Beating the Addiction: Recovery agent Michael Thomas

Michael Thomas is a recovery agent helping people overcome addiction. (WTOV)

NEWS9 begins a series which will highlight positive change made by former addicts.

Beating the Addiction is shining the spotlight on a recovery agent in Steubenville who has been helping to change lives for more than two decades.

Michael Thomas didn't just beat his addiction; he used the pain to find his purpose. Now, more than 25 years later, he's looking back at a career devoted to saving others.

“I believe in him and there's a lot of folks that do,” said Melvin Creech, a client and friend.

Recovery coach Michael Thomas doesn’t wear a cape, leap tall buildings or run faster than a speeding bullet, but many think of him as a hero, and he has the power to touch lives and see the good in someone even when no one else does.

“Recovery is about helping people and most of the time, people don't want help. They don't even know how to get help and what I find out with Michael is he finds a way to pull that out,” Creech said.

Melvin Creech is one of the first people that Thomas believed in. In the 1990s, Creech’s life was headed off the rails and Thomas took a chance.

“Did everything and anything. It didn't make no difference so, crack was the biggest, alcohol, I did everything, a human garbage can," Creech said.

For Thomas, Creech’s story and the struggle of many others he's helped over the course of 25 years is personal because just like them he was also an addict.

“I first picked up when I was 15. It was Boone's farm apple wine, used to drink that and smoke marijuana and then it escalated. I hit my bottom at the age of 28 and I was at a dead end. Dead end,” Thomas said. “A drug is a drug is a drug is a drug. An addict, that's how I can relate. I know your pain. I know your story. It doesn't matter how much you use, we've all come from the same place at some point, that desperation, that wanna get clean but then again don't wanna get clean. You know what I'm saying. So I can relate to that and I think that resonates with addicts."

Thomas and his friends, many of whom he's had since childhood, say he's always had a heart for others, but it was only through his pain that he found his purpose.

“Where did Michael go? Here he left the house with no shoes in the rain and he walked to the Phoenix Program and from there he said he was done. He just went, got clean and started forward from then on," said Kim Morgan, Thomas’s cousin and friend.

"I believe he knows what he is doing. I believe he is driven to do it and I believe God picked the perfect person to do it. How can you have lived with a need or problems in your life and not have a heart for people that have a problem for others and not want to be there to help," said Erin Sanford, lifelong friend.

Thomas also uses the pain of losing his son to violence as motivation to better his community and teach. It’s something he does through his foundation, United Front.

“I don't really like to see people struggle if they don't have to you know what I'm saying, when there is a better way, whether it's finding a house, eating a meal, I believe in that," Thomas said.

Thomas says as a recovery agent, he has the power to change lives, but he acknowledges that people like him are only a small part of larger solution.

“I can't do it alone. We can do it. I'm going to be a strong advocate. There's so much more we can do," Thomas said.

“What Michael gives me is ‘I can do anything without drugs.’ So I've become a productive member of society so I haven't been in prison in 20 years. My life has changed and it's Michael, Michael is part of that," Creech said.

Thomas can be found in Jefferson County at Family Recovery. His foundation, United Front, helps addicts get back on their feet and live a better life.

Thomas is just the first of four people we will highlight in this series. To see more tune in every Monday night at 11 p.m. for our stories about beating the addiction.

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