Michael Williams Inspires Residents “Go Anywhere but Backwards”
How to help someone overcome drug addiction starts with telling them to “Go Anywhere but Backwards.” That is the motto behind the Minor Adjustments, a program founded by Kintock alumni Michael L. Williams, Jr and his wife Lernell, to teach men and women how to make the minor adjustments in their lives that will allow them to obtain and maintain a productive lifestyle after incarceration or rehabilitation. “To obtain their freedom is easy, their challenge is to maintain. I don’t want them to focus on getting out, I want them to focus on staying out,” said Williams.
Williams knows firsthand why this focus is so critical. Like many individuals addicted to drugs, Williams found himself in and out of rehab and prison. “Getting sober and getting out of prison was easy,” he tells men participating in the Minor Adjustments program. “Staying sober and sustaining sobriety and staying out of prison was the challenge.”
For Williams, his battle with drug addiction and criminal lifestyle spanned more than two decades, including 15 years in prison.
Then in August 2009, feeling desperate and defeated while sitting on a bench he said he found God and that gave him the strength to start out along a new path to stay out of prison.
Reflecting on the many skills he had learned while participating in multiple rehabilitation centers and reentry programs, Williams began writing a book, with a chapter entitled Minor Adjustments, which eventually became the inspiration for the name behind the program that he and his wife Lernell later cofounded in 2013.
“My wife and I both have the heart to help people who are struggling with drugs or the criminal lifestyle,” said Williams about the premise for founding Minor Adjustments, William explained that the Minor Adjustments program shares a similar mission to a lot of these rehabilitation centers and reentry programs. “Minor adjustments are dedicated to preventing and reducing crime,” said Michael. “My goal is to use this mission to live by,” he added. “I tell the people in my program that the only difference between them and me is that I apply what I learned.
Williams acknowledges that ever place that I have been has played an important role in supporting his own transformation. All of them was important because they prepared me to successfully reenter my community and be a productive member of our society, the things I live off and use today came from my relationship with God and what I learned from all the programs I was apart of.
Williams cautioned that the biggest obstacle to success is, “realizing that they need to figure out what they will do on the outside while still incarcerated and to make the necessary changes to prepare for life outside.”
“I believe each individual knows what they need to do to develop,” said Williams. He acknowledged that life responsibilities can be overwhelming, particularly when people have been incarcerated and not had to worry about working or paying bills and other daily activities of living. “It’s critical to prepare them ahead of time,” he said.
The residents of rehabilitation programs are in an ideal position to take advantage of the tool
Educational programs that will help pave the path to success upon return to the community, he added. Minor adjustments have the ability to complement every reentry program, rehabilitation center, halfway house, or prison. Williams believes one of the reasons the Minor Adjustments program has been so successful is that the people participating in it feel a connection with him because of his past. Seeing firsthand that Williams was able to turn his life around after more than two decades of drug addiction and criminal lifestyle gives individuals hope that they can do the same.
Since the program’s inception in August 2013, the list of those who participated in the eight-week program keeps growing.
Each resident receives a workbook book called “Minor Adjustments”, which was written by Mr. Williams. Each week, a different topic is presented and homework assignments are given. It helps strengthen and build confidence, and to give participants hope. “The purpose of the workbook is to teach you how to ‘Allow your Past to Push You into Your Destiny,” explained Williams.
At the end of the eight weeks, a graduation ceremony is held. Graduates are provided with a certificate and a bracelet that says, “Anywhere but backward,” which is the program’s motto. During the graduation ceremony, Mr. Williams gives his “Anywhere but backward,” inspirational talk. Sometimes guest speakers are invited to attend and provide words of encouragement. For example, during the first graduation ceremony in May 2014, Bridgeton Mayor Albert Kelly spoke. Graduates are also given an opportunity to speak and share their experiences.
In addition to his message, anywhere but backward, Williams underscores the importance of establishing a supportive and positive network of friends and resources and avoiding the pitfalls that come with continuing to associate with friends who are still involved in substance use and criminal lifestyles.
“You need a new group of people who are doing the things you want to do,” he said. Williams was incredibly fortunate to have a solid and supportive network in place during his journey, including a devoted wife, parents, and pastor who supported him through the difficult process of change. Upon graduation, Williams gives every graduate his card and an open invitation to contact him for encouragement.
His dream is that everyone who graduates his program will be inspired to help others change their lives too. “My vision is to expand the program so that graduates have the opportunity to teach the program,” he said. “They have to understand that they need to change their lifestyle to do so and knowing that they could have an opportunity to teach this program gives them something to strive for when they go home,” he added and also remember that “to obtain their freedom is easy their challenge is to maintain.”
In addition to founding the Minor Adjustments program, Williams teaches the program at the Salvation Army ARC in Trenton, NJ. He also teaches a weekly class at the Glory Tabernacle Church in Bridgeton, NJ. Mr. Williams holds book signings and speaks frequently at the Rescue Mission in Atlantic City and many other places. He graduated from America’s Keswick Colony of Mercy and is the author of ten books.