Addiction Counselor, Mental Health Coach, and Professional Speaker
Living with bipolar 1 disorder and Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD)

Michael struggled to manage his mood swings and high-risk behaviors for many years. After working towards sobriety and stability through treatment and a male accountability group, Michael is now living his wildest dreams. He is married, financially stable, and has enjoyed a fruitful career. Now, as a mental health speaker, Michael says his full-time job is communicating hope.

Michael’s Story

How has your condition impacted your life? 

Attention Deficit Disorder (ADD) caused behavioral and learning issues in grade school. I had an inability to focus, and trouble controlling my actions. ADD and bipolar caused issues in college. I abused alcohol and marijuana to cope with the manic symptoms of bipolar. I engaged in high-risk behaviors like speeding, gambling, and promiscuity. All of it made a four-year college degree take 17 years. I stopped drinking and using drugs in 1998 and have maintained my recovery since. However, sobriety without mental health treatment led to mood swings, over emotional states, and manic depression. The symptoms of untreated bipolar made me borderline unemployable and I began to get into serious trouble with the law. I struggled with relational issues, whether it was hurting friends during mood swings, or multiple instances of infidelity in romantic relationships. I wasn’t able to manage my finances and lived on my father’s couch until I was 27.

When were you first aware of your condition and what was your most difficult time?

I knew I had ADD in elementary school. I had to bring a calendar to school, and I would get a smiley or frowny face to indicate how my behavior was that day. None of the other kids had to do that, and I felt different. I remember the other kids calling me “crazy” and “freak.” I had to see a therapist. All I wanted to do was play with my friends and I had to talk about my feelings with a stranger and punch a pillow.

When I got sober at 21, my mom suggested that I treat my mental health condition. The doctor diagnosed me with bipolar and ADD.

In 2005 my father relapsed after 6 years of sobriety, and I numbed that pain by stealing $6000 and going to Atlantic City. I was charged with second degree burglary and was facing 33 years in jail. Those were heavy consequences. However, 3 years of infidelity in my first marriage led to divorce and losing my wife. That by far hurt the most.

What is your life like now? What does success and living well look like for you?

My life is beyond my wildest dreams. I am married to my dream wife, own a home, and have many strong relationships with good men that hold me accountable. I am financially stable, have enjoyed a fruitful career, and have three German Shepherds. In 2021, I started speaking professionally, and now my full-time job is communicating hope.

What help or specific strategies helped you to get well and move to stability?

When I was facing 33 years in jail the judge showed me mercy and grace. He suspended the jail time, and mandated I see a psychiatrist. I went in open minded, accepting of my condition, and willing to do whatever it took. I followed the doctor’s instructions and stayed the course even when psychiatry and medication management was trial and error. I stayed active in my recovery by going to 12 step meetings. I stayed busy to avoid boredom and overcome periods of depression.

What do you do to manage your condition and stay healthy on an ongoing basis?

I see my psychiatrist every two months, take the recommended medications daily, and see a therapist biweekly. I maintain my recovery from alcohol and other mood or mind altering substances, and belong to a male accountability group. I attend church weekly, and volunteer regularly. I exercise for my mental health and am intentional about what I eat.

Are there positives that have come from having a mental health condition?

Absolutely! I don’t know if I would have made exercise and nutrition a priority otherwise. I would’ve never sought therapy, learned emotional regulation, and healthy coping strategies. I probably wouldn’t have pursued an education in counseling and psychology. I chose a career dedicated to helping people like me. I am a resource to anyone struggling, and for people who love someone that is struggling. Now, I travel the country speaking about mental health in the workplace.

How has your condition impacted your work and your career? 

For years, irritability, mood swings, and trouble controlling my actions contributed to issues with staying employed. I have had hundreds of jobs and can count on one hand how many times I made it past the probationary period and was given health insurance. However, since I sought treatment in 2006, I have held some of the highest positions in my industry. My career as a professional speaker would have never happened without perseverance, resiliency, and an insistence on making my mental health a priority.

What words of encouragement would you give to someone struggling with a condition similar to yours? 

My message is that you can turn it around. A life struggling with the negative consequences of mental health challenges isn’t the whole story. A great life is on the other side of treatment for your disorder. Be open minded, listen to the professionals, accept that you aren’t the symptoms of your disorder, and take action. No matter your hurts, your mistakes, or your diagnosis you can accomplish anything and have an amazing life. The bridge to healing exists. I’ve crossed it. Follow me!

What motivated you to join The Stability Network?

I have a strong desire to partner with an organization devoted to advocating for people like me, and anyone else struggling with mental illness. I am passionate about serving a cause devoted to shining a light on mental health. I looked at numerous organizations, and love everything I’ve learned about The Stability Network. Once I met Aisha and Melanie, I was sold. TSN is a great organization run by amazing people!

What resources have helped and inspired you on your journey?

  • Alcoholics Anonymous
  • No More Dragons
  • Limitless
  • The Power of One More
  • Atomic Habits
  • 7 Habits of Highly Effective People
  • The Subtle Art of Not Giving a F***
  • Chase the Lion