Looking back, Mike Digman had everything. He did well in school and went to Washington & Jefferson College on an academic scholarship to play football. He ran track as well his last three years. It’s hard to pinpoint where his life went wrong; but somehow, he ended up homeless with only a backpack and garbage bag full of clothes.
“It was humbling. I come from a good family. I went to one of the best colleges in the nation, but I kept destroying my life over and over and over again in different ways,” shares Mike. Realizing that if he didn’t make a drastic change, Mike completed a 30-day rehabilitation program, hoping it would give
him the boost he needed to stop drinking and taking drugs. Escapes that started when he was young. He became increasingly dependent upon both to mask the constant pain he suffered from sports injuries incurred during high school. And he began to self-medicate.
“I had four surgeries by the time I was 16, shoulders and knees from football and track. I played football and ran track in college, and I lost all structure in my life. That’s when I really started to fall apart. I still had the pain-pill habit, I was still living like a kid, and my parents were footing the bills,” says Mike.
“I never imagined myself turning into a crackhead. I used to make fun of crackheads. And then I was a homeless crackhead. It’s hard to put yourself in somebody else’s shoes unless you’ve been there. Once I picked up any kind of alcohol or drugs, that was my one and only priority. Nothing else mattered. I sacrificed every material, spiritual, and moral ideal that I had to get the next fix,” he recalls.
He came to Florida in hopes of getting sober. “I would have six months of a good run at being healthy and doing the right things, and then I would destroy my life again. Just a continuous build, destroy, build, destroy,” he says.
Mike made $26,000 while staying at a local homeless transitional center (Camp Haven). He says, “I made $120,000 my first year out of college. The money I made after getting my life back together wasn’t the most I’ve ever made in a year, but it was definitely the best.”
While he was able to find work quickly, between court fees, drug testing and therapy sessions required to expunge the felony drug arrest from his record, Mike ended up with only $20 a week to live on. He could not buy food and rent a room with what was leftover each week.
Just when things looked the bleakest, someone told Mike about Camp Haven. He visited the facility and he was accepted into the program.
That little glimmer of hope was enough to keep him going. The support system and day-to-day structure of Camp Haven helped him put his life back in order.
“The relief of having someplace to come back to that was safe, that was helping me learn how to live and manage my life,” he says, was what helped him pull himself together.
Mike had to put the work in, but Camp Haven put a roof over his head, provided meals, helped him get a job, and provided counseling and education.
He says the biggest factor was that they held him accountable, which allowed him to regain his self-respect.
Mike picked up as much work as he could and was able to save money, resolve his legal issues, attend AA meetings regularly and buy a truck.
“For the first time in my life, I didn’t have to ask my parents for money,” he says.
Less than a year later, Mike had saved enough money to move out on his own.
“I just needed for someone else to believe in me. That’s what the people at Camp Haven did for me,” recalls Mike.
About eight months later, Mike had the opportunity to attend a men’s spiritual retreat in Arizona.
“That was a big life-changer for me. It was the right time in my life and put a lot of things in perspective,” he recalls.
Today, Mike is in an HVAC apprenticeship program, married, helping to raise a 9-year-old stepdaughter, and has an 8-month-old son.
A few years ago, Mike didn’t think he deserved a life like this and wouldn’t have dared to dream that it was possible.
Like the mustard seed, the change was small but once planted; it grew into the beautiful life he has today – a true testimony to God’s power and grace.