Michael Williams Jr. spent 22 years in and out of prison as he struggled with his addiction to drugs.
So when the Atlantic City native got clean in 2009, he saw it as a chance not only to help himself, but other battling the same demons.
“I was always thinking about helping my community that I used to destroy,” said Williams, who’s better known as Mickey.
That led to Minor Adjustments, a nonprofit that offers eight-week training that helps those getting out of rehab or incarceration make the adjustments they need to continue on a good path.
Among those helping others on the journey is Williams’ good friend Lonzetta Jackson, who found her own path in 2004.
“Once I got clean, I decided I was going to do whatever I could do to help others,” Jackson said.
She now works at a rehabilitation center and next week will see her first Minor Adjustments class graduate at Turning Point Day Center in Atlantic City.
It’s one of several places where they bring their program, including Atlantic County Drug Court, Atlantic City’s Volunteers of America Safe Return, Kintock halfway house in Bridgeton and the Salvation Army in Trenton.
“I created the program to try to get them to do different things to put them in positions where they can prosper when they come home,” he said.
They know how difficult it can be to ask for help. Especially in Atlantic City.
“I struggled with it,” Jackson said. “I hid it from my family members as long as I possibly could.”
She was 32 when she got her first criminal charge, related to drugs.
Then, in 2004, she was using one night when her godsister said, “Let’s go to church,” she recalled.
When they were there, the pastor’s wife came up to her: “You’re going to destroy your life,” the woman told Jackson.
“I already did,” she replied.
It was there that she says she “felt the spirit of God hit me.”
She went to her mother’s and then to Seabrook House.
While in rehab, she says she heard God speak to her.
When her husband picked her up, she asked him why he was so skinny.
“Because of you,” Ernest Jackson replied.
“My disease was his disease and my family’s disease,” she said. “I wasn’t just destroying me, I was destroying them.”
She said she still doesn’t know how her husband stuck by her through it all, but “once I came home, I never looked back.”
“Anywhere but backwards” is the motto of Minor Adjustments.
But that doesn’t mean they forget where they came from.
Jackson and Williams both make sure to reach out to those they came up with who haven’t been able to escape their addiction.
“I ride past corners and see people I grew with still out there struggling,” Williams said. “I pull over and cry. I know I can’t fix all of them. I try to tell them there’s a different way that you can live.”
Seeing them stuck frustrates him.
So, he continues his mission.
The classes are free to participants with the costs covered by the institutions and with help from Bill and Brenda Gould, owners of Mainline Fuel in Bridgeton.
“They are our number one supporters,” Williams said.
He also has the support of his wife, Lernell Williams.
She never struggled with addiction herself, but was there through prison stints and hunted him down when he would disappear for days.
Then, one day he watched as his wife drove past after looking right at him. Williams had been gone for days.
“She never even recognized me, that’s how messed up I looked,” he said. “When my wife didn’t see me, that was it for me.”
Once he got clean, Williams said he noticed he stopped going to jail.
“That’s how that works,” Jackson chimed in.
Now they want to make that kind of difference for others.
“It hurts me to my heart to see the city I grew up in struggling so bad,” Jackson said. “Whatever we can do, if we have to go out on street corner, it’s OK.”
To find out more about Minor Adjustments go to: MinorAdjustments.org