Marie Johnson: From Homeless to YWCA Director

Marie Johnson

Marie Johnson’s journey took her from homelessness and addiction to serving on the Board of Directors at YWCA Evansville (Indiana).

All across the country, YWCAs see amazing examples of resilient women who defy odds, overcome incredible obstacles, and empower themselves to create the lives — amazing lives — they want to live.

One such example is Marie Johnson in Evansville, Ind. A few years ago, she faced homelessness and drug abuse. With the help of a 12-step program, YWCA transitional housing, lots of hard work and lots of faith, Marie has turned her life around. Today, she stands ready to give back and make a difference in the lives o other women — by serving as a member of the Board of Directors at YWCA Evansville!

“She was part of our transition housing recovery program where we provide housing and services for homeless women in recovery,” says Erika Taylor, CEO of YWCA Evansville. “Marie lost everything. She has since become clean, remarried her husband and lives with her children. She is going to college and helping others in recovery. She will join our board of directors in March 2012. We are so proud!”

Marie’s Story:

A few years ago I was an IV meth user, among other things. I had already lost my home, my husband and a successful family business. I had no hope and my spirit was gone. One day amidst the chaos and desperation that had quickly become my life I uttered the most simple and heartfelt prayer; “God, please make it stop.” Sometimes God and I have different ideas about how to go about things, however thus far my attempts to change and control my life had failed.

God’s plan was a much more drastic measure involving the loss of my physical freedom. My chains of addiction were removed and replaced with the very real chains of shackles and cuffs. In that moment walking to face the judge behind my ex-husband I was indeed freed.

When the physical chains were removed I had nowhere to turn.

Everything I owned had been looted by my “friends” in the drug world. I come from a good family who loved me enough that they could no longer watch me die slowly. They had painfully decided to love me but to no longer help and enable me.

During treatment I discovered the YWCA Transitional Housing Recovery Program (THRP). The hard fact was there were no other facilities of its kind anywhere near my two children whom I missed with an aching deep in my soul. God knew I could not stay clean without at least a glimmer of hope in that area. I was accepted in the program and moved to a cozy little bedroom all my own with a wonderful view of the river. I was broken, but I was home. I arrived with a duffle bag of clothes and a bible to my name.

All of my immediate needs were met upon arrival including scheduled visits with my children. I decided to surrender my will and follow the suggestions of those that God and the judge had put before me.

I participated in every program offered at the YWCA. I was taught budgeting and planning by a professional banker. I took parenting classes from a CASA worker and was educated by the volunteers of Matthew 25 on the dangers of disease spread by needles. We had a weekly relapse prevention education group. The staff set me up with services necessary to get glasses, receive health care, clothing and transportation among other things.

They treated me with dignity and respect that began to break down the walls of self-loathing I had constructed around myself. I began attending 12-step meetings and Celebrate Recovery through Restore Ministries. There I found the support system I needed to assure the efforts I made would affect permanent change. I remained in the program for 14 months and slowly my spirit was renewed and awakened. I was able to begin rebuilding every area of my life. I have since remarried my husband and regained custody of my children. A few years ago I didn’t even have the privilege of freedom. Nobody needed me for much of anything, I was broken and damaged. Not long after I left the program, I heard a statistic that broke my heart and lit a fire in my soul. It said that only .07% of meth addicts recover. I am now a 38-year-old college sophomore going for a social work degree. I hope to touch lives that have been torn apart by the disease of addiction. God placed a dream in my heart to get well, get an education and share with others how I did it.

Each and every “hassle” in my life is a privilege. My life was empty and meaningless and now I am everything to a few people that need me.

Sometimes I wonder if I can handle my blessings. Then I remember that God started this work in me and He will be faithful to complete it. He will never give me more than I can handle although I think He thinks too highly of me sometimes. None of this would have been possible without the THRP program and the YWCA helping me to let go of what I was, so that I could become what I might be.

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3 Responses to Marie Johnson: From Homeless to YWCA Director

  1. debby pierson says:

    You are truly a blessing and inspiration to others God has awesome plans for you. I am proud of you and what you have been able to accomplish. Praying for you and your family.
    Debby

  2. Tisa Gallup says:

    Marie, you ROCK, sister!!! The YWCA gave me a firm foundation on which to rebuild my life. As a recovering meth addict (not that I didn’t take any drug that came my way,) I needed a lot more than just a few weeks in rehab. The YWCA gave me a safe haven and desperately needed structure and guidance. I’m thrilled that you are joining that team of incredible people who’s kindness, strength, hope, and faith helped me to become somebody that I can be proud of. I am proud to call you my friend!

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