“I can’t believe he’s gone.” The words of Lynda Sauls, a case manager in the Freedom program at Harvest House, echo in the minds of everyone on campus and everyone who knew Mike.
Michael Sean Devine, from Largo, FL, passed away on Sunday, June 24, 2018, but his legacy lives on.
Mike was facing legal issues due to an opioid addiction. With the help of his attorney, he found Harvest House’s Freedom program. He loved being here and loved the promise of his future even more. He found hope outside of his addiction. He found more family, more humanity, more life. He was on his 7th month of sobriety and was scheduled to graduate in just two months.
In classes and church, he was an active participant. The discussion leaders could always count on him to contribute something funny, yet positive and sarcastic at the same time. Director of Residential Operations Jon Minor, said “Mike was always full of energy. He was so quirky; always looking to crack a joke. He really lit up every room he walked in.”
He was always genuinely concerned about the other residents in their various stages of recovery. He recently finished his Community Control sentence (a type of probation), so when he had free time, he made himself available to help other clients. If someone was discharged he would volunteer to drive them to another safe place. If someone had to go to the hospital, he made it a point to visit with them and offer his support. He paid special attention to other people’s health.
In the dining hall at men’s Freedom campus, we hang a picture of every participant that has passed away. Every time a new photo was added, or every time someone went to jail, it affected him tremendously. The irony is that he ended up on that wall himself.
On Friday, June 22, 2018, Mike left for a weekend trip with his parents for some quality time. Saturday night, some of his friends in the Freedom program received a few strange texts from him that were out of the ordinary. The messages didn’t make sense, but out of fear of “snitching”, his texts went unreported. Mike was found lifeless in a hotel room on the morning of Sunday, June 24, 2018.
Mike suffered from diabetes for most of his life, so the cause of his death is still unclear. Mike was 36 years old. He is survived by a loving family, including his mother and father, whom he loved dearly. “He always told me that he couldn’t have asked for better parents. Regardless of his perceived flaws and faults, he knew his parents loved him unconditionally, and he never ever wanted to disappoint them. He called them every day. They were his biggest supporters,” Lynda shared with the staff on the Monday staff meeting after his passing. “His Mom and Dad said that him being at Harvest House and meeting with our counselor, Irene, made the biggest changes in his life. They had never seen him so content and settled as he was this time around.”
“He never wanted to be defined by his addiction, his diabetes, or his mistakes; he knew and we knew that he was so much more,” Jon Minor said. “And we will remember him as such.”
He would have wanted us to tell his story and tell it loud, so we present to you: The Devine Campaign.
The Devine Campaign encourages clients of Harvest House and the community at large: “If you see something, say something, and save a life. Peers & Pros, we want to know YOU.” If you notice abnormal behaviors at any level for any type of addiction, bring it to the attention of someone who can help.
Director of Program Services, Jim Rouches, is the mastermind behind the curriculum for Freedom program. “Harvest House promotes a culture of transformation as opposed to reformation. We are not here to condemn and punish people. Instead, we want to heal. Punishment isn’t the road to freedom. In the words of TED presenter Johann Hari, ‘The opposite of addiction is not sobriety. The opposite of addiction is connection.’ Transformation often looks like the process of going from the caterpillar to the butterfly. The cocoon is that wonderful pathway that allows the ground dweller to soar to their potential. Harvest House is the cocoon. The Freedom program provides the pathways to each individual’s health and wholeness so that they may soar in life.”
Jon Minor believes that the Devine Campaign calls on us all to be more sensitive. “You never know what someone is going through. When someone says, ‘Hi, how are you?’ we’re programmed to just say ‘good.’ A lot of people put on a happy face, but we need to be more aware of the reality that just because they say they’re good doesn’t mean they’re not struggling on the inside.”
Lynda adds, “I still can’t believe he’s gone. No one can. It’s so strange not having him here.”
“His life has already made a huge difference in our community. Clients are being more open about standing up for recovery for themselves and for others. When co-workers are using drugs on the job, clients are walking away to find employment opportunities that are more conducive to a life of sobriety. Clients are reporting substance abuse to case managers. They walk in my office and say, ‘I’m here to save a life, Ms. Lynda.’ They have higher expectations for themselves in terms of what they will tolerate in their lives.”
Executive Director Erin Minor has witnessed the devastating effects of substance abuse for the last 14 years. “Since 1992, we have served thousands of men and women in the Freedom program. We’ve seen great successes and we have experienced the anguish of death. When we lose a client, no matter the cause, it shakes us to the core. In these moments of sorrow, we always ask ourselves, could we have done more to prevent this? How should this influence what we do and how we do it? We’ve created the Devine Campaign to honor Mike’s life in hopes that his death won’t be in vain.”
Purchase a Devine Campaign T-shirt to support someone in recovery.
Click here to place your order. Sizes S – 2XL available for $15 each.
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