Inside a well-kept brick home in Harlan County was a lot of love from Dad, who was a coal operator; and Mom, who was a nurse. But things were changing for their son, Michael.
He started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana.
With a 27 on his ACT, Michael headed to the University of Kentucky. Then the OxyContin epidemic started taking off. All of a sudden, people all around him were getting 90 pills for a twisted ankle. That’s when OxyContin grabbed a hold of him and didn’t let go.
Michael didn’t go to class and couldn’t hold down a job. With only eight credits left to graduate, he dropped out of school and moved back home to be a father after his girlfriend became pregnant. But, in 2001 when his daughter was born, he wasn’t in the delivery room. He was lying on an air mattress in a trailer. Michael couldn’t admit he had a problem. He was in full-blown addiction by 2003, but the crack-down on doctors meant that Oxy was starting to dry up. Michael got paid $1,200 every Friday for his work in the coal mines, but by Sunday, he needed to borrow money just for gas.
Michael started buying Oxycontin in Cincinnati and Detroit to use and sell back home. He thought he would be a millionaire by age 30, but he was completely blind to the fact that he was devastating his family.
By the time his son was born in 2009, Michael had seven felonies for trafficking narcotics and done five years in jail.
He was sentenced to three more years in the Harlan County Jail in June 2016. He was coming off meth, Suboxone and other substances. Michael was 30 years old, and half his life was gone in the blink of an eye. He’d missed out on so much with his children and felt like he was waiting for the casket to come.
At parole, Michael agreed to substance abuse treatment but didn’t really want to go. He’d been to rehab before.
This time, the same organization that helped put him behind bars for about six years – Operation UNITE – helped him with a treatment voucher to WestCare. He chose that facility because the program lasted six months. He’d be out by April – a prime time for drug dealers because people had tax refunds to spend.
Prison didn’t break him. The chaos surrounding his life didn’t break him. It was a letter from his children on Nov. 16, 2016 that did it. His daughter, who was 15 at the time, wrote that she and her brother, Carson, were going to move on with their lives. “I hope you find something that makes you happy because we didn’t.”
His mom and dad also had stopped returning calls.
He was broken and crying. On Dec.7,2016, his mentor came and invited him to a church service. He felt a knocking on his heart and knew the Lord was asking him if he’d had enough. He read the Bible three times and starting leading Bible studies.
He now has a relationship with his family and even coaches Little League after having been banned three years ago and bought his daughter a prom dress.
Michael works as a community liaison for Addiction Recovery Care and meets with the judge almost every day to go over the court docket. His goal is to get people into recovery rather than jail. He has personally taken 67 people to recovery by working with the judge and lawyers on an alternative sentence.
Michael also is ordained and has preached in 10 states.
“My worst day now is better than my best day then,” Michael says. “My daughter wrote me another letter. She told him how happy she and her brother are. ‘Our friends say we have the best dad, and Carson wants to be just like you.’ ”