From prisons to being present. Michael is over 9 years sober!

My name is Michael and I am an addict.

I was raised in London, and came from an Irish Gypsy mother and an English father. Both my parents came from broken homes themselves and suffered physical and sexual abuse in their childhoods. My father left when I was 2 years old, he was addicted to heroin and was lost in that world, he went on to have 13 other children after me and is still a heroin addict today. My mother was an alcoholic for most of my life until she got sober when I was 18.

Growing up was difficult for me, I was sexually abused by my uncle and with the lack of a male role model I looked in the wrong places for guidance and support. It normally came from older kids who lived in my neighbourhood. I found a group which were around 4 years older than I was, I stayed close to the leader of the group, I learned all I could from him on how to survive, how to fight and how to get high.

As a result of this and my own foolish actions I was sent to prison at the age of 15, and was convicted of armed robbery and possession of firearms. My first time in prison wasn’t too bad, but I was convinced I didn’t want to return, however when I was released and went back into my neighborhood I had a new status, everyone respected me a whole lot more. So despite my desire to want to change, the pull towards feeling powerful and respected was stronger. Between the age of 15 and 18 I was sent back to young offenders prison 3 more times. I experienced beatings in prison from older kids.  Being white, I was in the minority so at times it was difficult standing up to gangs of youths.

I came out of prison aged 18 and my mother was sober.  She had started going to meetings and I decided to pop my head in and check it out. I took one look around and thought I'M TOO YOUNG FOR THIS SHIT, this was my mindset aged 18. I thought that you only had a problem when you were homeless and sleeping on the streets. I never thought that most of the people in that room had never even been to prison, yet I had been 4 times before I turned 18. Nevertheless I spent from aged 18-25 playing around with the disease of addiction by swapping one drug for another, trying exercise, work, sleeping with multiple women, just generally being a person with no soul or integrity.  I went from place to place taking what I wanted and hurting those around me.

I was lost, I was scared and I didn’t know I was in the dark, I never even knew the dark existed, the dark was all I had known all my life.

At age 25 I came back to the fellowship and was determined enough was enough. I spent the first 6 months periodically relapsing until I finally threw the towel in on 15th December 2007. I have been sober ever since, and god willing I make it to December I will be 10 years sober.

Some of the things I have achieved have been amazing, a lot of material success. I set up a business, got a lovely house, but what’s more important is the man I am today. I have two daughters that have never seen me drink or use, I am present in their life as an emotionally responsible adult and I am able to support them with their journey through life. I am an honest man in my relationship with my beautiful partner Sacha, she is an angel who has supported me over the years to help get in touch with the man in the mirror.

These are the real gifts, I am able to look at my reflection and not hate myself.

I go back to the prisons I was once an inmate of and give talks and do service there. My efforts were recognised when I received an award from the Chief Superintendent of Police for helping young men turn their lives around.

I am thankful for the opportunity to share this with you all of you, and one day hope to write a book to help inspire more young men and anyone else struggling.