In June 2012, National Drug Control Policy Director Gil Kerlikowske visited the Betty Ford Center, one of the Nation’s oldest and most recognized addiction treatment facilities. There he gave remarks to a crowd of leaders in the field of recovery. In the audience were two special guests—Michael Banyard and Federal District Court Judge Spencer Letts. In his remarks, Director Kerlikowske mentioned Banyard’s improbable—and inspirational—journey from crack cocaine dependence and homelessness, to prison, to a successful sentence appeal, to the chambers of a federal district court judge and completion of his GED.
I was very successful and rose to the occasion. Things went so well that Kurt Streeter of the L.A. Times wrote a front page, two-part article that covered the judge’s and my friendship and the work we were doing with the youth at S.E.A. High School.
It was clear that, like Judge Letts, I too was a person who loved helping people. I was not a homeless drug addict who could never get it right, but someone who could really be happy if I continued to strive for perfection. I was happy I was making a difference in the life of these teens.
I was so externally focused, when all was done and accomplished with the teens, I began to spend a lot of time alone. Even with my strong desire to do right, something was still missing, and I couldn't figure out what it was. After the students graduated, I went on a journey to find my value and esteem. There was still an unfulfilled emptiness.
Things got worse than they had ever been. I ended up going to four more drug programs trying to figure this thing out. Judge Letts still never gave up. He continued to encourage me and let me know that he believed in me, even at my lowest point. My experience taught me that reaching the bottom was not a process of spiraling down until you just splat...but rather, when you reach a real low place and get comfortable there. An ugly place where you feel you can never escape from.
I was there and gave up totally but Judge Letts never gave up on me. He continued to be my friend through it all.
A time came when I knew for certain that I did not, nor could not, find the answer alone, and I called the Judge and told him I did not know what to do. I told him I was willing to do whatever he asked of me.
The Judge reminded me of when his clerk Nancy Webb had mentioned to me that I should try going to a place called the Dream Center.
Nancy had seen Pastor Matthew Barnett on the Joyce Myers show talking the about the Dream Center's Discipleship Program and she felt it was a suitable place for me. So the Judge encouraged me to try what Nancy had already suggested and I did.