In It To Win It

As a football player, Mike knew how to run the ball and make plays. From his Pop Warner days to serving as tailback alongside Hall of Fame cornerback Ronnie Lott at USC, Mike showed grit and determination as an athlete. That fight and perseverance, along with the strong moral character instilled in him from a young age, served him well when he needed it most.

With two Rose Bowls and the 1978 National Championship under his belt, Mike was drafted by the Seattle Seahawks. Unfortunately, around the same time, Mike started abusing alcohol and cocaine. The glamour of what he called “life in the fast lane” caught up with him when he started experimenting with these substances recreationally. Just before signing a contract with the NFL, he was arrested on drug charges, and his pro football career was over. During his time at USC, Mike’s father passed away. Between this tragedy and his football career ending, Mike lost control. He said, “That hit home. I became a full-blown addict.”

Between 1988 and 2008, Mike continued in a vicious cycle. He said, “I violated parole, did prison time, got out, did better for a while, messed up again, another violation, back to prison…”

After years of attempts at recovery, Mike finally checked himself into Cedar House in 2014 with some encouragement from an old friend and boss. 

Cedar House offered Mike a new lease on life. He said, “The courses, the curriculum, the resources they offer; the whole make-up of the program itself really works. Cedar House is THE best rehabilitation program in San Bernardino County.” He said that his case manager helped him to realize that he was “emotionally immature” and that “it was time to grow up.” That’s exactly what he did. 

Ninety days later, he graduated from Cedar House and moved into Loma Linda’s re-live program to begin his sober living. He worked alongside his future wife, Vallery, at the thrift store there. This is when he began to truly re-dedicate his life back to his faith.

He became an associate minister at his church in San Bernardino. Then, he went back to school for his certificate in counseling and his nonprofit license.

Mike said, “God has blessed me with a home. I’m self-employed as a contractor and electrician. I’m the lead counselor for intensive outpatient at Mental Health Systems. And I will have seven years clean in June. I am in it to win it!”

His proudest achievement is his nonprofit work. Through the years of struggling with addiction and homelessness, Mike always had a vision for what his life could be. He envisioned himself opening a home for those most in need. Along with Vallery, Mike now runs a homeless shelter in San Bernardino. He is also composing his autobiography, Victorious Change, to inspire others to make a positive change in their lives.

He said, “Addicts aren’t bad people. They just made bad decisions. At Cedar House, they teach people how to make better decisions; how to live clean and sober and accept life at its terms.” 

Now Mike is busily paying it forward and making a difference in his community. He reminds his clients to do what worked for him in his recovery: “Check in daily with yourself. Surrender to Jesus Christ. Let His will be done. Give Him all the glory. It’s just faith.”