Tyler and Mike recently spoke at UGM's phase promotion event, where they were honored for completing phase 4.
"Just a few years ago I was lost and broken, I had no sense of direction. I had no goals, no plans for the future, no admiration nor ambition. I was a prisoner, bound in my addiction to meth and heroin.
Nothing mattered to me, the only thing I cared about was when the next time the needle was going to hit my arm. I spent years experiencing homelessness and doing as I pleased. I thought I was living life to the fullest, but in all honesty, I was dead on the inside.
"My grandparents encouraged me to come to the Union Gospel Mission to seek recovery. At first, I wanted nothing to do with it, but I finally overcame my denial and realized I was sick and tired of being sick and tired and that I truly did need help.
"Before I started the LIFE Recovery program, I had other ex-needle and drug users look at the size of my veins and say, 'I bet you never missed a shot of dope.' I would always tell them I never did. It was not long after I took a dive into this program that I realized the truth: I missed all the time. I missed spending time with my family, I missed being an uncle, I missed watching my cousins grow, I missed birthdays and holidays, I missed opportunities and life experiences, I missed out on being myself, and most importantly I missed out on having a genuine relationship with God.
"While being in program, the greatest tool I received was awareness. I became aware of all the reasons why I was using.
"I didn’t have a drug problem, I had a heart problem. Deep down inside, my heart was broken from all the hurt, pain, and trauma I suffered from as a child. I was running from the very things I couldn’t escape from. Here I was taught how to recognize my emotions, venture to those hard places, grieve over the things I had lost, and accept the things I can’t change.
"The biggest thing I learned about myself during my time here was my whole life was controlled by fear, I feared conflict and relationships, I dreaded change, and I ran from trying because I was scared of failing. The LIFE Recovery program taught me to press in and rake risks. One of the most influential people I met here told me that risk is the key; if you want to change and experience freedom, you must be willing to take those risks, and I moved forward throughout my program and took those risks.
"When I joined the program, I told myself I didn’t come here to make friends, I came to seek recovery. But not long into my journey I discovered that recovery isn’t possible without relationships and that relationships were the very thing I longed for. I established lifelong friendships, and most importantly, I established a relationship with God.
"I want to thank Union Gospel Mission and every staff member. You all opened your doors and arms and welcomed me into your family. You gave me a sense of hope and belonging. You made me feel at home and treated me like I was more than just a number. I don’t know where I would be if it wasn’t for every one of you.
"This place has given me a second chance at life.
"A word of encouragement to my program brothers: Press in and press on, don’t let fear control you from taking those risks, the best view only comes after the hardest climb, and always remember that you can do all things through Christ. He is the lamp for our feet and the light of our path.
"I want to acknowledge my phase brothers for coming alongside of one another, speaking into each other’s lives and demonstrating what true perseverance looks like. I want to thank my grandparents for being my biggest supporters from day one on my road to recovery. I want to thank my counselor Joe Boyer for putting up with me for these 18 long months. Ben O’Halloran, thank you for helping me with my algebra in Voc Ed and helping me understand how it’s possible to have 1/16 of a cupcake. And Eric Blackman, thank you for seeking me out as a friend the minute I walked through the east door. I will always cherish our friendship.
As of today, I’m proud to say I am no longer that prisoner, I am no longer bound in those chains of addiction. I am a child of God and I have been clean and sober for 673 days and counting. Thank you."
"I’d like to start off by thanking the UGM and all the staff members and volunteers here. Every single one of you has impacted my life for the better. I’d like to thank my brothers here at the UGM who have pushed me to be a better man. I’d like to thank all of my family and friends that are watching on Facebook Live and all that were not able to watch. You have supported me always, and never gave up on me even when I had lost hope. I’d like to thank my church family at Holy Cross Lutheran Church and the relationships that God has put into my life. Thank you for all of your prayers and encouragements.
"And of course, I would like to thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ for his death on the cross and resurrection from the grave, that I, MICHAEL STEPHEN SCHMIDT, might have life eternal with him.
"If there is one thing that you can take away from today, it is this: The Spirit is alive and well today, tomorrow and forever. Amidst all the unrest with the pandemic, social justice movements, and all that is happening in a fallen world, God is working. His Spirit is moving people to change their lives. It’s happening right here every single day and all around us.
"My late Grandfather, Doral Schmidt, who I called Grandpa Hunnybunny (story for another day), was a poet. So, I figured I would honor him today with a little poem about my journey here at the UGM.
"My Journey began with a 1,300 mile car ride
With the sun rising above the horizon and detox looming, I had nowhere else to hide
I had been running and hiding for years, trying to avoid a river of tears
Living in all of my fears
Broken and beaten down I laid there in the day room that first night
I prayed to God to take over this fight
I was put to work right away
God started putting people in my life and gave me a purpose to stay
I was told that this would “only” be the hardest work I would ever have to do
Boy, do those words ring true
You see, It’s an internal change, a condition of the heart
Addiction doesn’t care if you’re witty or smart
You have to go to places where you swore you wouldn’t go
But with our heavenly father there isn’t anything he doesn’t already know
With the help of a team of people at the UGM and support from family and friends
God’s grace, mercy and love never ends
From the bikes to the hikes, from the talks to the walks, an unlikely brotherhood was created
From all walks of life God created a bond that would not be separated
I’m grateful for all of you and for all of you speaking into my life
Even when I stubbornly pushed back with all my might
I stand before you today with a renewed strength and hope
that can only come from the holy Spirit in me
As the program was laid out and I committed, I started to get set free
As my journey ends at the UGM, the real journey is just beginning
With my significance found in Christ Jesus and what he did for me, I will always be winning."
We have learned so much from Tyler, Mike and all the residents in our programs. In the free e-book below, Phil shares a bit of what he's learned over the past 30+ years in this ministry.