Helping America's most vulnerable®

Mike Takes Shelter from the Storm

Mike’s life story begins like so many other people’s stories do. He was raised in a middle class family, went to college and began a career. He married the woman he loved and had three beautiful children. He responsibly cared for his family at a full-time job, working with juvenile delinquents and troubled adults as an adviser and caseworker. Mike never imagined he’d one day find himself as someone on the other side of his desk…involved in drugs and living on the street, desperately seeking help to restore his life.

“I was one of those people who went through the crack craze of the ‘80s, and it cost me my marriage, my career and my family,” said Mike, who has now been clean for five years. “Crack basically whipped me. That type of lifestyle will bring the best man or woman down.”

But Mike’s downfall into the drug world was like nothing he had experienced before. He never saw it coming.

“No one put a gun to my head and made me do drugs,” Mike said. “It seemed like the socially acceptable thing to do, and it just evolved. There was no history of drug abuse in my family, and my siblings were never involved in drugs; but they couldn’t do anything to help me until I was ready to help myself.”

As a result of being in the wrong place at the wrong time, which happens so often in the drug world, Mike now lives with a bullet lodged forever in his head, a reminder of darker days. “The street culture left me with a bullet in my head and blind in one eye,” said Mike, as he held up an X-ray of his skull. “I honestly feel if I hadn’t taken stock in myself, I wouldn’t be here now.”

Mike had become a broken man. He had lived a life that revolved around crack cocaine for 17 years.

The day Mike reclaimed his life was when he had gravitated back to his old neighborhood, where he sat on a park bench not far from where his ex-wife and children were living. To his surprise, he saw his adult son in the distance walking his dog. His son approached him and said, “Dad, what’s going on?” 

“I have nowhere to go,” Mike replied, wearing the same clothes he had worn for days, with no money in his pocket. 

His son reached into his own pocket and pulled out $13. Mike humbly took the money and headed to the subway; and took a ride that would forever change him. He entered the doors of the Volunteers of America Residential Program Center. It was there that Mike received a place to call home as well as the substance abuse treatment, support and continuum of care he needed to get his life back.

“I have now committed my life to telling my story in the hope it will help someone else avoid the torture I have endured living with drugs on the streets,” says Mike. “No one should put a family through the worrying of not knowing if their loved one is dead or alive.”