Mike’s story is an ever increasingly familiar one: family divorce. Even though his plight was experienced by many others, it didn’t make it any easier.
Mike said before the breakup he was a typical middle class kid with a picture perfect life. His parents spoiled him and his brother and sisters with about anything they could ever want.
However, all that came crashing down in the spring of 1982 when his mom and dad decided to call it quits at about ten years into their marriage.
Mike said, “Imagine our shock, and you might start to understand why I became the way I was. I was a B average student, avid BMX racer, skateboarder and track star. I was happy with the way our lives were and none of us kids wanted that to change. It was a devastating blow to say in the least!”
Mike said he went through major rebellion.
“My grades slipped,” he sad. “My interest in sports was totally gone, and I became very bitter towards everyone and everything. My life took a nosedive…to where all I wanted to do was fight everybody. My parent tried to help me to adjust, but I wasn’t trying to hear that. In my mind I figured if they didn’t care how we felt about what was going on, why should I?”
Things continued to go downhill for Mike; so much so his mom told him to leave her house when he was 15. He said he didn’t know what he was going to do, but at that point he didn’t care.
He said, “I didn’t care about anything but me at that time, and doing whatever I wanted! I floated from house to house and place to place for a while. I got to hanging out with some of the wrong people and that’s when I got into stealing. I was good at it, or so I thought until I was caught.”
That happened when he was 16. He got into a serious confrontation with security guards at a retail store while he was shoplifting. He assaulted two guards really badly and was sent to juvenile detention for two-and-a-half years.
However, the result of Mike’s incarceration wasn’t what authorities had intended. He said, “I was a fighter, and being in juvenile detention gave me a chance to hone my skills to perfection as a very mean person.”
Around the same time Mike said he got involved with a gang called the Black Gangster Disciples.
He said, “I rose through the ranks rather quickly and because of my skills with my hands I was made a lieutenant. I was what you might call a ‘shot-caller.’”
Mike said while locked up, he learned more about the inner workings of the “doper” life. When he was released, Mike said some of his “boys”were waiting for him with a get-out-of-jail gift: dope and money! As a result, Mike said, he hit the streets hard.
He added, “I went all in and wow, the money started rolling in! I bought cars, clothes, anything I wanted and didn’t have a care in the world.”
He continued, “I thought I was Scarface. I didn`t smoke so I made mad money. I was a natural at this until the cops kicked my door in. That was a very messed up day for me. They didn`t find any drugs, but they did find a house full of stolen property.”
Mike said although he was one of the biggest dope men in Illinois, they couldn`t find one crumb to prove it. As a result, he said, authorities ended up charging him with Felony Possession of Stolen Property. He was suspected in a lot of cases, but they didn`t have anything to prove that he was selling to anyone. He did, however, rack up four years for the stolen property case.
During all of that mayhem, Mike said, he found out his girlfriend was pregnant with their first-born child. They got married in 1990 while he was incarcerated.
Mike said, “When I got paroled, I tried to stay on the straight and narrow. I even got a job but, going from a couple of G`s a day to 600 or 700 dollars every two weeks just wasn`t for me, so I got back in the game.”
All of this time, Mike said, his grandma told him she was praying for him to change his ways, to become the little boy she knew. However, Mike said, while he heard with his ears he didn’t hear with his heart. All he cared about was money. But that changed in 1994, Mike said, when he saw something happen he wouldn’t wish on anyone.
He explained, “A guy who was high on crack went up to one of my best friends and blew his brains out right in front of me, and then he turned the gun on me. I turned to run and he shot at me twice. The first one missed but, the second didn’t.”
Mike said he got hit in the elbow, and looking back he believes that may have saved his life.
Mike said, “When I got hit, it knocked me around the corner. By then my guys saw what was about to happen so they shot him. He was close enough to where his blood splashed on me. I sat there and watched him die with about eight or nine bullet holes in him.”
When Mike got home from the hospital, he knew he had to make a change.
He said one of the defining moments in his life pushing him away from hustling was when one of his other “homies” got 25 yrs to life in a federal penitentiary for Cocaine Distribution, Possession of a Controlled Substance and Possession With the Intent to Distribute.
Mike said, “I knew then that it was just a matter of time till they got me too so I quit, cold! It was really weird because it seemed like all I knew how to do was sell dope. I caught a few more minor cases, but the dope game was over for me. I caught hell for while, because I really didn`t have a work background for anyone to go from when I applied for jobs.”
During this time Mike lost quite a few people who were dear to him. They were his dad, grandpa, and an uncle and aunt.
He said, “I didn’t go around my family very often. They were terrified of me because of the life I was living. They didn’t want me around because they thought I might get them shot or hurt. I can`t say that I blame them; would you want someone like that around you and your kids?”
Mike began to take a long, hard look at himself and he didn’t like what he saw.
He said, “My last remaining grandma never gave up on me, no matter how much dirt I did and for that I am very thankful.”
Mike added, “Granny is the one who put me back on track to being the person I am now.”
Mike said he was eventually able to work at legitimate employment, but due to a variety of circumstances he lost his job and had nowhere to turn. However, he remembered Joy Junction, where he had found help once before.
As a result, Mike came to Joy Junction in Feb. 2010 and immediately joined our Christ in Power (CIPP) Life Recovery Program. Mike said he immersed himself in what CIPP had to offer.
He said, “This program has shown me that there are so many other ways to handle my decisions and life choices. It has assisted me with personal losses, gains, and relationships on many levels.”
Mike added, “It has also helped me to see that I do have redeeming qualities and that I am worth the path God has put me on. It makes me feel a sense of worthiness to know that someone believes in me and is giving me a chance to redeem myself.”
However, once Mike graduated the program he wasn’t sure what his next step should be. Of course, he knew he could keep volunteering and attending classes and services at Joy Junction while he was attempting to figure out that next phase.
He soon knew what that next step was to be. Our resident services manager asked him to apply for a staff position. She had been watching carefully the changes the Lord had been making in Mike’s life and she liked what she saw.
Mike was thrilled. He said, “I jumped at the chance to be a part of something that has helped me come so far to be a better man.”
He said he wants people who have helped him to know how grateful he is for their prayers and encouragement.
Mike added, “It has been a true blessing that I am now a part of something greater than myself and am now able to hopefully give back not only to Joy Junction, but to those who come through these doors and needing the same compassion and understanding that I received when I (arrived).”
Mike, we so appreciate what the Lord is doing in your life and we pray that you will keep allowing Him to continue molding you into His image.