The problem started pretty early. Actually, it was 6th grade. I found a big grocery bag in a locker at school in the PE room. I knew what it was and I was curious. So, I emptied out my mom’s cigarettes and put the marijuana in it. But I didn’t get high, so I decided to sell it for $20.00. The person who bought it was my friend’s brother and after he bought it, he showed me how to roll it. This time, I did get high. After that, “high” was a constant state.
Then my parents found out. Boy, were they disappointed in me. I had let them down and not honored their trust in me to make good decisions. My Dad kicked my butt and confronted my friend who had given it to me. Mom was in the house crying.
But smoking pot was the entrance into “The Crowd.” By 16, I was doing cocaine. And by 25, I was doing crack cocaine. I got addicted on the first try. It was overwhelming. This went on until I was 35.
At 20, I started embezzling. I started at a store where I was good friends with the manager. She trusted me, but I let her down. I felt so bad because she was a friend. But I was letting people down all the time. I shoplifted every day to keep my habit going. I knew exactly what items to shoplift that I could sell for drugs.
One problem with being so dishonest and untrustworthy all the time was the accumulated criminal charges. I had 40 or more charges pending and plenty of warrants out for my arrest
I had gone through 7 or 8 rehab programs before Victory Outreach, where I finally got clean.
Detox took 3 weeks. “It was the worse 3 weeks of my life.” Needless to say, “clean” was not an easy road either. It wasn’t easy finding a job with nothing but dishonesty, lies, and betrayal in my past.
Alpine Creek Market was a grocery store who gave me a chance. The store knew my back ground when they hired him. I was very open and upfront with them. I was hired as the night janitor, but it wasn’t enough hours. I was working just twice a week. Eventually, I asked the store manager if I could get some extra hours so I also worked Load Crew–stocking shelves at night to get extra hours.
Then, on the morning shift, an employee quit and they asked me if I wanted his job. Absolutely! I worked in Receiving-ordering groceries and dairy products and handling vendors. I was in charge of the entire back room and had to make sure orders were completed. To be the Receiver, you have to be trusted because everything that goes out, has to be checked by you. I was the eyes of the store. Some suppliers would try to short me. I knew the tricks of the trade. One supplier said, “The last receiver didn’t ask me to do that.” My reply was: “That’s why he’s not here anymore.” Some vendors would sometimes be dishonest and I reported it.
Even though that was true, I can’t say I wasn’t above a few practical jokes. The first week of New Hires were often subjected to a few initiation rites. I would tell them to go stock the dehydrated water. The new recruit would then go ask the manager where the dehydrated water was. I would say, “We want the salad dressing to look presentable to the customer. Go shake the salad dressings on Aisle 7.” The new recruit would be in the aisle shaking salad dressing with both hands, while another person and I would be falling over laughing in the freezer.
After two years, they told me they considered me the best Receiver they had ever had. The store owner even came in to say it to me directly. I got three awards for “Employee of the Month,” $100.00 for each one, a Playstation, a camera, and a 100.00 lunch. After another two years, they made me front-end manger and shift manager where I was over money and lottery tickets.
I’ve been clean now for ten years. Now my Dad says, “Michael, log into my bank account and tell me how much I have.” He never did that when I was using. Now he gives me the keys to his shop–which has thousands of dollars of equipment. He never did that when I was using.
My brothers trust me. They leave their wallets and money out. They let me take their kids. And now my Mom trusts me with anything. After I had been clean for two years, Mom saw that I was punctual with the rent for the apartment I was renting from her, that I had a consistent job, and that I was never sick or late. Slowly, day-by-day, I earned her respect and trust.
Trust was my greatest motivator. That grocery store job was the first time I had ever been trusted and that was the greatest gift anyone had ever given me. You don’t realize how valuable trust is until you don’t have it. There is no greater gift than to ultimately be worthy of trust and have someone extend it to you.