If anyone believes that everything happens for a reason, it’s me. From surviving the claws of substance abuse to my return to professional sports post prison time and my career ending because of a knee injury right when I was starting make progress in the elite class. My faith has given me the ability to not see these events as cataclysmic moments designed to tear down my character, instead I tend to find opportunity to be better in all things. I was literally called on a Friday and asked if I could fly out to Soo Michigan the following Tuesday and begin speaking Wednesday. It’s not often that I turn down a speaking job unless there is an absolute schedule conflict that gets in the way and my only obligation I had was to be in Tampa by Thursday evening to begin my weekend with about 11 of my BMX athletes from around the world. I knew there would be a strong purpose behind this last minute call to speak to a small community in Michigan.
When I read the itinerary of this event I knew even though this event was under last minute circumstances for me as the speaker, I was being called to the exact place my story needed to be told. F.A.N. (Families Against Narcotics) was putting on an event to bring awareness to prescription pill abuse and my story is a pefect fit. I was asked to speak to the community on Wednesday evening and follow up the next day with two presentations at Sault High School the following day. When I landed and my contact Lisa picked me up at the airport I knew that this event would be special but I don’t think I was quite prepared for just how special this little town of Sault Ste Marie, Michigan would be.
The town of Sault Ste Marie (Soo) is approximately 15,000-20,000 people, I feel like the city of Clovis I grew up in as a young boy was about that big many years ago. 200+ people attended my community speech and it was a mixture of college students, mothers, fathers, grandparents, addicts, folks in recovery and folks who just wanted to know more about addiction. After my speech concluded we had a very intimate question and answer session that covered a broad spectrum of issues, questions, guidance, etc.. and to finish the night I got to meet many people from the community and this is when I got to understand just how special the town of Soo Michigan was.
The people who came up to me and shared their stories of how addiction had affected their lives was one of the most touching moments I’ve had being a substance abuse speaker. The amount of people in that building that shared with me the loved ones who had passed on far to early from substance abuse and yet they kept fighting and trying to spread the word to others in hopes that the same mistakes would not be made with others in the community was saddening but also encouraging. I say encouraging because death is not an easy circumstance for the those connected to the addict who overdoses to deal with and often they withdraw from society as opposed to being pro-active and spreading the story of their loved ones struggles for others and other folks who have lost their loved ones. I’m just so grateful when I get called into communities like this. There was a definite need in the community for others to become more aware and help spread the message. F.A.N. is really working hard in this community to break the stigma of addiction and the denial of others that may believe the problem is not as bad as it seems. F.A.N. wants people to come together to fight addiction and get those who are suffering the help they need and I commend them for taking that step to making their community better. I will be praying for all those I met and would be honored to return and work with them in any way that I can.