Angie’s Story of HOPE
Angie was born and raised in Utah County. To say that her childhood was a loving, supportive environment would be a stretch by anyone’s standards. Her parents were barely able to care for even her basic needs. Her father was a drug addict and her mother a severe alcoholic. As a result, their employment was unsteady and although they were able to maintain housing, more often than not, their utilities were shut off for non-payment and food was scarce. The family often resorted to a 5-gallon bucket in the backyard as their bathroom. Angie’s few positive childhood experiences were found in days spent with her siblings, friends, and neighbors.
Despite the childhood challenges and uncertainties, she made it through her formative years and attempted to escape home and find a better future. To that end, she and her sister Caroline packed up their belongings and decided to hop on a train and see what else the world could offer. Angie was 11 years old and her sister Caroline was 13 when they left home. Remarkably, for nearly seven years they managed to evade Child Protective Services and other institutions that could have offered a safety net, mostly because they looked older than they were. A rough childhood had not only aged them physically, but also toughened them up to a world that would at times be kind, and at other times, cruel.
At the ages of 17 and 19, Angie and Caroline returned to Utah County, bringing with them the emotional baggage of a life on the road. Angie became addicted to meth in the year prior while her sister had been struggling with alcohol for a few years. People were beginning to notice them now, but it wasn’t the kind of attention they wanted. Run-ins with the police became more frequent as did short-term stints in the Utah County Jail and brief stays on friends’ couches.
By their early 30’s, both Angie and Caroline had managed to marry and have children. They frequented welfare services for aid and the Food & Care Coalition for services. As a young child, public empathy would have been her ally. As a teenage drug addict, that empathy had started to turn to mistrust. By the time she was a 33-year-old, drug-addicted mother of five, any empathy from society had completely faded. It is never an easy road out of poverty and Angie struggled with her past failings, heart-wrenching childhood, and a loss of hope for her future.
For Angie, rock bottom occurred when she began reflecting on the five children she was raising and more particularly, the realization that her youngest child was venturing into a life of addiction herself. She later told us – “this was the turning point in my life. I knew the road I had traveled and I was horrifiedby looking into the mirror that was now my child”. She simply could not let addiction ravage one more generation of her family.
Angie began searching within her soul to find a way out. She determined that she had to be the agent of change for her family. Angie stopped using drugs and used community support groups to help combat her addiction. After she got clean, she came into our dental clinic and received dentures. She later admitted, “I had to relearn how to smile.” She had compensated her “meth mouth” by speaking with little movement of her lips, rarely revealing the damage that drugs had done to her teeth. Amazingly, just three weeks after getting her new teeth she was able to obtain full-time employment– something that had eluded her for the past two years.
Angie has since maintained her own home, while teaching her children that addiction and poverty do not have to be generational. Angie attended school at the local community college and has broken the cycle of addiction in her family. Angie’s sister Caroline has also thrived. Despite a developmental disability and having spent years as a non-functional alcoholic, she too made a remarkable transformation. If Angie and Caroline can do it, then anyone can. As a society, we have to be more aware, we have to be more tolerant, and we have to reach out when we see someone in need of a lifeline. But most of all, we need to love our fellow travelers on this Earth as our Father in Heaven does and see the limitless potential we all possess, if given the chance. (Name’s have been changed, but this is a true account)