A Spiritual Journey to Healing
“There was a point in my life when I knew I could either embrace a spiritual life and sobriety, or find myself swept up into my own darkness and isolation. I chose the light.”
Michael R. grew up the hard way. As the oldest of seven children in an unstable family, he became a caretaker at a young age. Today, he compares his siblings’ relationship as “camaraderie shared by those who survived a shipwreck”. Michael’s personal shipwreck involved poverty, continuous moves to avoid creditors or mobsters, and visits from Child Protective Services. His charismatic but violent father frequently went missing while working on disastrous business ventures that ruined many lives. Always running to keep ahead of the law. Michael’s emotionally cold mother struggled to care for her many children, often leaving her responsibilities to her eldest son. Michael says, “I was the gay boy who wanted Cabbage Patch dolls. When I got the opportunity to care for my infant brothers and sister, I was smitten every time. I learned to love this way”. When the IRS finally caught up with Michael’s father, the family was left to live with his paternal grandparents, sleeping on the floor on one mattress.
The trauma of Michael’s first eighteen years of life resulted in loss, sadness, and an ongoing struggle for his identity. He coped using his “his primary poison of alcohol”, supplemented with methamphetamine, opioids, and “what else have you got?” He developed anorexia. And found himself in a long-term abusive relationship with a man he didn’t love. “I didn’t think that I was worthy of a relationship with shared attraction because I felt somehow flawed”. Life wasn’t finished with Michael yet. When he finally went into a detox facility, he discovered he needed treatment for a malignant testicular tumor “the size of a turkey egg”. After a period of remission, Michael’s cancer hit again in his 14th month of sobriety. Again, he underwent treatment. Eventually, he became acutely suicidal, overcome with internalized homophobia. After agreeing to a voluntary 72-hour mental health hold, he returned to his previous lifestyle.
Looking back, Michael says, “That second cancer is one in ten thousand. When your Higher Power whispers something, listen.” And he did. Michael entered the ART House Recovery Bridge Housing program. “I believe with God’s help; I was rescued by L.A. CADA as soon as I found the courage and willingness to make that leap of faith and trust the process. Here at ART House, I learned how to advocate for myself, to live in community, and how to Pause, Process, and Proceed. I’m learning how to let go of resentments that would otherwise poison me by praying for the sick and to wish the best for those who may have acted spitefully – the hardest lesson of all”.
Today, Michael R. has been sober since July 7, 2019, and he’s healing from a brutal internalized homophobia. He says, “for all my brokenness, where a rope frays and is tied together, it’s at the knot the rope is the strongest. I never thought that I would have a relationship with my mother, and today I have one.” He credits his Higher Power and teachers Damont Watson and Dakota Brown for the many miracles of the ART House program. “Working my program and living a spiritual life makes it incumbent upon me to see my father and mother as children of God with their own assets, hopes, disappointments and humanity. This process is freeing.”
L.A. CADA is proud of Michael’s work in recovery. We salute his inherent strength that he so readily shares with others who struggle for a clean and sober life.