Q: Could you briefly tell us about yourself?
A: My name is Mike Kirkland. I’m 32 years old and I live near Pine Grove, Pa. I have an amazing, talented and beautiful daughter who is 12 already (they grow up way too fast). I am still in the process of rebuilding my life after very literally tearing it apart piece by piece during my addiction, I’m the drummer on my worship team on Sunday mornings at The Open Door Project, and I work on the highway as a construction worker as my everyday job.
Q: What was your drug of choice?
A: My drug of choice was meth. I played around with cocaine a little here and there, but only when I couldn’t get my hands on meth.
Q: What is your sobriety date?
A: My sobriety date is October 14, 2013. That was the day I got locked up for the final time. I wish I could say that it was for some reason other than that, but no matter what the reason was, that was the day that I chose a new life.
Q: Looking back, was there a turning point during your active addiction?
A: My turning point was the day I realized why I was in the state of mind that I was in. I realized that everything that had happened over the last several years, the people who had walked out of my life, and everything that I had spent my entire life working for that had vanished into thin air was because I had chosen the drug over everything else. Then I used the drug to numb the pain of my own decisions. The moment I realized this I was homeless, sitting in a baseball dugout by myself, hiding from the rain and trying to wait until morning when someone might be around so I could go somewhere and pretend that I had a place to live.
Q: What is a slogan that best expresses your current point of view in recovery?
A: 2 Corinthians 12:9 – “…My Grace is sufficient for you: for my strength is made perfect in weakness...” That passage means the world to me because without the Grace of God, I wouldn’t be here to share my testimony with anyone. By all rights, I lost count of the number of things that should have put me six feet under, and I’m not only here, but healthy as a horse, even after years of rampant meth abuse. Without God’s Grace and protection, I would be a statistic right now. I owe absolutely everything to Him for keeping me alive through all those years, and now it’s time for me to repay the favor.
Q: What are some daily practices and key aspects in your life that assist you in your recovery?
A: I spend time in the Bible every day. That’s the number one thing that keeps me on the right path. Then I focus on work, fixing the fine mess that I made during my addiction, and making sure I help out anyone I can, any way I can.
Q: As a person in recovery, do you have any advice you could offer to someone looking to get clean?
A: One of the things that I’ve seen that is a huge issue with staying in recovery is who you choose to hang out with. If you continue to hang out with the same people, chances are your situation is never going to change. I got clean twice before I got clean this time, and both times it lasted less than a month because I continued to hang out with the same people and I couldn’t resist the temptation. Go to your family for help. Your family will never turn their back on you, no matter how awful you were to them. They may have stepped back because they couldn’t watch you self destruct anymore, but if you go to them and tell them that you WANT help, rather than need it, they will absolutely help you (I say that because they have known you needed help, but knowing that you WANT help will show them that you’re serious about getting clean). Finally, surround yourself with people who will encourage you to get clean and stay clean, and will help you every step of the way. If you don’t have anyone to do that for you, seek help from groups like “The Skook Recovers”, teen challenge, or any other organization that has a healthy support program.
Q: Addiction is affecting so many in Schuylkill County and abroad. It's very saddening. Any advice to people trying to help their loved ones to seek help?
A: Never give up on them. Addicts can be cruel, nasty, and downright violent people when under the spell of the addiction. I know because I fit all those categories when I was an addict. I said and did things to the people I loved the most that I never imagined I could. Some of those relationships will never be restored because of the way I treated those people, and I don’t blame them. But if you love them, don’t turn your back on them. It can seem totally hopeless most of the time, and my family knows that all too well (my mom checked the obituaries daily to see if my name was one of the names for that day). Chances are, inside they know that they want help, and they are hating themselves for being under the foot of their addiction, but they are afraid to come ask for help because they’re ashamed of themselves. Just make sure they know that you’re there for them, and that you won’t judge them for the way they acted while under the influence of drugs. And find a good church if you don’t have one already and get people praying. Prayer works miracles, and I’m living proof of that.
Q: Why are projects like "The Skook Recovers" important in this day and age?
A: They are important because a lot of people have lost faith in traditional programs due to the fact that the people you deal with in a lot of programs have no clue what you’re going through. They haven’t been there themselves. Projects like “The Skook Recovers” are crucial because the people involved have been in those shoes. We’ve experienced rock bottom, and we know what we did to get there. But most importantly, projects like “The Skook Recovers” have people who can tell you what they did to beat their addiction. We are living proof that it is possible to beat the addiction and rebuild your life, sometimes from scratch. It’s not easy, but people who have been in the same situation can encourage someone who is at rock bottom to fight their way out, give them tips on how to do it, and do it without judgement. No text books, just real life experience from people who have been there before. And that makes a big difference.
Q: Could you tell us about the good things that your new life in recovery has brought to you and/or improved, including what you are grateful for?
A: There are so many amazing things that have happened in the last couple years… My family has welcomed me back into their lives with open arms and they have gone above and beyond to help me get my life back together. The job that I chose meth over and got myself fired from called me six months after I got out of jail and offered me my old job back (I still work there to this day). I have made lots of great new friends who I love dearly, my relationship with God is like nothing I ever imagined before, I’ve paid off almost all of my fines, and my mom did some work behind the scenes and on March 29 of last year, I spoke to my daughter for the first time in six years. Our relationship is still a little strained for now, but I talk to her every chance I get, we text each other, and face time when we can. It’s a work in progress, but she is starting to open up a little bit and let me in, and that’s all I could have asked for after leaving her for six years.
Q: Anything else you would like to add and/or people you would like to thank?
A: Getting sober is a choice. Staying sober is a choice, and it’s not an easy one. But the reward is more than worth it. Getting your life back is priceless. I’ve seen plenty of people I used to use with who didn’t make it out alive. Most are still there, but when I see them they’re still in the clutches of their addiction. I lost years of my life over my addiction, and I’ll never get them back. But what matters now is that I am free from the curse, and by the grace of God I am here to help others get free from the same curse. If any of these testimonies reach one person and change their life to a sober one, then this is all worth it. Of course nobody wants to stop at one… the goal is to be an inspiration, help everyone, and beat this problem. And that’s what we’re here to do.
I’d like to thank God, first of all. Without Him, my mom would have found my name in the paper one of those days. Next my family. As horrible as I was to them, when it was time for me to get out of jail they were there. They brought me back into their home and gave me a fresh start, and they didn’t judge me or hold anything against me, and for that I will never be able to repay them. Richie Carl is the one who took me to church for the first time in almost fifteen years, and who helped me get started in my mission and my faith. I would also like to thank Maike and Roy Bates for seeing me for who I am now and giving me a chance even when others didn’t want to. And I want to thank everyone at The Open Door Project for also giving me the same chance and seeing me for me and not my past. The relationships I’ve made with these people have changed my life. Everyone I mentioned showers everyone around them with love, compassion, empathy, and kindness like I’ve never seen before, and it’s inspiring. I wouldn’t be where I am today without the support of everyone around me, and I love them for it.