How to walk out of a nightmare of mistakes and build a new dream
David Mike shares his personal journey from innocent childhood dreams to immobilizing drug addiction nightmare.
Being a soldier seemed to be David’s destiny with a strong military legacy rooting all the way back to the Civil War. His father had made a career out of the Air Force allowing David to meet many interesting people. He enjoyed listening to the courageous stories of airmen, soldiers, sailors, marines, and even POWs.
Preparing to join the Army consumed the majority of David’s adolescence including joining the Marine JROTC program at school. He took his commitment serious spending two weeks of his summer break at different training camps.
In his senior year of high school, David met Elise and found the courage to ask her out. See agreed and their romance took off like a rocket. Drunk on hormones and the excitement of feeling love for the first time, they planned to wed. David’s resolve to join the army strengthened as he saw the military as a way to escape his family and begin his new life.
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But towards the end of David’s senior year, Elise’s father received the devastating order to report back to the United States. Powerless Elise and David resolved to marry after David completed basic training, and received his first station.
At the tender age of seventeen, his first mission would be to convince his parents to sign him up. His four years of JROTC must have been convincing because they marched him into the recruiter’s office to endorse his commitment.
After basic training, David’s heart soared to receive orders for Louisiana, a mere 6 hours from his love, Elise. David called Elise regularly and snuck off to visit her when he could.
Elise secretly began to spend time with another man who could give her the attention David could not. Then Elise admitted she had begun to grow apart from David and she could no longer marry him. David felt as though she had splayed open his abdomen allowing his guts to slop out into a disgusting heap.
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Agony tormented David every waking moment. His future with Elise and their plan to wed had been slaughtered like a hog taken to market.
David retreated into himself falling into a deep depression. His fellow soldiers took notice and invited him out to the club to help get Elise off of his mind. Pre-club prep always began in a crowded hotel room with alcohol. David did not drink but mingled with the others trying to avoid thinking of Elise.
After arriving at the club someone gave him a pill after noticing he still resembled a mourner at a funeral. “Take this-it will make you feel better.” He took it without thinking.
The pill’s effect took some time to kick in, but when it did, he felt good, euphoric. All of the pain evaporated like rain on the hot concrete after a midsummer’s day shower. The depression assault surrendered to pure ecstasy, an appropriate name for the wonder pill.
After that first experience, David began looking forward to the next weekend. Soon weekends stretched far too long in between and he began using during the week. The effects of the drug became less intense and required larger dosages to attain the desired high.
David became the one handing out the pills and selling them to his comrades to help assuage the cost of his new habit. The late nights and drug use hampered his physical abilities, but somehow he managed to keep his head above water.
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A soldier who had partied with David asked to buy some X requesting to come back later in the barracks to get it. When he arrived he had an unexpected “friend” with him David had never seen. The situation felt strange. David knew he had been set up and the CID (Army’s Criminal Investigation Division) had been watching him. David said he had nothing to sell.
David unofficially moved (because he lacked the rank to officially move) off base continuing to sell and take drugs. One evening returning to base after buying pizza he saw lights flash in his rearview mirror and pulled over. The military police informed David he had crossed a solid center line and they would also need to search the car. After finding nothing, one of the officers identified as CID and demanded David turn over drugs to him.
David insisted that he had no drugs. They continued searching until they found an empty canister that once held drugs, but where now only powder remained. The residue served as proof to charge him with possession of a controlled substance.
After agreeing to help the police catch the very people he had been selling to and partying with, the officer took him back to his platoon until his trial. In exchange for David’s help, the judge would be lenient when it came time for sentencing.
Within a week brazen David headed back to his supplier to pick up more drugs to sell, but things went sideways and David decided to disappear.
While AWOL David sold drugs for survival money and also continued to consume them at an alarming rate. Ecstasy became one of the several different types of drugs he took to self-medicate the anxiety and depression.
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Six months after going AWOL David returned to the club where it all began.
Oh, the irony. I knew this day would come sooner or later. I even played it out in my mind. “If I ever get caught, I’ll pop everything I have on me and go out in a blaze of glory!” I boastfully remarked. Nothing goes as planned, though. I uncharacteristically spent the previous day meticulously slipping one hundred ecstasy pills, one by one, into plastic Ziploc baggies normally used for LSD. Slowly and gently, I cataloged the small white bits of escapism, making it impossible to overdose. This single random act saved my life, having no idea that the next day I would be arrested. –David writes in Dishonor.
The same officer that had worked with David during his first arrest took him into custody again. David felt his life had been ruined, he panicked and considered he might be better off dead.
The Court Martial arrived soon after the arrest. David’s father attended the court-martial in support. David agreed to a plea bargain that would reduce his possible 38-year sentence. To David’s relief, he received 6 years at Fort Leavenworth.
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While struggling with guilt and shame our country went to war with Iraq. As David’s brother left for combat grief-stricken David realized he would never have that privilege, not now, not ever.
“All my life I wanted to be a soldier, and now we were at war. The struggle of feeling like I had let my country down by not being able to stand by my fellow soldiers was brutal. The guilt and shame I felt for running away made me feel like such a coward. I would do anything to go back in time and right the wrongs, erase them, or make the haunting mistakes go away.”
How David broke free from the cycle of addiction
David became eligible for a parole hearing after just a year and half of his sentence. Although other inmates cautioned him no one is granted parole the first time unless 50% of their sentence had been served. David wanted to give it his best try.
In preparation for his parole hearing, hopeful David assembled the required plan for release. Still stationed in Germany, his parents arranged for him to live with his grandparents. Additionally, David planned to work towards earning a cosmetology license in the school nearby their home. The last piece of the packet, a letter from his father, would arrive in the mail soon.
During a typical shift in the dining facility a co-worker nervously walked up to David and opened his palm. Inside it, two white squares of paper. David recognized the LSD and popped one into his mouth without hesitating to think about it first, much like his very first hit of ecstasy.
After a long shift of avoiding eye contact and keeping a low profile, he headed back to his cell. His mail waited for him on his bunk, including the letter he had been waiting on from his father.
His father wrote he would stake his job, reputation, and his life on David never touching drugs again. David wept thinking of the damage his father could have suffered from all he was willing to put up as collateral. This would be David’s one and only experience with relapse. In this exact moment, David swore off of drugs.
Banish guilt and shame once and for all
David’s second parole hearing went differently and was approved near the end of his 3-year confinement David had nothing left to do but wait for his release. He kept up his daily routine and responsibilities as his time at Fort Leavenworth drew to an end.
One evening, while scanning the radio channels we stumbled upon the People to People broadcast and heard a message from Bob George that changed his life.
“You don’t have to keep asking for forgiveness; you have been forgiven. Just say ‘Thank you,’ and accept it.”
David realized he had been forgiven and he did not need to keep asking. Bob further explained that “God completely removes sin from us and that He can’t even see it anymore. We are considered perfect and holy in His eyes.”
As a child, David’s parents immersed him in church, but he always viewed it as “legalistic”, afraid he may be “zapped”, and he needed to “get right” with the Lord. He describes it as “going through the motions”, but now he understood what grace and forgiveness truly meant. This is the message he had missed in his youth.
David wrote the radio station and asked for a copy of Classic Christianity written by Bob. When it arrived he devoured it in accompaniment of his bible. Classic Christianity acted as the decoder ring David had been missing all these years. His mind and heart opened and accepted the message of grace.
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One month shy of his twenty-third birthday David woke up to his last day of prison. The anticipation of leaving became nearly unbearable. He packed his duffel bag full of the toiletries he had been squirreling away in preparation for release, changed into his civilian clothes his family had mailed, and dashed to the administration building where his family would pick him up.
David’s family, ecstatic to see him, surrounded him with hugs. David held them briefly and then asked to get out of there. Happy to oblige, they took David and left for home in Nebraska.
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The newfound freedom and delicious food were easy to assimilate, but decision making and trusting others came slower for David. Being on parole for the next 2.5 years, he still had to report monthly to his parole officer, call daily to check in for a possible required urinalysis and secure employment.
He struggled to find a job. No one wanted to hire someone fresh from prison. He turned in 50 applications and heard nothing. Relentless in his pursuit, he decided to handle things face to face instead of relying on impersonal paper.
At a restaurant, the manager’s face lit up excited to hear David had dining facility experience. When David explained the facility’s location is inside prison the manager’s face and tone fell flat.
“Oh, I don’t think you have the skills we need.”
“You have high school kids working in there. I can see them.”
“No. I’m sorry this isn’t going to work out.”
David caught a break at a local retail store using his face to face strategy.
“Listen I just got out of jail and I know that looks bad on paper. I promise I’ll be your hardest worker if you hire me.”
To David’s surprise, he said okay.
The secret of building a new dream out of a nightmare
David has been sober and free for 30 years. In that time he has created a new life. He teaches at a cosmetology school where he had to overcome parole related obstacles in obtaining his cosmetology license. This same school is where he met his beautiful wife who he has been happily married to for over 20 years. Together they have 3 lovely daughters.
Recently, David has joined the local Fresh Hope ministry with his friend, Tony, to help released inmates break the cycle of addiction. David offers a beacon of hope to other addicts because he has been able to stay sober and free for thirty years.
In addition to the Fresh Hope ministry, David also sends his book, Dishonor to inmates as donations allow.
When the guilt and shame become unbearable David remembers the radio message he heard almost thirty years ago. He doesn’t have to live in shame because God has already forgiven him.
David doesn’t think anyone ever feels forgiven, but he spreads the message through his book, Fresh Hope, and speaks candidly about his experience.
Often times people stay in unhealthy paths because they don’t feel like they are worthy of anything else, but David knows better. He walked out of his nightmare and built a new dream.
David Mike is a Christ follower, husband, father, author and Cosmetology Instructor in Omaha, NE. David blogs to share humorous life events and also tell the story of the 3 years spent in the U.S. Army’s Prison, Ft. Leavenworth, sharing the message that we do not have to be defined by our past and that God can use our kind of mess for good.
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