Can a child whose mother is an alcoholic and his father uses and sells drugs make it out of Atlantic City?
After starting drinking in the sixth grade?
After quitting school in the ninth grade without being able to read or write?
He learned how to write in prison through letter-writing with a girl who circled his mistakes and sent back his writings.
That was four books ago.
Meet Michael “Mickey” Williams Jr., originally out of Atlantic City in the days of drug king “Midget” Molley and the famous “Ky. and the curve” drug district on Kentucky Avenue.
“I was working at a place where the guy was an alcoholic and I was sneaking it,” said Williams in his painting during his lunch break on Wednesday at the day-care center of Glory Tabernacle Church in Fairfield Township, where he works and goes to the church under Bishop David and Pastor Darlene Hadley, who he considers his spiritual mother and father.
“At 16, I started experimenting with marijuana,” he recalled. “After a while, it wasn’t getting me high, so I starting lacing it with powdered cocaine.”
He called them “woolies.”
His group was hanging with older guys in their 20s.
“We figured if they were doing it and they were kind of cool, it was OK for us to do,” he said.
When cocaine and marijuana didn’t work, he turned to heroin.
“I snorted it,” he said.
It led to arrests and 15 or 16 rehabs, starting at age 16, he said.
“My mother told me, when you get in court, tell the judge you have a problem,” he said.
He did, and they always sent him to rehab.
But then came the day the judge told Williams, they have programs in jail, too.
That’s all included in his first book, “Pushed from the Crack House to God’s House.”
He spent a total of 15 years in prison, never more than three years at a time.
“Yeah, there were drugs in prison,” he said. “But I was able to go cold turkey.
His wife, Lernell, has said to him, how can you go back once you get away from it?
“Psychologically, I thought I couldn’t function without it,” he said.
People would say to him, why don’t you just stop doing drugs?
“I said to them, why don’t you try to just stop breathing,” he said. “That’s how hard it is.”
No withdrawal medication.
“The longer I went on heroin, the harder the withdrawal,” he said. “I would go for days. I wonder now how I was ever able to do it.”
Over and over.
Then came the night on the bench at Commerce and Pearl streets under a tree at the bus stop.
“It was 2009,” he said. “The night before, I sat there and said I had to stop. But money flew by. And I got high again.”
The next night, there was no money.
“That was the morning I cried out to Jesus to save me,” he said.
He went down to Word of Grace New Covenant Church and asked Pastor Russell Alston for money to get to rehab, which he gave him.
He was 38 years old.
“I went to detox at Bergen Pine,” he said.
It was a bus trip to Camden and he caught the speed line to Trenton and then it was either a bus or train to Newark.
He doesn’t remember which.
He eventually came back to the Salvation Army in Delaware.
“I got kicked out of there for messing around with girls,” he said.
He came home to Atlantic City and eventually got into America’s Keswick, a program in Whiting for men with addictions and strongholds, for eight months in Toms River.
“You work there,” he said. “People come there for a retreat and we worked the grounds, maintenance or in the kitchen.
“I love that at America’s Keswick, the men are introduced as the heart beat of the ministry.”
He was the first worker to go home on a pass and get married.
Married by the same pastor who gave him the money to go to detox.
So it’s five years clean and four years married.
He has five children by four different women.
His wife has two children.
He works for Glory Tabernacle Church and has started an “awesome” program at Kintock — a halfway house for prisoners — called “Minor Adjustment.”
It’s an eight-week program with a graduation.
“I have the confidence to say that anyone who comes in contact with my program will never go back to prison,” he promised.
That’s defying the odds.
Here’s his message.
“You can say you’ve been saved with your mouth, but it doesn’t work until you say it with your heart,” he stressed.
“It wasn’t until 2009 that I said it with my heart.
It’s two parts — confess and believe.”
He did it by himself sitting on a bench while suicidal “because I was addicted to both heroin and crack, and spiritually and emotionally drained.”
He said his life flashed before him.
Saturday, he speaks in Atlantic City, at 5 p.m., at 419 N. Indian Ave.
“I’ll be at Back To School Night at Bridgeton High School, Sept. 18, 6 to 8 p.m.” he said. “In the auditorium. Hopefully, I’ll be able to help some parents and children.”
“Because they know I’ve been there,” he said.
And his parents are saved and free of their old lifestyle for years, and proud of their oldest son, as well as his sister and two brothers.