People You Should Know: Mike

“Dad, you’re nothing but a crackhead. I don’t ever want to see you again.”

My son was 15, and he was right. He and my ex-wife had come to my apartment and found me getting high, again.

I’d been a functional addict for more than two decades, serving in the U.S. Navy before working as a machinist. Now, after hearing my son tell me the hard truth, I went off the deep end. I quit going to work. All I wanted to do was get high, to numb the pain.

On the morning of my 38th birthday, I woke up in my drug dealer’s van, where I had been living after getting out of jail. I thought, I can’t live this way anymore. I decided I was going to get clean or die trying. That day, I walked across town to the Salvation Army, which offered a recovery program.

The lady who checked me in, Rosemary, looked at my ID. “Do you realize today is your birthday? What a wonderful present you’re giving yourself.”

Then she asked me what I thought about God. I told her if there was a God, He never did anything for me. I went off on a 20-minute tirade. Finally she said, “Are you done?” And I’ll never forget what she asked me next.

“Mike, how can you be so mad at someone you don’t think is real?”

That night, I went into the chapel, looked up at the lighted cross and prayed: “God, if you’re real, do something.”

Here I am, 13 years later, and I haven’t had a drink or drug since. I work at Rockford Rescue Mission as Homeless Services Director — serving people who look just like I did, and telling them about a better way. Telling them about Christ. I know recovery takes hard work, because I’ve lived it and I’m still living it. I’m so grateful to God. I’m happily married, reconciled with my family and living a life I never thought I could have.