SABER – MJ’s Story

SABER – MJ’s Story

Since it began in 2006, Roof Above’s SABER Treatment Program offers homeless, substance-using men something that life never gave them before. Hope and a home.  SABER’s holistic program fighting the disease of addiction combines nine months of therapy and life-changing skills with the guarantee of free housing, as long as the person stays drug and alcohol-free.

This is MJ’s story.

My name is Michael (MJ) Johnson, and I’m an alcoholic. I was born in 1966 in a small town in South Carolina. I’m the oldest of my mother’s eight children.

Growing up as the oldest child, I always wanted to do what the older boys in the town were doing.

MJ in front of SABER building

MJ in front of SABER building

They would drink beer, smoke cigarettes and smoke marijuana. By the time I was 12, I was allowed to go to the community game room by myself, and while I was there, I would hang out with the older boys and do what they did. I had no idea that I would become an alcoholic because other people could drink and stop, but I’ve never had that ability.

I got into trouble a lot as a young man and was not welcome at lot of places and was pretty much an outcast in our little town. I got the idea to join the Army, and I signed with a 4-year hitch.  In the Army, my alcoholism escalated. I’m sure that’s where I became a full-blown alcoholic with a lot of drug use.

As I got older, I could not do any of the things in life that I could be successful at because I had to drink to feel normal. By the time I was 40, my life was a complete and total wreck. I remember feeling like a failure every day. I remember feelings of guilt, shame, and remorse and not wanting to be around other people because they didn’t seem normal.

I moved to Charlotte in 2008, and my drinking and drugging continued until 2/12/2011. I went to detox and was referred to Dr. Marilyn Furman of the SABER program. She asked me to tell her about my life and I said, “I’m a wreck.” She said, “Let’s fight this disease together.”

I started the SABER program the following week, and I was introduced to the clinical side of addiction and alcoholism. From there, I was able to take advantage of all the things the SABER program had to offer. Upon completion of the nine-month program, I moved into my own apartment. I have continued my program ever since, being involved in AA, making meetings, and staying in touch with other recovering alcoholics.

A lot of things have happened in my life since I began this journey. I haven’t found it necessary to go back. I do the best that I can to face one day at a time, and I stay in my lane. I know that I cannot drink successfully and have the life that I want. I have a beautiful 6-year-old daughter as a gift of recovery. I am a single parent and a responsible business owner. I have a pretty good life today, and I owe all of that to the SABER program. It has really helped me.

MJ recently celebrated more than 10 years since he has had a drink or used drugs. At Roof Above, we are thrilled for his life in recovery, and we are honored to be a part of his story. 

Sharon McCarthy
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