MiChelle stopped caring about sobriety in 1998. Her husband was beaten to death that year, and that was the last time MiChelle wanted to be clean and sober.
She was born in Pontiac and moved to Grand Rapids at age six, her dad an alcoholic bartender who sexually abused her. Her parents’ relationship was dysfunctional at best, she and her sisters bearing the brunt of the chaos and abuse.
There were bright spots, of course, including teaching dance classes at Linda Moon, captaining the pompom team in middle school, and modeling for JC Penney. She loved gymnastics and sewing. She didn’t love watching her dad beat her mother, knowing her mom was trying to protect her girls from abuse.
At age 14, she entered the foster care system when the family fell apart.
“I’d been drinking alcohol my whole life. And once I tried crack cocaine, I never wanted to stop. I wanted drugs every day, all day,” said MiChelle, who is in her early 50s.
“I was out there real bad. I shoplifted, stood on the corner, all to have money for drugs,” she said. “I was living in what was left of an old movie studio. I woke up in the rain and decided right then and there that I was tired of paying other people to live. I was tired of stealing and selling myself to buy drugs just so I could stay alive,” she said.
This beautiful woman—bipolar, schizophrenic and on disability, addicted to drugs and alcohol, homeless—said “God stomped into my life in August 2019. Something told me to come to Mel Trotter and try it out.”
MiChelle followed that prompting and walked in the doors of Mel Trotter Ministries. She entered the Step-Up Recovery program, designed for men and women whose substance abuse is a barrier to permanent housing and employment. She’d tried it once before in 2001, but only stayed a week before the drugs beckoned.
She did well this time and was just four days from completion of the 90-day program before a contraband property issue exited her out. She relapsed just over a month after leaving, entered a different program, relapsed again.
“When I first came to Mel Trotter I had nothing. When I left here I had clothing and a few things, but I lost them in the month I was gone. I came back with nothing once again,” she said.
Now MiChelle Perry is clean, strong, and sober. No drugs, no alcohol, not even a cigarette after more than 30 years as a smoker. She found closure from her husband’s death, in part because her husband’s sister was in the Step-Up program and was able to give her a hug. A second sister works at Mel Trotter and connected with her.
“Those relationships gave me closure and let me forgive myself for using drugs,” said MiChelle, who has reconnected with three of her four children.
She dreams of having her own home one day, living on her own, and giving back to the community.
“I want to mentor, tell my story, and if I can, help somebody get closer to God,” she said. “I had never prayed before, but God knows my heart and he knows what I’m trying to say. I just ask him to teach me.”
MiChelle knows that God has a plan for her. She knows because he said to her, “Get up! I got something for you.”
“I take life day by day because it’s never over. For the first time, I’m at peace with that part of my life,” MiChelle said. “I just want to give back, to help someone better themselves like I did.”