‘The only way to change is to listen’

Mike Andrews of Denver

By Taylore Todd
Special for Colorado Community Media
Posted 12/18/18

Mike Andrews, 20, a volunteer coach at The Phoenix, a sober active community in Denver, began using meth and heroin when he was 13 years old, getting high with his mother. He got his GED before …

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‘The only way to change is to listen’

Mike Andrews of Denver

Posted

Mike Andrews, 20, a volunteer coach at The Phoenix, a sober active community in Denver, began using meth and heroin when he was 13 years old, getting high with his mother. He got his GED before heading into recovery. He says he has been arrested and jailed about seven times. Almost two years ago, after a week into his six-month sentence, he realized he needed to make a change. He hasn’t touched a drug since, he says, and is intent on helping others.

If you knew me, you would know ...

“Using was pretty much the ultimate reason why I was arrested several times. I’m now labeled a multi-convicted violent felon, so there’s a huge overhang. I can’t have a normal job, so right now I work at a treatment center.

“Using is also the only reason that I have become the person I am today. It’s the only reason I’ve had to work this hard to be as good of a person as I try to be. It’s influenced everything in my life.

“I grew up in a home with addiction, so it’s always kind of been a part of my life. I got high with my mom. That kind of screwed my whole worldview …

“My breaking point was the realization of how alone I was in the world. With all the ‘friends’ that I had made, none of them were real and nothing was real, essentially, which is really strange if you think about it. The last time I got locked up, I went into jail and I had a pair of pants, a pair of boots and a hoodie and two rings. I didn’t have a wallet. I didn’t have a phone. I didn’t have anyone to call. I didn’t have anywhere to go.

“Having completely nothing and having to build myself back up was probably the hardest thing I’ve done in my life … It took me a solid six months of doing nothing but walking the streets all day long trying to find an ID, a job, a place to live and all these other things.”

How I want to change the world

“I’ve completely turned my life around, so I’m just trying to break the stigma behind how terrible addiction is. The whole ‘addiction is a choice thing’ irritates me so much … That’s absolute nonsense, so I’m trying to change that stigma as well. Nine out of 10 people don’t know that I was ever a drug user. Essentially, not everything is what it seems.

“I think a lot of the perspective around addiction is that a lot of us are monsters and that we’re incapable of being helped, and that we’re just pretty much a lost cause. That’s definitely not true. The whole monster piece, that shapes the people in addiction, that shapes their view of themselves, because for a long time I fully believed I was a lost cause and that I was a monster, whatever you want to call it.

“I work in a treatment facility, not only because that’s pretty much the only job I can get, but it’s nice to help other people — whether it’s just helping other addicts or getting the information out. I think both are equally relevant. Whether or not the information gets out, there still needs to be people there for other addicts. There still needs to be some type of support. Whether they do 12-step, whether they’re religious, whether they’re just doing their own thing, whatever that looks like for them, I’m always there to support whoever. That’s been my biggest mission for me because I had no help for a good while before I figured things out.”

Why my voice is important

“If we don’t listen to our youth then nothing will change. Young people die every day, whether it be from addiction or hate crimes, and it has to stop. The only way to change is to listen, so people need to start opening their ears and their minds.”

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