Abigail Damoah was wrongly convicted and sent to prison for 12 years. During this dark time in her life, she used inspiration for the bible story of David to find her, life purpose, of helping the women in, prison. She turned her, pain into power, and achieved tremendous personal growth by not seeing herself as a, victim.
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After serving five years in a Florida state prison for a crime that she didn’t commit, and then two years later being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and undergoing major surgery to remove most of her colon, Abigail learnt one very important life lesson; you will find treasure in the darkest places if you simply change your perspective by turning her, pain into power.
During her, incarceration, Abigail became a Christian and learnt that life isn’t just about her. She was surrounded by women who had endured the most horrific traumatic childhoods and were now being victimized by the very system that was supposed to help them. She found the strength to end her pity party, opening her eyes to the immense suffering of others.
She began to use her gifts to make an impact on the lives of the women she was housed with. It was during the worst season of her life that she experienced true peace, contentment, and fulfilment because she found her life’s purpose, and learned how to turn her, pain into power. Abigail is the author of ” She is Risen from Destitute to Destiny”
Using Adversity to turn pain into power
Myrna: All right, so here we have a whole bunch of, adversity. Being sentenced to 12 years in, prison, even if it’s for a crime you do commit, it is very traumatic. It is worst when it is a crime that you didn’t commit.
Can you share your story, why you were sentenced to 12 years in, prison? I know you said you only served five of those 12 years. Tell us how you survived that and turned that, pain into power?
Abigail: Okay, so I had my dream to live in America. I’m from the United Kingdom and after I finished my undergraduate degree. I relocated to Atlanta, Georgia to study and pursue an MBA. I got an internship in Florida. I flew down to Florida and I met a man. One night he called wanting to go out to a nightclub, and I agreed. He came and picked me up and we made our way to the nightclub and ended up having a car accident where he was killed, and I was seriously injured.
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My injuries were so extensive that I spent over six weeks in the hospital. My parents at the time decided the best course of action was to take me back to the UK, because there’s no way I was going to be able to look after myself in the USA. I recuperated and got back on my feet. And then in 2011, the state of Florida issued an extradition warrant for my arrest. I was charged with vehicular homicide. The legal definition for that is reckless driving.
So, I was accused of driving in such a dangerous manner that caused death or great bodily harm to another. While I was waiting for the extradition, I began to study the laws surrounding my case and discovered that I should never have been charged with a crime in the first place. The state of Florida had sent over the deposition, the discovery and detail they had a very detailed chronology, of exactly what happened. And one of the things that should have exonerated me from the beginning, was the fact that the road was under reconstruction at the time, so they had taken down all the speed signs.
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Extradition to the USA
There were no warning signs that the road was about to change and if you’re not familiar with that road, you would not know that you need to slow down. So, when an accident happened, all of a sudden, a curve came up and I hit the curb and the car ended up flipping over and going into a tree. So, based on that alone, I should never have been charged with a crime. But if you know anything about the laws in the United States, you know, sometimes it can be a bit one sided.
I was extradited to America to stand trial. I had a judge who had no legal integrity, because of the way my case had been portrayed in the media. She was determined to make an example out of me. I was found guilty sentenced to 12 years Florida State Prison. After serving 5 years, the case was dismissed.
Myrna: Wow. So sorry to hear what you have been through. I’m assuming you were driving.
Abigail: Yes, I was driving, it wasn’t my car.
Myrna: Yeah, that’s what I thought because he came to pick you up.
Abigail: The reason I was driving was because he got so drunk, that he was unable to continue the journey. I was at the wrong place at the wrong time.
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The Pain of prison
Myrna: So sorry for your pain. But the fact that the case was dismissed, I’m assuming that you’ve cleared your name.
Abigail: Yes, yes. My name is completely cleared. The sentence was vacated, and I was released from, prison.
Myrna: Did you get any money for it?
Abigail: No, absolutely nothing. The state of Florida had laws to protect themselves against wrongful convictions. So, I was knocked out of financial assistance there. But, it was a driving force behind what I do now because I had to start my life from scratch. I had to use the gifts that I had been given to build a life for myself, and turn my, pain into power. I didn’t have anything. I came back to nothing, but God worked it out for my good.
Going through the tunnel of adversity
Myrna: Well, they say that a lot of times, we must go through the tunnel, we must be beaten down all the way to the bottom, before we find our, purpose. We all go screaming into it because we really don’t want to go through pain, we don’t want to hit rock bottom. I’m in this space where I interview a lot of people and I remember talking to this woman. Her husband died and she started her coaching practice helping other women handle, grief. She turned her, pain into power, but we all prefer not to go through the pain even if it is the fire starter to our, life purpose.
So how did you manage after also being diagnosed with ulcerative colitis and having most of your colon removed?
Abigail: I wasn’t raised in a Christian household, but I had a lot of Christian friends. If there’s one thing that I learned from them, even while I wasn’t a believer, was that they had this ability to see past their circumstances. So, before I even arrived in America, they were already speaking life into my situation. They were already telling me that this was going to work out for my good, something good is gonna come out of this.
And it wasn’t until, I became a Christian and I began to read the Bible and I began to apply those principles, that I was strengthened in that area. God gave me a perspective that enabled me to see things through his eyes, he gave me the ability to step outside of myself. I was surrounded by people who are who were suffering, who have been through women the worst heinous things. My whole perception changed.
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Helping people in prison turn their pain into power
Not only are people dying from much worse situations than I had, but I had to reframe my situation to say, okay, I’m in, prison, now, what can I do while I’m here to make an impact on the lives of the women that I am housed with? How do I turn my, pain into power?
I had a writing gift and there are women that couldn’t read or write. I remember the very first time I tapped into that. There was a woman that I was, bunking in, prison, she had a terrible situation, her children have been taken into DCF custody because of her arrest.
So, I wrote a letter for her. explaining the situation to DCF, speaking in legal terminology. She wanted her children to be put into the custody of her sister while she was in, prison, and lo and behold, that’s exactly what happened. Two weeks later, she came to me, I mean, she was in floods of tears. She was so grateful that I took the time to do this for her, and it was at that moment that I realized that what my, purpose, is connected to my gift of writing. Writing was how I was going to turn my, pain into power.
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Figuring out my life purpose
I also realized that my, purpose, had nothing to do with me, it was to enrich the lives of the people that I am surrounded by. So, from that moment, my prayers changed from Lord get me out of here, I can’t take this anymore to Lord who are the people in, prison, that you want me to impact? That started a tsunami of work. My inmates just started coming to get the help they needed. I started helping them write letters, probation letters, letters to their family, etc. It was one of the most, fulfilling aspects of my time in, prison.
Myrna: Now, how did you take own ownership of your situation? What was your internal dialogue?
Abigail: I dropped the, victim mentality. You know, it’s so easy when you’re going through a situation whatever it is, it’s so easy to point the finger and say is your fault that I’m here, but when you play the, victim, you are not helping anybody. You’re not helping yourself and you’re not helping anyone else. When I was in the, victim, state I felt so sorry for myself. You know, such an injustice had taken place.
Victims have no power
I was depressed, I was in a place of desolation, I couldn’t sleep at night, I had no peace. But the moment I relinquished that, victim mentality, I came to the revelation that it wasn’t the state of Florida that put me in, prison, to punish me. I was placed there strategically to be empowered, and then to empower. I was placed there to turn my, pain into power.
So once my, mindset, changed, I was able to say I am going to use this situation to become the best person that I be and to help as many people as I can while I’m in here. That is exactly how I took ownership of my situation. I took the power out the hands in the state of Florida, and turned, my pain into power, because, victims, have no power.
Myrna: This is so true. Victims have no power. In my book, Out of the Snares, A story of Hope and Encouragement, I have a full chapter on, victims. My story was that I was abused as a child, but I never became a, victim. In fact, what I suggest we become a, player. You know, when you are playing a game of blackjack and the cards that you’re dealt with are bad cards? People use those same bad cards to win, in the same way when you become a, player instead of becoming a, victim, you play with the cards you are dealt. And that’s exactly what you did, you became a, player in the game, you decided that these are the cards that I’ve been handed, and I am going to make the best of the situation. I am going to turn this, pain into power.
How to become a player and turn pain into power
Myrna: You could have played the “what if game”. What if I didn’t go out? What if I didn’t agree to drive? But instead you said it happened. There’s no way you can go backwards, all you can do is make the best of the situation that you have right now and use it to help people and learn from it and turn your, pain into power.
What is the lesson that that that you took out of that? Were you able to equate it to a, Bible story? I want to talk about Joseph who was thrown in, prison, and it was strategic to God’s plan for him. And I am also thinking of a Job which is the chapter reading now in the Bible and all the bad things that happened to him.
Job declared God does only do good things for you. God does good things, and he does bad things.
Abigail: Joseph was one of my favorite stories in the Bible. And it wasn’t until I got to that Genesis chapter 37, where Joseph was put in, prison, that I found strength in my situation. Prison, shaped Joseph into the man that God needed him to be. I knew that my time in, prison, was in God’s hands, just based on that story alone. I learned a lot from Joseph and his, mindset, during that time. He refused to be a, victim, he used his time to assist other people. He was looking for others to help while he was, incarcerated, and it opened the door to his freedom.
Myrna: Yes, exactly helping people got him introduced to the king.
Using dreams and visions for your purpose
Abigail: That was a very powerful story for me, and I used that, bible story, to empower myself. So my God has given me dreams and visions, and I knew that, okay, I’m not living the dream and the vision now, but it is this situation here that is going to lead me to the destiny that God has for me and I had to remind myself of that daily.
Myrna: That’s amazing, I am loving our conversation. One of my personal mantras is that just like an airplane needs resistance to take off the ground, we need resistance to move up our next level. And whenever I have resistance in my life, when I was working full time when I received resistance eg. one door closed or something, I always knew that resistance was supposed to push me forward and up. The door closing from being fired got me into, Life coaching, helping women to, transform their mind.
A lot of women, especially minority women live in the, wilderness, and in order for them to get out of the, wilderness, they have to change their, mindset.
She is Risen from Destitute to Destiny
Tell us about your book, your book is called “She Is Risen from Destitute To Destiny.” Why did you write it? And what do you want people to walk away with?
Abigail: I wrote the book because I knew that I had a story to tell number one, and it wasn’t a story of the tragedies, but stories of, empowerment. The book a memoir, going back to my childhood, I packed a lot of things and I think that’s very important that you need to go back to, to know why things are the way they were. So, I went through that process in the book, I had a very turbulent teenage years, connected to childhood. But despite those challenges, I still managed to make something all my life, and it didn’t come easily, or immediately at all.
It was a very, very difficult situation and a very, very difficult process. And I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy, but what I do know is that you can, turn your pain into power, if you change your perspective on a situation. I could have not written this book. I could have so easily come out of, prison, and just felt sorry for myself, and accept government assistance and nobody would have blamed me
Teaching others how to overcome adversity
So, I had to look at the situation and ask myself what have I learned from this? And not only what have I learnt from it, but now what can I do about it? I decided I can teach other people about how to overcome, adversity. One of the things that helped me while I was, incarcerated, were the different, prison ministries. People would share these terrible stories, but they got through it, and that’s something that inspired me.
Myrna: Well, that’s the reason I asked you if you’re going into the, prison, and doing, prison ministry, because I know your story is powerful. Now you are on the radio, podcast and PTWWN TV, sharing your story, not only the people that are in, prison, is going to hear this, but people all over the world. Your story doesn’t just speak to someone in, prison, but speaks to any women in the, wilderness, the, wilderness, can be any dry place.