Carla Wiedemeier never really had a childhood. Her family was dysfunctional with both of her parents struggling with addictions. As the oldest child, she slid into the role of caretaker to her seven brothers and sisters, taking on responsibilities like making mac and cheese and hot dogs for dinner when she was just five.
By the time she was 10 the children had been in and out of shelters three times, and when she was 13 they were removed from the home. A few years later Carla lost her brother, Joseph, who had Hunter syndrome. It dealt the final blow to her mom who couldn’t cope with the loss, and Carla lost her as well—to an overdose. Carla was only 17.
She was living on her own by age 24 and trying to make her way. “I finally thought that I was done cleaning up the karmic debt my parents had built up and which I’d never asked for,” she said. That was until one day when her dad dropped off her siblings for her to watch and then disappeared from her life.
“I was angry and frustrated at my dad for putting that on me, and I was frustrated and angry at my mom for giving up. And then I was angry at God,” said Carla.
To deal with the emotions and stress she’d experienced as a child that eventually surfaced, she did the unfathomable. She turned to methamphetamine (meth). “As much as I’d been through as a child nothing could compare with what I put myself through as an adult and the power meth had over me,” said Carla.
She seemed to manage for years until she found herself homeless in 2017. It proved her turning point.
“That’s when I surrendered to God…I told Him I couldn’t do it anymore,” said Carla. “I couldn’t continue to hold onto this pain…Bitterness was eating me alive.”
She not only found God’s unconditional love but His strength. She says before she ever heard the gospel, she felt there was a God looking out for her; now she knew Him.
There were still challenges ahead, but there also was hope. She had to work through the recovery process, make new friends and build a support system, learn how to take care of herself—and how to love herself.
“At the beginning of my sobriety I truly needed an army of support, and that’s exactly what God gave me,” reflected Carla. “It’s amazing how God worked through The Salvation Army to change my life.”
She began her journey with the Army as a mailroom clerk at Northern Divisional Headquarters, then started attending a corps. Her involvement grew, and she became a soldier. She currently works as special events coordinator for the Lakewood Temple, Minn., Corps.
“Five years ago I would never have thought this would be possible,” said Carla. “I now know there is nothing in the world I can’t face with Jesus at my side.”