Living the rock-and-roll lifestyle is a dream for many. Mike lived it.
Born to a musically inclined mother and a father who had an entrepreneurial spirit, Mike was a combination of both personalities. In the 1980s, Mike was a full-time guitarist for Dirty Mary, a metal band covering songs from bands like Led Zeppelin, AC/DC, Def Leppard, and Cinderella. He played gigs from Florida to Boston. He had celebrated his success by buying the accoutrements of success: a Corvette, a boat, top-of-the line guitars and music equipment. While the music came easy and the money was great, the band broke up over drugs. Mike wanted no parts of that lifestyle.
He formed a new band called ZooTrip which succumbed to the unhealthy habits of the rock-and-roll lifestyle, something that didn’t interest Mike.
After leaving the road, he returned to his parents’ house in a small town in Berks County and learned how to weld. He became a welder at Mayer Pollock and Superior Metals. Then he secured a coveted welding position at Dana Corporation, Parish Division in Reading and once again achieved a level of financial success he never imagined. “I bought four houses with the intentions of buying 30-40 houses as a real estate investor.” That was his plan and his dream to create a secure retirement.
Being a landlord had many challenges and then the Dana plant closed. Mike sold the properties and went back on the road, this time as a welder with the Steam Fitters union. He welded pipes for oil refineries, nuclear power plants, trash-to-steam plants, and food processing facilities. The money was good, but the travelling was exhausting.
He took a welding job working in the Philadelphia area. He lived with his parents, which gave him the roots and stability he craved. Then Mike’s father died, and just two years later, he lost his mother. His world was turned upside down. “I lost my motivation. I lost my spirit,.” said Mike.
Years on the road travelling to job sites, Mike was no stranger to speeding. He had numerous violations and citations and eventually lost his license. Determined to make a living, Mike chose to drive with a suspended license and eventually, the law caught up to him. The suspensions didn’t deter Mike, and he became a habitual offender and was sentenced to prison time. Because of his strong work ethic, the judge allowed him to serve each of his sentences over 15 weekends. He served three sentences over two years.
Mike mustered his entrepreneurial spirit and started a painting business with his then girlfriend. It was a welcome change after breathing damage and health issues that welding caused for him. The business was a success, but his relationship was toxic. “She was an alcoholic, and I knew I couldn’t change her,” he added.
Then COVID hit. His business stopped. Welding opportunities dried up. He had no income. Thanks to the Emergency Rental Assistance Program (ERAP), Mike remained in his apartment. When those resources ended, Mike couldn’t pay the rent. He lost everything. He felt like his life was in overdrive and he needed a change.
“I was scared. I slept outside for two nights,” said Mike. After two nights of sleeping in the rain, Mike decided to come indoors to Opportunity House. Mike believes that divine intervention put him where he needed to be. “Now I’m slowing down. I’m simplifying my life. I don’t need all the things I thought I needed,” he added. He feels that he is being prepared for the next chapter in his life.
He makes no excuses for his life today. “Do what you have to do to change your life. If you don’t like your situation—close the door, walk away, and open a new door,” advises Mike. As this chapter unfolds, Mike is committed to living a slower, more simple life and enjoying every minute of it. “