Michael L’s entrance into No Longer Bound 13 months ago was, essentially, a plea deal. His other options could be considered shock therapy.
“I was either going to prison, or I was going to die,” he indicated.
Michael graduated in January, but has remained on campus as an intern in the Resident Tech department. His drug-addiction odyssey features influence and abetment from, or through, sources from which you’d expect the opposite:
- First his older brother contributed by inviting a 14-year-old Michael to join him and friends in the family’s basement to smoke marijuana and drink alcohol.
- Then, unwittingly, his surgeon prescribed an over-abundance of pain-killing opiates following a knee repair, enabling Michael to over-indulge.
- A court-ordered rehab stint connected an 18-year-old Michael with some deplorable mentors: older, more seasoned drug users who planted a desire for heavier drugs that would emerge after a drug-free interlude of about nine months.
- Treatment in drug court, an alternative to incarceration, although completed successfully gained Michael a female companion, whose relapse may have precipitated his own – with tragic consequences.
Michael’s first drug bust came as a high school senior, somewhere between the football scholarship he turned down in hopes of landing an offer to play baseball, and foregoing his senior baseball season out of resentment for a coach he believes turned him into the law.
Some of Michael’s reflections,
in his own words.
The 10 years between high school and No Longer Bound included ruptured family relations, homelessness, drug dealing, brief periods of sobriety, lock-ups in county jails, escalation into methamphetamines and heroin, and the aforementioned barely survived drug overdoses.
“I found myself down in south Florida treatment hopping. From one treatment to the next, getting kicked out, trying another one. That was tough. I never had a stable place to live, never had any stability in my life at all. It was hard to live like that.”
An NLB grad then dating Michael’s sister suggested No Longer Bound, and the grad’s mother helped get Michael to Atlanta, while an attorney persuaded a judge to give a year-long, faith-based program a chance.
“At first, I went through a lot,” said Michael. “I actually came in fresh off of drugs, so I had to detox. I’d say the first two to three months were probably the toughest for me. I didn’t know anybody; I wasn’t sure how to acclimate. But the thing that stuck with me was I knew I couldn’t leave because I’d have a warrant out for my arrest.”
A pinnacle moment occurred when Michael fulfilled a class assignment by writing a grieving letter to his deceased girlfriend, then reading it at her grave site while accompanied by a counselor and classmates. He described the episode in a social media post last October:
The night before, I sat on the stool during house church and asked for prayer. TJ prayed, ‘God take him by the right hand and lead him where he needs to go.’ Austin prayed, ‘Be not afraid, because that’s what God tells people in the Bible when something big is going to happen.’
prayed for help and guidance, making it known I wasn’t even sure if God was listening or out there.
next morning, standing in the cemetery, the engraving on her grave marker said,
em>For I am the Lord your God who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, ‘Do not fear; I will help you. (Isaiah 41:13)
at campus, Austin wrote me a letter saying “… I know God heard us last night and heard you today, because I prayed for you Be Not Afraid and TJ prayed that God would take you by the right hand and guide you.”
was in shock, realizing God was doing something for me I could not do for myself. This was enough for me to know, without a doubt, something is out there listening to us and that it is time I allow it into my life.”
Apparently, God proved Himself to a once-doubting Michael.
“I would say the peak at No Longer Bound is establishing a good relationship with God, and having counsel around me to help guide me do so. Once I wrapped my head around that, I really just sold out.”
Michael will apply his life experiences in a Philippians 3:13-14 type of way …. forgetting what lies behind … pressing on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
Offering encouragement at his graduation, Bill Eubanks, one of the senior recovery specialists, put the heart-wrenching assignments that brought about Michael’s transformation into perspective for the one-time high school football star.
“It was like two-a-days,” said Eubanks, referring to grueling preseason football training, “and now it’s game time.”