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Road to becoming father was bumpy
by Jeff York
Jun 17, 2017 | 3443 views | 0 0 comments | 65 65 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Craig Johnson with his wife, Polly, and their two 9-year-old daughters, Olivia and Sarah.
Craig Johnson with his wife, Polly, and their two 9-year-old daughters, Olivia and Sarah.
"They call me Daddy."

It was a emotional response from Craig Johnson when asked what Father's Day meant to him.

Johnson's road to becoming a father was a bumpy path as he battled drug issues that began when he was a teenager. An older friend introduced him to marijuana when he was only 15 and it took Johnson a little over a decade to get clean.

"When I started marijuana, I would do anything to get money to buy more pot," said Johnson. "I let drugs cost me two marriages. I was selling drugs and was never home where I should have been."

It was not long after his second divorce that Johnson lost everything he owned and was forced to live in a tent. He had no job and no home after hitting what he called "rock bottom."

A group of church members from Christ Temple in Walnut convinced Johnson to visit the church, a move that was a big part of his recovery from drug addiction.

"They helped me get a relationship with Jesus and He turned my life around," said Johnson. "I surrounded myself with Christian people and I went everywhere with the church pastor. If there was a church service or gospel singing in the area, I was there."

Johnson said Johnny and the late Shirley Pittman allowed him to live in their Walnut home while he was getting his life back together.

"They took me in without even really knowing me and loved me like I was their own grandson," said Johnson. "They gave me a chance to get back on my feet and I'll never forget that."

Tommy Wilbanks invited Johnson to participate in his Christian rodeo and Johnson began riding bulls. He did not realize at the time that being in the rodeo would lead him to meet his future wife, Polly Johnson.

"Polly commented on my Facebook post about the rodeo and asked me how to get there," recalled Johnson. "I asked her for a date that night at the rodeo and she declined. I kept calling and she finally agreed to go out with me."

When Johnson decided to propose, he asked Wilbanks to bring Polly out of the stands at a Booneville rodeo and he asked her to marry him in front of the crowd. Thankfully, she said yes.

The two will be married 10 years in September and together they have two 9-year-old daughters, Olivia and Sarah.

"I'm tickled to death to hear them call me 'Daddy' because I was not daddy material in my younger days," said Johnson, with his voice breaking and tears in his eyes. "I tell young fathers with struggles to love your child and love their mother. You can either raise your child or someone else will raise them for you."

Johnson was introduced to Living Free Ministries' Tommy Wilson by a friend and that strengthened Johnson even more.

He and Polly lead a Living Free class on Wednesday nights at Oakland Baptist Church and they both work side-by-side with Wilson and his wife, Marea, at Living Free.

On this Father's Day, Johnson is thankful his heavenly father was there to help him become an earthly father to his two daughters.

"It's not easy to get off drugs, but the best way to start is to ask Jesus for help," he said.

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