Angie’s Story of HOPE

Serve Daily - - NEWS - By Brent Crane

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)

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