Michael Reid

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Michael Reid played bass in a punk band and became addicted to heroin. He was strung out on the drug for ten years. His days revolved around petty crime to feed his addiction, which eventually landed him in prison for more than a year. After his release, Michael started volunteering at a food pantry. Over time, he was given more responsibility, and now Michael is in charge of a program that feeds more than 400 families each week.

“You learn about humility, because you have to start at the bottom all over again.”

When you are newly sober, you have this euphoria, because your endorphins start working again. You have a two- to three-month period where you feel great, and then all the problems you put on the shelf for the last ten years start flying at you from every direction. That’s the tough part, because you have to learn how to deal with that. No longer can you hide your problems by sticking a needle in your arm and going to nirvana.

I’ve been clean for 20 years. You become older and wiser. You look at younger people and say, “No! Don’t do that!” But as much as you’d like to impart wisdom, no one will listen, because they’ve got to see it through for themselves.

In about 2003, I was a caregiver for a person who was mentally ill, and he started coming to the food pantry. I was summoned to carry his bags. I saw these ladies working, and one of them was struggling with a garbage bin that was about to tip over, so I went up and held the bin. They were like, “Why don’t you volunteer?” And, of course, you don’t want to say no because they were really nice. So I said, “OK.”

Then you find you’re running the place. Now I’m actually working for the benefit of others instead of being self-serving. It was a whole new concept. Families come here to pick up food every week, and they always personally thank us. We get to know their names, they get to know our names, and we develop a relationship with them. People always stop me on the way out and say, “Thank you” and “God bless you.” How can you not feel good about that?

Michael Reid short audio clip

Michael Reid full podcast

Discussion Questions

  • What mechanisms do you use to hide from your problems? How do you face your problems when you have to?
  • Is there anything in your life that you began doing out of obligation but ended up doing it because you wanted to? How was your mindset different in both situations?
  • How do the rewards you get for the work you do (whether they’re tangible or intangible) affect the way you work? How do they affect the way you approach your work? How important to you are rewards?
  • What experience do you have with addiction (whether they’re huge vices or smaller inconveniences)? How can you overcome that addiction? How would your life be different if you did overcome it?
  • What role has humility played in your life? When is a time that you’ve been humbled and changed because of it?

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