SABER – MJ’s Story

October 20, 2021

Since it began in 2006, Roof Above’s SABER Treatment Program offers homeless, substance-using men something that life never gave them before. Hope and a home.  SABER’s holistic program fighting the disease of addiction combines nine months of therapy and life-changing skills with the guarantee of free housing, as long as the person stays drug and alcohol-free.

This is MJ’s story.

My name is Michael (MJ) Johnson, and I’m an alcoholic. I was born in 1966 in a small town in South Carolina. I’m the oldest of my mother’s eight children.

Growing up as the oldest child, I always wanted to do what the older boys in the town were doing.

I got into trouble a lot as a young man and was not welcome at a lot of places and was pretty much an outcast in our little town. I got the idea to join the Army, and I signed with a 4-year hitch.  In the Army, my alcoholism escalated. I’m sure that’s where I became a full-blown alcoholic with a lot of drug use. They would drink beer, smoke cigarettes and smoke marijuana. By the time I was 12, I was allowed to go to the community game room by myself, and while I was there, I would hang out with the older boys and do what they did. I had no idea that I would become an alcoholic because other people could drink and stop, but I’ve never had that ability.

As I got older, I could not do any of the things in life that I could be successful at because I had to drink to feel normal. By the time I was 40, my life was a complete and total wreck. I remember feeling like a failure every day. I remember feelings of guilt, shame, and remorse and not wanting to be around other people because they didn’t seem normal.

I moved to Charlotte in 2008, and my drinking and drugging continued until 2/12/2011. I went to detox and was referred to Dr. Marilyn Furman of the SABER program. She asked me to tell her about my life and I said, “I’m a wreck.” She said, “Let’s fight this disease together.”

I started the SABER program the following week, and I was introduced to the clinical side of addiction and alcoholism. From there, I was able to take advantage of all the things the SABER program had to offer. Upon completion of the nine-month program, I moved into my own apartment. I have continued my program ever since, being involved in AA, making meetings, and staying in touch with other recovering alcoholics.

A lot of things have happened in my life since I began this journey. I haven’t found it necessary to go back. I do the best that I can to face one day at a time, and I stay in my lane. I know that I cannot drink successfully and have the life that I want. I have a beautiful 6-year-old daughter as a gift of recovery. I am a single parent and a responsible business owner. I have a pretty good life today, and I owe all of that to the SABER program. It has really helped me.

MJ recently celebrated more than 10 years since he has had a drink or used drugs. At Roof Above, we are thrilled for his life in recovery, and we are honored to be a part of his story.