Since 2013, more than 1,000 inmates have graduated from a Vineland, New Jersey-based rehabilitation program created by Michael “Mickey” Williams, and his wife, Lernell. Michael himself spent 22 years of his life going back and forth to prison and drug rehabilitation centers.
This was a graduation from one failed attempt at life hopefully into one of success. “We gave them wrist bracelets that read, ‘My Purpose is Greater than my struggles’ and ‘Anywhere but Backward,’” said Williams, who spent 22 years of his life going back and forth to prison and drug rehabilitation centers due to being addicted to Heroin and crack cocaine and living a criminal lifestyle.
The words “Anywhere but Backward” are the program’s mantra and the exclamation point in Williams’ speech he gives at graduation. “You are somebody! You are unique! You are special! You possess the heart of a champion! But you must be willing to go anywhere … but backward!” he screams. And the crowd goes wild.
Some told Williams he helped them mature. Some said he made them not want to come back to jail. “They all gave testimonies,” said the author of ten books on his climb out of the drug abyss. “And they jotted down the things that stuck to them.: The 90-minute classes are held once a week.
“We aim to try and take the brokenness that people sometimes feel or have inside due to being in incarceration or rehabilitation and use it to push them into something greater,” stressed Williams. “I tell them that my focus is to get them motivated. But motivation is only the start. It’s the dedication that keeps you going.” Dedication is an “inside job.”
This latest group to a man said they wanted to get out of jail and go teach others and try and help them, said Williams. “It shocked me,” he said. “They said, ‘I want to do what you’re doing. I want to come back to prison and help others.’ To do that, they must live a certain lifestyle to get cleared to do that.” Williams can speak from personal experience because he is now a motivational speaker that teaches Minor Adjustments all over the world.
Drugs ruled Williams’ life for 22 years. After building a spiritual foundation, getting clean, and making some minor adjustments for himself, he now offers hope for others. He’s a 10-time published author, a Certified Drug and Alcohol Counselor, and a Certified Recovery Support Specialist.
“They believe that just because they committed a crime, they can no longer be successful,” Williams said. “They believe that just because they have a criminal history, they can no longer live a productive lifestyle. They believe that because they had an addiction they cannot succeed. What we need to do is use people like me who have lived those same lifestyles to show those individuals that they can have hope. “They need to know that their purpose is greater than their struggles, they need to know that minor adjustments must be made, and more importantly they must be willing to go anywhere but backward!”