Michael gave himself up — both to God and to an unsuspecting Colorado Springs police officer on his nightly stroll.
By this point, Michael had spent eight years as a homeless meth addict. His body was broken: his back ached from long nights spent on hard surfaces; his feet bloody from walking back and forth across town; his soul crushed from years of failure and disappointment.
“Meth was never something I wanted for my life, and not a day went by that I didn’t wish to be done with it,” he said. “I was tired of lying, cheating and stealing — I wanted to make God and my mom proud.”
On a warm June night in 2017, Michael — realizing he had missed his court date the morning before — stopped running, threw up his hands and turned his eyes upon God’s face.
“I threw up my hands and screamed out to God to give me the strength to turn myself in,” he said. “I knew that’s what I had to do. … He put strength in my heart to do the right thing. I walked up to a police officer and asked him to look and see if I had a warrant. He was really nice and shook my hand, took me to jail and said, ‘I hope you turn your life around, and I think you will. Good luck.’ That’s when I heard about the New Life Program at Springs Rescue Mission.”
We spoke with Michael recently about growing up a “momma’s boy,” his hard years on the streets and the hope he’s found since graduating the New Life Program in 2018.
Please tell us a bit about your upbringing.
My childhood was pretty normal. Our parents told us they loved us. We had birthdays and Christmases and plenty of presents. Looking back on it, we were pretty spoiled. My folks divorced when I was about 10. My mom had been diagnosed with breast cancer and my father just couldn’t handle it, so he left. I lost a lot of respect for him after that.
What were you like as a kid?
I had emotional problems. I was diagnosed ADHD and was on medicine for a while. I had trouble concentrating and was a day dreamer – still am – had to repeat first grade. … I was pretty popular in school and pretty much got along with everyone. I liked to ride BMX bikes, started smoking weed in the 8th grade. First arrest was at 17. We found 739 marijuana plants in an alley here in town and the cops thought we planted it.
What happened after high school?
I did end up graduating through a special program at my high school but kept goofing off. In 1989, I was 21 years old and got a job working as a maintenance man at Copper Mountain. I had been on skis since I was six, so I decided to get out of Colorado Springs and do that.
I was working one day and got a call that my dad was having a serious heart surgery. … I talked to him and said I’d go to Denver to be with him, but he told me not to and said not to worry. And that’s the last time I ever talked to my dad. He died the next day at 56 years old. That changed my life. We weren’t very close, but he was still my dad.
How did your life change after that?
I wish I could say it did, but I kept drinking and drugging well into my twenties — and beyond.
I came back to Colorado Springs, got with a girl from high school named Kathy and she got pregnant. Nine months later, in 1990, I became a father. … We were in a pretty rocky relationship. We split up when our son Patrick was 3 or 4, and I took her to court because I wanted parental rights. That’s when I found out that she hadn’t put my name on the birth certificate, and I had no legal rights as his father.
You lost your mother shortly after. What effect did losing her have on you?
I lost it. … I went up there and we had a memorial for her. When I came back, my boss let me go because I spent too much time away. So I was in Colorado Springs, with no relationships and no job. I had a little apartment, but no way to pay rent — no savings. My vehicle was barely running. I ended up getting out of my lease early, put on a backpack and just started roaming the streets.
I was in a dark place. I was giving up. And then came the meth. I had promised my mom that I wouldn’t drink and drive again but, soon after she died, I ended up getting another DUI. That was the day I quit drinking. But I just replaced it with meth.
How did you manage, being homeless for eight years?
I stayed in laundry rooms of apartment buildings and all kinds of stuff. I was in my forties and becoming a zombie. I was eating out of trash cans. … One day I got mad and threw a brick through the window of a building. The security guard saw me and identified me to the cops. When that happened, I ended up getting a felony charge for intimidating a witness because of cussing him out in front of the cops.
What impact did the New Life Program have on your life?
The best choice I have ever made was to go into the New Life Program. Now, I can come to God with a sober mind — and he gives me the strength I need. And I finally admitted to Him that I needed help and I was weak. I know now that is a strength. … As long as I go to God first for help, I’m good. … Another epiphany I had in the program is that I have to surround myself with relationships, I need to open up and be honest with people and share my stories to help others.
Tell me more about your life today.
Life is awesome. Because no matter what life throws at me, I can just brush it off. I still get frustrated and bothered, but I don’t get angry to that point anymore where I’m going to use drinking and drugs just to escape. Now I know that I don’t have to do that, because I can give it to God. … For the longest time, I wouldn’t open up to men because of the relationship I had with my own father. But I realize that I was hurting, and that it’s OK to hurt. And I can be honest about that now.
What has your work situation look like after you graduated the program?
When I graduated the program, I got a temporary construction job through a staffing agency. I kept running into bricklayers I worked with years ago. … So, I had lunch with some of them and one guy whose father owned the business asked me if I was interested in getting back into the trade. I said yes and I’ve been working for them over two years now.
Is there anything else you’d like to add?
I want to stay sober, because I didn’t know God’s love until I went through the program. He really loves each one of us, and we just have to recognize that in ourselves and recognize that in ourselves. … I had given up, and that was compounded by drugs and alcohol. And I never want to give up again. I really want to be the man my mother knew I was deep down inside.”
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