I chose drugs over my daughter.”
After spending 19 years hard at work on the railroad, Michael suffered a serious injury that left him on disability and with large amounts of free time that he failed to use wisely. A domino effect ensued that led to the alienation of those he loved most, especially his daughter Jameisha.
Marijuana and alcohol indulgences ultimately cost him his marriage and laid the groundwork for an eventual cocaine habit. New relationships with what he described as “so-called friends” lured him away from home for days at a time and his new affinity for life on the street set the stage for a narcotics possession charge that, in turn, brought him to the Mission.
Michael came to the Shepura Men’s Center for the first time in 2014 based on the recommendation of his attorney following drug court.
“To be honest, I wasn’t serious then,” he confessed. “I was just going through the motions to appease the system.”
The lack of dedication to a sober lifestyle after exiting the program made the reprieve from chemical dependency short-lived and he was back to his old routines within a few months. He lived a life that was “out of whack” for nearly five more years before a series of events catapulted him into seeking genuine change.
Jameshia’s persistence eventually fractured the facade of Michael’s selfishness and for the first time in years brought him face to face with the impact his absence had in her life.
“What really made me want to change was when my daughter broke down and started crying,” he said. “She was telling me how I hadn’t been there for her. I wouldn’t go to her birthdays. I didn’t go to her graduation. I missed her prom. I knew it was wrong, but I chose drugs over my daughter. I’m ashamed to tell you that, but it’s the truth.”
Jameisha exudes optimism, but admits that it took a lot of work to gain that perspective. Overcoming disappointment was one of the biggest obstacles she faced as a child and young adult, and though the growing process was difficult it was something she said she needed to do to keep from having a negative outlook on life.
“There are a lot of significant things I wished he was there for,” she said, “but over time I just became numb to it. It was hard, because I thought about him during all those times and I wanted that emotional bond, but I just tried my best to push past it.”
The second, and final, straw came when he saw a friend shot in a drug deal gone south. The man survived the incident, but the experience instilled a paranoia that Michael couldn’t shake. He knows that he could have easily been killed, even as an innocent bystander, and that his lifestyle was making the possibility of such a nightmare all the more likely.
“After the police questioned me [about the shooting], I went home, got on my knees, and prayed,” he recalled. “A small voice came into my mind telling me to ‘go back to Jimmie Hale Mission’, and I’m sure it was God. I couldn’t wait any longer.”
Even though he didn’t give the program a chance his first time through, Michael indicated that the thing that always stood out was the Bible-focused environment and curriculum and that scriptures and God were the “only things going to keep [him] off of drugs.”
“This time I’m here because I want to be,” he said reflecting on his progress at the Mission. “I’m understanding the Word of God better and getting closer to Him. I’m praying and meditating more. I don’t have the desire to do the things I was doing before and I’m at peace and my body feels better. It’s a better life being sober.”
Michael’s goals now are graduating from the program and trying to start life anew. In doing so, he wants to spend more time with family and plans on volunteering at the Men’s Center.
“I know he can make it through this and stay clean,” Jameisha said as tears began to form in her eyes. “Maybe he had to go through all of this to find his story, to find his purpose, and to help others. I don’t want him to feel shame or guilt. I want the past to be the past. I want to focus on building a relationship from here. It doesn’t matter how long it’s been.”
Michael isn’t alone in the pursuit of helping make a difference in the lives of others. Jameisha has plans to establish her own non-profit in the future aimed at helping individuals recovering from, or afflicted by, addiction.
It’s a better life being sober.”