved drugs and remained in the program for a full year. She says, “There was never a place that made me not want drugs and never made me want to feel what it was like to get high, or that was ever able to keep me from the criminal and the self-destructive behaviors that I had, or ever could make me think differently about myself. Nothing ever did that except Jesus.”
When she graduated from teen challenge, she was asked to train to be a leader in the program. At training she met her husband who had also been through Teen Challenge.
“My husband and I were living with the understanding that we weren’t going to be able to have children. On my first anniversary I found out that I was pregnant with my son. It was like God’s anniversary gift to me! Then six years later, I found out that I was pregnant with my daughter.”
Jacqui is the executive director of a Teen Challenge home for women in Rhode Island. Daily, she helps girls just like she was to find the hope of Christ and remain drug-free.
“I wanted to publish that good news. I wanted to let people know that there was somebody who loved them more than they could imagine -- even in their sin, even in their filth. All He wanted was to wash them up, clean them up, put them on a good path and give them a good life.”
Jacqui shares her personal story with the residents. She knows first-hand the power of God to change lives. She says, “When God really changes something, it’s not like the makeovers we see on TV. He doesn’t just makeover the superficial parts. He doesn’t just make something look better. He makes something be better. He makes something change on the inside. He’s the ultimate makeover King!”
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