MichaelIt was a mix of things, Michael would say... a combination of decisions and circumstances that led him from “a pretty normal childhood” to curling up next to a transformer for heat every night because he had no place to call home.
“You can’t do it alone”
Michael gives thanks to God, the Mission, and YOU for his new life
It was a mix of things, Michael would say... a combination of decisions and circumstances that led him from “a pretty normal childhood” to curling up next to a transformer for heat every night because he had no place to call home.
These “things” include: discovering at 15 that the man he’d been calling “Dad” his whole life wasn’t his biological father, enduring his stepdad’s abuse and his mother’s alcoholism, and living with constant anxiety. Then there was hanging out with the wrong crowd, smoking marijuana, drinking alcohol, couch surfing, more alcohol, and with it, increasing blackouts. “It became a habit,” Michael says. “Eventually it’s where all my money was going. When I didn’t have money I sold a lot of my stuff. I eventually didn’t have anything to my name. Everything went to my habit.”
“It's a good survival game out there”
Still blind to his addiction, Michael was about 22 when a parking lot behind Fred Meyer became his home. “A man hired me seven different times,” he says. “He gave me so many chances and I just kept coming to work drunk. I didn’t feel I had a problem. I never took responsibility for anything I did.” He would end up remaining homeless for a year, living through a cold Northwest winter without shelter or even a tent. “What it’s like to be on the streets during the winter is pretty rough. You got to know where your resources are, and if there are any resources you’re going have to find on your own,” he says.
“I didn’t feel I had a problem; I felt that everybody else had a problem”
“I was lucky enough to find that transformer [in the store parking lot] for heat. That’s pretty much how I got by. I had to tuck in next to it, because the sherriffs would go by all the time and check back there... it’s a good survival game out there.”
While he never went hungry (instead waiting for KFC to dump its still hot and fresh food at the close of business each night), Michael hit a point where he couldn’t stand what he’d become. “I was just fed up,” he says. Though he’d never been to a Mission before, he was unafraid to step into Seattle’s Union Gospel Mission. “I liked the atmosphere and the brotherhood of the people,” he says. Enrolling in the men’s recovery program, Michael had no way to anticipate the dramatic life-pivot he would make.
“Looking at alcohol now, it really sickens me. I literally get sick if I see a beer can,” he says. “It reminds me of everything I’ve lost, and where I’m at, and how I got here.” He continues, “My relationship with God has changed the way I look at things. I’ve learned to humble myself, through God. That’s one of the things I could never do [before the Mission]. One of my favorite Scriptures is Philippians 4:13, ‘I can do all things through Christ who strengthens me.’”
Michael credits God, YOU, and the team that surrounded him during recovery as vital to his healing. He is now a graduate of not only the recovery program, but the Culinary Hospitality Internship Program (CHIP). While he says he’s known God his whole life, never before had he really relinquished control to Him. “I’ve tried to do it myself, my way, and I always end up in the same places. You can’t do it alone. You’ve got to rely on God.” Now God’s taking care of him in more ways than one. With a lifelong passion for cooking, and now as a CHIP graduate, Michael gets to do the very thing he’s good at and excited about by being a cook for the Mission.
“I feel like I have grown so much just being here”
“I’ve always wanted to get into culinary hospitality,” he says. “Just the simple fact is, I like serving people. My relationship with God has changed the way I look at things. I’m more at peace right now. I feel like I have grown so much just being here.”