All the motivation Michael needed to stop using cocaine and selling heroin, he says, was his overdose.
“That’s the reason I quit,” he says, citing his wife and three children as his inspiration. “Too many people rely on me for that stupidness [to go on].”
During the 90 days that Ben and Michael worked together, what he needed most, Michael says, was someone to listen. They met weekly at a fast food restaurant to talk.
“If I was having a bad day, I would just let him know, tell him what’s going on, and he would give me advice and just talk to me because I had a lot going on,” says Michael.
“I’m always skeptical to tell someone my private business, especially the negative stuff,” he adds, touching an unlit cigarette tucked behind his ear as his spotted brown puppy played at his feet. “Ben felt easy to confide in. He’d say, ‘You’re doing good, stay focused,’ and that was good motivation.”
In addition to motivation, Michael credits Ben with helping guide him toward a new career, barbering school, and finding financial resources for it. Michael, who enjoys cooking big family dinners, also would like to work toward starting a nonprofit that cooks and serves gourmet food at homeless shelters. Having spent time with his children in the shelter system, he knows how a good meal “can put a smile on your face.” Ben worked with Michael to research what resources were available that could help Michael achieve his goals.
Ben also helped Michael deal with his past. He had kept his drug use a secret from his mother, who lives with the family, and when he overdosed, he told her he was severely dehydrated.
“It’s real embarrassing when you come home and my daughter was like,” he pauses, collecting his thoughts. “It’s tough for me to get out, it was like, ‘Daddy, remember when the doctors had to bring you back from the dead?’”
Michael regrets the choices he made, but also believes the overdose and meeting Ben was, in many ways, an opportunity for change.
“It was a big mistake,” Michael says of his past behavior. “I wish that never happened, but I’m glad it did happen. If it didn’t, I’d probably still be sniffing coke and who knows what would have happened. Everything happens for a reason, I believe.”