Lehi cared for both of her children and for her four grandchildren for years by herself at her home in Towaoc. Her husband was largely absent because he struggled with the law and alcoholism.
“Whatever needed to be done, I did it for them,” she said.
She found that part of taking care of her children and grandchildren was taking care of herself, and nine years ago she decided to get sober.
“I wanted a better life for them because both my parents are alcoholics,” said Lehi.
Now both of her children have moved away from Towaoc and are continuing their education.
Her 20-year-old son Lucas Lehi is going into welding through Job Corps in Montana.
She was also able to return her grandchildren, now ages 7 through 15, and to her daughter Montoya Tallbrother.
Lehi said her daughter, 29, has struggled, but she has overcome teen motherhood and is now pursuing a degree in cosmetology in Tulsa.
“She is there for me a lot when I need help,” said Tallbrother.
Lehi’s personal journey with health didn’t stop with getting sober.
In 1998, she was diagnosed with borderline diabetes, and after that she developed asthma because she was working in the smoky casino environment. She was on inhalants twice a day.
But with regular exercise and healthier choices she beat both of them and lost more than 30 pounds.
About a year ago, she made a commitment to start walking. Walking turned into running, and now she runs three times a week.
“When I’m running, I feel good, all those problems go away,” she said.
Lehi’s advice to others who want to make a major change in their live is simple.
“You’re life has got to be clean,” she said.
Lehi said she burns cedar often and also prays to the Creator for strength.
She has also observed that many women are lost without a man. She has discovered that “You got to do it for yourself.”
In addition to better health, she has also found work she enjoys. Since June, she has been working in diabetes prevention for the Ute Mountain Ute Tribe.
“I’m really truly happy, and I never thought I would say that,” she said.