Here’s the third of a four-part series focusing on Circle Leaders who have changed their lives with Circles.
“I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be clean for seven years. But my life now is so worth it.” —Hiedi Johnson, Clearfield, Utah
I grew up in poverty in Ogden, Utah. I was one of six kids. My dad worked in machine maintenance. My mom worked at a gas station and later as a waitress. Still, we lived on food stamps in a house beyond repair. The kitchen didn’t have much of a ceiling; we had to bring out buckets when it rained.
At 16, I left home, dropped out of school because I was pregnant, and moved in with my boyfriend. I tried methamphetamines as a way of losing weight after my pregnancy and became addicted. I had four children within four years, and at different times, I lost custody of all of them.
I went back to school and earned my high school diploma at age 22. When the relationship with my boyfriend ended, I moved back home with my parents and tried to start over. But when I got together with some old friends, I started using meth again. I ended up marrying someone who supplied me with the drug. But it didn’t last as I was trying to stop using and trying to regain custody of my youngest.
My drug addiction ended when I met James in the fall of 2010. James said, “Meth or me?” and I chose him. We were married the following summer.
James grew up all over the country. His mom worked for the government, and his dad and the stepfathers who followed all worked in the military. Despite being born with two club feet, James always had a job after high school, working as an electrician or a carpenter in residential construction. He was married for awhile and had two sons. As an adult, he lived in Virginia, New Jersey, and Georgia before moving here to Utah.
James and I had been married for a couple of years, and he had a good job working as a robot technician when the pain in his ankles grew so unbearable he could hardly walk. An orthopedic surgeon found the cartilage in both ankles was nearly gone, and surgery was required. James lost his job because it took two years to recover from the surgeries. He found a part-time, minimum-wage job, but it wasn’t enough to cover the bills.
For two years, we were living paycheck to paycheck. We assumed we were stuck in poverty. We put carpet over the holes in the floor of our trailer, and each month we had to choose a different bill to pay because we couldn’t afford all of them. The medical bills piled up.
A friend at church told me about a brand new program he was involved with called Circles, and I figured it couldn’t hurt. I knew that if we went to Circles, we’d at least get a hot meal each week.
The more James and I went to Circles, the more we learned. Speakers came in and talked about repairing credit. Our classmates became our friends. And James and I were assigned an Ally named Jason, who is the most wonderful person.
Jason helped us fix our credit, which had been destroyed by debt from medical bills, a vehicle that was repossessed, and outstanding utility payments.
What seemed impossible was possible. James and I set goals, such as putting aside money for a home, a car, and emergency savings.
During this time, James got a great job as a machine operator making parts for aircrafts at an aerospace corporation. We were in Circles for about two years when we officially crossed over the poverty line, earning 200% of the Federal Poverty Level Guidelines. While this marked our graduation from Circles, we were asked to return as volunteer Allies. We want to serve others the way Jason had served us. James can’t attend the Circles meetings because he works a second shift, but I go and plan to continue volunteering as long as Circles is here.
We purchased our first home this year, and my husband got the car he’s been dreaming about: a turbocharged Nissan Altima.
I never thought I’d see the day when I’d be clean for seven years. But my life now is so worth it. I’m married to my best friend. My youngest, who is 16, lives with us. And I get to raise my son’s 1-year-old son.