By Connie Cone Sexton
The Republic | azcentral.com Sun Nov 11, 2012 12:05 AM
For 21 years, Candice Johnson managed to just keep going.
She coped with near poverty, supported only by a mother whose life was ravaged by drugs.
She deflected the sorrow of never knowing her biological father.
And she pushed through her fears when, as a teenager, she became pregnant.
In 2003, after the birth of her daughter, Aaliyah, Johnson dropped out of school. Deciding to no longer live with her mother, she stayed with friends and family until she was old enough to receive government assistance.
By 2007, she finally had her own place, a small low-income apartment in south Phoenix, but was existing day to day.
“I was down and out. I didn’t have two quarters to my name,” Johnson said.
Then, a few days before Christmas, Aaliyah asked for some change for the ice-cream man. “I didn’t have it,” Johnson said, her voice breaking at the memory of her daughter’s disappointed face.
Not wanting to fall apart in front of her, Johnson fled to her bedroom closet.
“I sunk to the ground and started crying so hard. It was a long time coming,” she said. “I felt like, ‘The bottom is really here. If I don’t do something different, I’m going to have a horrible life.’