When Michael decided to go to rehab, it was a choice between two very different paths. He realized that there were two divergent paths and, while both were hard, one was the clear winner. He asked himself: do you want to continue on the hard, destructive path with hangovers, blackouts, overdoses, fights, promiscuity, living on the streets, a toxic body and “always running against what’s right”? Or, do you want to take the hard, productive path in life – one in which you get an education, word hard, eat healthy, go to the gym, nurture friendships, pray, tell the truth and become a good father? Once he determined the answer for himself, he made the decision to go to Cedar House and use what he learned there to turn his life around.
His rebellious days started after he lost his father at the age of nine. They had a very close relationship, and losing him meant that he would have to become a man without his father’s guidance and wisdom. Struggling with the pain of that loss, Michael’s mother tried to steer him away from temptations. Their relationship was strained, and Michael developed trust issues as well as a strong desire to experiment and test his limits.
When Michael was offered a full-ride scholarship to UC Berkeley to play soccer, he jumped at the chance to get away. That’s when he really let loose and started partying hard. The pain he felt from his father’s death and the unhealthy relationship he had with his mother showed up on the soccer field. While he was a very impressive athlete, he struggled to be truly present. He often found himself performing on “auto-pilot” and simply going through the familiar motions only to turn overly aggressive and angry. He would start fights and injure opponents when he was unable to manage his explosive emotions and violent reactions.
One day when Michael was using and had gotten dangerously high, his mother called to let him know that his uncle, who lived near Michael and had become a father figure for him, was dying. Michael recalled that he spoke to his mother, but that he did not call his uncle when he was on his death bed because he was too high. That night Michael survived his first overdose. Unfortunately, his uncle passed away that same night. Michael believes that his uncle took his place.
Michael experienced so much at a young age. He played soccer for LA Galaxy, and then in Ireland, Finland, Portugal, Italy and near the border of Mexico. He learned to speak Spanish, but unfortunately left a trail of destructive relationships all along the way. From those experiences, he learned many lessons. But the most important lesson that he said he learned is that “God stands by you in the darkest of places to pull you though.”
Today, Michael knows that God was with him when he suffered the excruciating pain of pancreatitis three times and when he drove off the road flipping his car multiple times while intoxicated. Amazingly surviving those near-death moments solidified his faith. He knows that his pain brought with it beauty and unity for his Cedar House experience. With empathy and understanding, he could connect with the other clients and feed off their strength. He finally learned to break down the barriers that kept him from developing strong relationships and learning the techniques he would need to stay sober. He is proud to reflect on his “big transformation” and has become a motivational speaker and a youth leader at his church.
Ultimately, it was Michael’s relationship with God and the lessons learned from his father at a young age combined with what he gained at Cedar House that gave him a fighting chance to choose the right path. He said, “I went full circle. Now I’m moving in a Godly direction.”