Cancer Diaries: What is That Creeping Behind Me?


Angels represent refined earthly wants and desires, and that allows writers to slap “pure” in front of just about any word to heighten its sense of value and universality.

Truths…those absolutes that play out the same way, over and over in life.  Not everyone is going to pay taxes, so that cuts the cliche down to 50%, and really, Michael Jackson is still alive in so many of our hearts, music turned into data or perilously preserved in vinyl grooves, so is even death a certainty?

Legacies…memories with the brain’s Play button pressed in someone’s head, somewhere, right this minute. Since I just wrote it, I’m thinking about seeing him a few nights ago, on a Motown tribute concert, singing Billie Jean, all those sequins refracting light, the one glove, and of course, those dance moves. Because you just wrote it, you’re thinking about him right now too, but maybe you don’t like his music, maybe you think him having Mr. Bubbles the chimp for a pet was inhumane, but MJ left many marks.

MJ…I hear it, I think Michael Jordan. Just my most popular internal search result. The man was the flat out the best to ever play the game. His competitive spirit the thing that should be envied, from playing baseball and gambling, to out-dunking Dominique back when the NBA mattered.

Add up those first 4 paragraphs, you obviously reach the sum of MFJ, the author of this blog, me, physically being consumed by cancer, an unknown quantity of numbered days remaining, who values the one sole truth of love being the answer, and wanting to leave that mark on someone in this world.

I mean clearly, that’s the inside picture from my exact thought process- as one word suggests the next in sequence, albeit my order. A progression where I am denying a very important certainty, we all die. The difference is- I know my time is just about up. Doctors tell me this and the searing pain in my chest remind me there just might be some veracity in their claims, proving they are indeed fortune tellers. Tomorrow there might be a radical discovery curing all malignancies, because a team of doctors have been in the Amazon (which, in this rare case, is NOT a vast place of consumerism, where you can buy Shoestring Theories), find that the feces from a rare moth larvae pulls the plug on this unchecked cellular aggression. That or God is sick of my fucking ‘Cancer Diaries’ blogs.

Bingo Michael.  Enough is enough. I mean, I have given you the PERFECT opening to reignite the halcyon days of Tinderfish,, – that collection comedic genius- that was pure (<- see what I did there?) sophomoric humor at its most sublime. So, you’re going to wrap this blog up, and go edit your Tinder profile:

Ladies, I respect your honesty: that you are not on an app that brings people together based on solely on attraction to fuck and have one-night stands. That somewhere in those right swipes, love blooms. I really want that too, but I have terminal cancer. Do you think we might be able to wave that rule you have  though, because I’m dying – and I know Vanessa Williams is on the money, because I want to Save the Best for Last too.

Enough God, I will not stoop to that level or shut up about my illness. I mean, you’re the one who writes this story line, so at least let me fill in the some of the blanks. That people in similar situations can share exactly how some of this feels, that type of sharing is vital.

I’ve become obsessed with my phlegm. Is that a fleck of red in there? Is that some of my once healthy lung? What exactly is happening on my insides and more importantly, this- you gave me so many shots at dying before- is a shitty way to take me out. I mean it-why did you waste all the time from even my last overdose in 2014 to now. It could have just ended then. My guardian angels would have gotten some extra time off, or re-assigned to someone who had enough to offer he wasn’t just killed off 2 years later.

I am angry. I am sad. Both because I am scared.

I shouldn’t be mad, I should be celebrating life. But I’m in my own panic.

I’m sick of this.

I can’t fall asleep because I might not wake up.

And well, I have more shit to accomplish.


I’m invested in Star Wars– I have to make it to 8 & 9. Give me that. A legacy. That humor deflects, it never changes the truth. The greatest truth in life- love, for my fellow human being- that is pure. That is joy, to help another human being, to unknowingly pull someone back from the edge so that one day, their faith outweighs their fears, and something beautiful is created.

Never stop living Michael. It’s okay to be afraid, just don’t become paralyzed. Be grateful. Be kind. There’s work to be done.

Peace & Love,


The Recovery Scene


I’ve been thinking about how to say certain things, without being a complete dick. A lot of people are dying in our country, as bags of fentanyl go around. 74 people in 72 hours in Chicago, yet my little hometown of Washington had 18 in 24 hours, not to mention like 8 in 3 minutes or something crazy like that. Thankfully a lot of people were saved thanks to Narcan and fast responses of EMS crews.

I’ve died. More than a few times, and while it certainly should qualify as a “sobering experience,” it never did for me. What should have been a wake up call was not. Far from it. The junkie mentality is anytime there are bags going around causing OD’s is to seek out those. After all in my head, the people who died were just rookies, and I could handle anything.

In the end, it was sheer desperation that brought me to my knees. I lost absolutely everything, including my will to live. Back when I tried recovery for the first time, circa early 2000, I went to a meeting on Mount Washington, St. Mary’s maybe, but it was one of those fashion show meetings, where everyone dressed to impress, it was more social hookup fest than a regular meeting. It’s why I went. What I will never forget, and it’s impressive I remember anything from early 2000, is this guy, I can see his face so clearly, coming into it, and just standing up, going on a rant about the heroin users and the needle. “You will die.”

Because he was high, no one probably took him seriously, but that moment in time is vivid for me. “I’m not talking about those who snort it, I’m talking about those that shoot it right in the vein. It’s impossible to stop.” Yeah, I remember hearing all of it. What he said made sense. What caused me to pick up again was the same old pattern I would repeat over and over in life. I met a sexy nurse and the rest went down in the typical junkie love tragedy. Sex, drugs and rock n’ roll, and some rap. I think about Debbie a lot, just wondering if she made it out of the tempest.

Other names include Sarah and the girl from Vermont I met here, whose face I can see but whose name I forget. Liz. That’s it. Amazing what a little clean time can give you. Denise, from South Carolina, who we called the Leprechaun. I’m sure you get the idea, but there were more than a few lives I intersected with that are just gone. With social media, I sometimes stumble upon someone from the past, but when first names are hard to jog, last names are impossible.

Back to my opening sentence, how do I say what I want without being a judgmental jerk? I’m going to talk about me. Anyone who meets me today, outside of work at least, is amazed by my peace. I got that from the 12 Steps. I suffered for almost 20 years, I swore I wouldn’t be miserable in recovery. I’m a jovial kind of guy, thankful for another day of life. Thankful for making it through, hoping I did something good for someone and admitting my mistakes.

I’ve gone through it, I’ve been literally penniless in recovery, unemployed through no fault of my own, been to funerals of friends, and spent of all of it single. Spare me the Tinder whore comments. 😊 Through all of it, I’ve remained firmly grounded, I am entrenched in sobriety, I am recovered and I am not giving any ground.

My worth is inside and I am most thankful for that gift. I am comfortable alone, and a few nights of lust withstanding, I didn’t want to get an apartment and obsess over any of those ladies like I used to prior to recovery. That idea blossomed into co-dependency but today I get it-  I never needed someone to make me whole, what I needed was conscious contact with God. If you’ve read Shoestring Theories you know it starts out with this line:

“Please God, let me die. I just can’t fuckin’ do this anymore. I’m sorry.

God, who never turned his back on me, who never tired of sending guardian angel after guardian angel to save my life, did allow a chunk of me to die. That part that whispers in my ear on how to get grimy, to get the next one, no matter what. You did not want to be my friend back then. Apparently I have a genius IQ, ironic given all incredibly stupid chances and choices I took on a daily basis, but intelligence turned selfish produces tragic results.

I guess the point is this, for me, nothing in the outside world is going to give me pure joy. Any happiness from a material possession is fleeting at best. I think of how this all began- be a pharmacist Mike, so you can make money, drive fast cars, get the girls, who cares why they like you, just shower them with gifts, get money, get stuff, get happiness, buy love.

I have a friend I lived with down in Maryland, that kind of friend that you go years without speaking to, that helped me out and I never repaid her, but once we talk, we’re all caught up and that bond I thought we reestablished, I realize it never broke. I have these incredible people in my life, old friends that always loved me, that kept me in their prayers, but again, I turned my back on God, not the other way around.

My drug addiction began chasing the American Dream, because I had no idea what happiness was. Today I have the answer. I got my self-worth and self-esteem back, something taken from me at such a young age, and that gave me the chance to find pure joy- it’s all in Step 12 – the message of altruism. Give to give, because someone did that for me. Give because it is right, not because you’ll get something in return. Help someone, with no ulterior motives, and life has a way of taking care of itself.

Peace and love

Good and Evil Vs. Right and Wrong – Cage Match – Free PPV


Love is a crazy thing, it’s a word I reserve for myself, for God, for family and dear friends. Only lately, after 15+ months clean and 99% serene, have I been thinking about that relationship  type love. It’s not tied to any one person. (Lie) Maybe it’s chained to two. One I know as well as myself. The other was a beautiful stranger a month or so ago, who I’ve gotten to know because of a little randomness in time led to an exchange in numbers. Since then she has been living a situation I went through years ago, where my world caved in around me, where I felt so alone.

When I got clean, and learned to strive to be selfless, that that was the key to a peaceful life, that helping others provides pure happiness, I began to pay a lot of attention to those who were living situations that tore my sanity into pieces, that pushed me into such a dark place, I couldn’t even see a glimmer of light in my imagination. I’m not letting that happen to a friend, he or she will know I’ve got their back in whatever way possible.

Naturally I do my best to help addicts, to get them through the steps, which for me birthed this change in me, that full-scale shift in perspective that altruism produces. The wholly selfish asshole was murdered when I tried to kill myself, and begged God to not intervene. Shift in perspective- God always listens, he’s always there. He answers with Mick Jagger wisdom- I got what I needed. I was lucky enough to be given incredible amounts of hurt, so that I can appreciate and feel joy to the extent of my pain.

There’s a lot of times things just don’t work out, regardless of mutual feelings. I get that, I am sadly beginning to understand this lesson. When I started this blog, there was no homework assignment, now it’s setting in, the years are not always kind, the roads we are on intersect at finite times, and who we walk along that path with isn’t always the one you dream about. Now I’m feeling a certain kind of sadness.

I am realizing this has little to do with the title, and maybe that’s more than alright. Good people can appear evil when assumptions are made, good people can make a ton of wrong decisions. More than anything, I can see myself in people, the miserable empty shells, that are so fun to be around, laughing and joking while everything inside is so wrong. Funny thing is this one isn’t an addict, but she’s mirroring my past so much it’s kind of scary. I know she feels nothing will go right, that the sky is falling around her and no one cares. Someone most certainly does.

I have no idea where this is going, and maybe that is the point- Spotify just played a Bustelo commercial- and if you follow this, you know Bustelo and I have this tangled affair going on, but that’s another clue where irony is the mystery that won’t be solved. I used to pack a ziploc of Bustelo in my bag, and add it to my Dunkin coffee. I stopped doing that, in fact, I’m out of Bustelo currently, but there are certain things I always have with me, I carry a Big Book, a composition book, and a journal. I carry the journal because it has a variety of words in its pages. Among them are words written in blood, a terrible habit when I was using.

Then there is that paragraph, that ideal girl description. I haven’t read that in a while, life has been so hectic, and well, that journal and I have this connection, Hear me out, I open it and there’s notes from a Buddhist monk, forgotten moments from Thailand that I read at the perfect time. It got me to make a leap of faith, and find something I lost many lives ago, my old soul wasn’t whole, and the lesson- a soulmate isn’t necessarily a forever thing, in the physical sense, it gives you back what was thrown away. I have that, and when my room is quiet, I find my mind thinking about her. Tangent drift…sorry, that ideal girl thing-

“Battle-tested, treasuring the losses for the wisdom gained rather than the spoils of war.”

I’ve met people who like that line, know that line but don’t live it. She understands. The best thing about life is I’m not afraid to see where this road takes me.

Peace and Love,


PS- This poem, I just found, in that journal – 4/25/15

Shell Game

I’m pretty sure I knew what I was asking for
Fairly certain we were a shared exit
Now journeying to different destinations
Not even heading the same direction
Makes the separation inevitable
Adjust the rearview
I glance, she stares
Cosmic collision and I know my role
Overnight distraction when more was imagined
Hold my hand, maybe no envelopes should be pushed
No matter the stationary inside
Is it the words written, the phrases spoken
Or the flipped coin actions that caused the disconnect?
Who let go first?
Doesn’t matter, I wasn’t holding on either
Think what you must to sleep uneasy
My peace was the attraction
Especially in the context of my wreckage
Of self
Of soul
Wounds scar
Forever remember that moment
Where undesired freedom
Gifted a stranger on the same road as me
Where I grabbed an outstretched hand
And felt her grip tight
Maybe I’m not letting this one go…



It’s like a bolt of lightning, that moment when that shot of Narcan hits your opiate receptors. The last thing I remembered differs from death to death. One time it was a tearful push of the plunger listening to a Moby song, which if I hear it, I get chills. Another time it was just to relax, part of mymorning ritual to get ready to deal with another day. Back then 24 hours felt like 124, I craved my  days would end peacefully, quickly, and ironically, with ultimate finality. I had no idea what those words even meant in retrospect.

The element of chance when I died, that too, is something else…unexplainable, bizarre, I’m not going to this time. And man I can’t spell that, looks like a lost species of dinosaur not a cornucopia of synonyms. Yes, I spell checked the horn shaped basket filled with various shaped and sized gourds.

I deflect with humor. Every single time, because what I was about to write, type, whatever, is hard to digest, like 3-day old Wendy’s chili. Stop it Mike, fuck! See, I just got off the phone with a stranger who was told about my book. Somewhere in the 40-minute conversation, she mentioned Psalm 91, the psalm of protection. Read it here. It made me cry. For a minute I didn’t even hear her speaking. What I remembered is that feeling of dying. I saw no white light. I was completely in a void, blackness everywhere until that blast of naltrexone. It’s almost like- death was put on hold.

For he will command his angels concerning you
to guard you in all your ways;
they will lift you up in their hands,
so that you will not strike your foot against a stone.

That’s my namesake above, a statue of the Archangel Michael in Kiev, Ukraine. I just wrote something about being indestructable a few blogs ago, or maybe in a poem, so those types of things are not coincidence. I told her I pray for one thing daily, awareness, to not get wrapped up in my world but see the sights around me. Take in sunbeams splitting clouds, smell the ocean, and give a cigarette,buy him or her some food and give some encouragement to a homeless human being. Sometimes all I give is opening a door and a smile. Back to Michael, who crosses the boundaries of dogma, judaism, christianity and believe it or not, Islam, where he “provides nourishments for bodies and souls. Mikail is often depicted as the archangel of mercy who is responsible for the rewards doled out to good persons in this life.”

I get death isn’t a popular topic, but I had this incredible experience today, where knowledge became understanding- I am alive. Of course I am unless this is just the Matrix, and everyone reading this swallowed the red pill. I should be dead, 4 times over, clinically, and so many more times on bathroom floors and in toilet stalls all over western Pennsylvania, Maryland and Florida. I was hit with an understanding , just like the jolt from those life saving shots, and I get it, the depth of my gratitude for being here filled up the abyss I stared into for so long.

It’s all in Shoestring Theories (ORDER HERE) but as an example. I spent the night at my parents house because I had to go to a job site closer to their house than my apartment. An apartment I shared with nobody. I remember the spoon, close to my TV, emptying the bag, standing up and falling backwards onto my bead. I barely pulled the needle out. That’s how fast it happens.

In the years I lived at my parents’ house, my father never opened my bedroom door. Ever. He did that morning. To see his son, lips already blue, fading away. He watched me die. He held me.What must that have felt like?

We hurt others in addiction. Far more than ourselves. The state of constant fear, when is the time going to come when Michael is alone, in his apartment, and there’s no one to save him? When’s the phone call coming that says he is gone for good?

While I am thrilled I have alleviated a major source of pain and fear from their lives, I know none of this is by my hand. I think we all have a journey to make, on the way to our final destination. We’re all headed to the grave, so yes, enjoy the trip, but there is order in the chaos, and sometimes we get help from something up there. Someone up there.  Thank you all.

The detours in life are now cherished. Sometimes they are bright flashing signs, sometimes just part of what we consider everyday life. I chose to switch jobs a while back, and I’ve made some great friends there. We are social creatures, our words and especially our actions affect others. One of the greatest compliments I got was  a girl telling me:”There is no way you were that guy in the book.”

I most certainly was. And can be again if I don’t continue to chill with God, as I understand him, a needle will be back in my arm. God’s got my back, unless I turn mine on him. As grimy as I was, I am gunning for the same degree of altruism in my life. The degrees of hate and pain directed at myself and the world, I balance with love today, or at least I try.

I am grateful for one more day. One more chance to make a small difference in someone’s life. So thanks again Big Guy.

Deep-seeded Peace

God Gets It Done Whether We Understand It or Not


Old time scoliosis treatment in case you’re wondering. What does this have to do with the title, I’m not sure. I’m thinking the guy is like Dr. Nick from the Simpsons. Or a pervert. So I pray in a weird way, no Hail Mary’s that’s for sure. There’s a book my sponsor wants me to read, called Conversations With God by Neale Donald Walsch which I have not, but you can order by clicking on the title. Yes. Amazon affiliate shamelessness.

Anyway, I talk to God, and today I just didn’t even want to move, I actually hit my snooze button rather than wake up 7 minutes before like normal. I merely said, “God, get it done for me today.” Which was immediately followed by, that’s a good blog title, get that in the memos on your phone Mike before you forget it. I am convinced I have lost a million ideas by not doing that, so, mid-prayer, I grab my phone, politely I may add, as I asked God to excuse me for a second.

So I get up, it’s now 8:30, I’m late. That phrase though, now that it was entered into my phone, trailed my thoughts all day long. The ‘whether we understand it or not’ was an addendum, one I did not write down, or put in my phone.

Why do bad things happen to good people? I have never asked that question, I always got it. My name means God-like, the archangel Michael, the one that fucked up Satan. When I was using, I took those things to heart, Flatlining one hour, shooting dope within the next four. and always the bags that killed me because I was indestructible. I was far from that though. I was falling apart, a bag at a time.By the time speedballs entered the picture, I was clinging to the last bit of my soul. It no doubt wanted out of my body, but thank God, it never left me. Bad things happened to me, because I earned them, free will is a terrible thing once addiction takes over.

Still, the indestructible one had been taken apart piece by piece, like a boxer who pounds the body, he chops a man down over the rounds. Yes, I watched a Rocky marathon this weekend. The complete series is available by clicking on the Rocky.

Welcome to my brain, this is how prayers go for me today too, but I always come back to one simple line, I say it every day – “God, keep me aware so I don’t miss the opportunity to help another human being.” No matter whatever other bullshit I talk about, I never forget that. I never forget to thank God for another day. It’s all borrowed time, and I took HUGE withdrawals from that bank. Someone asked me about the pocket watch and skull and crossbones on my book cover (YES, one last shameless promotion, Buy Shoestring Theories HERE). That’s what it means, borrowed time.

I did my steps. For me, they saved my life. I did them the way the founders did them, quick. After all, I love vintage things. I work 10, 11, and 12 daily, and 9 wherever possible of course. Something beautiful happened along the way- the ability to see past “good” and “bad.” Now I see things for what they are, events that produce an emotion that I get to feel. I am out of the mountain building business. I know God gets it done for me, because our wills are aligned. God, don’t let me miss that moment to help. 

If you know me you know I am at peace. I have been through so many tough situations, and people want to actually see me stressed. They tell me it’s good to see I’m human. Sometimes things unfold in such a way I get it right away, but most of the times, the things that happen make sense in hindsight. I just KNOW things are exactly the way they need to be, right here, right now. Again for me, a little chunk of God is inside us all, we’re connected, and the ones we are supposed to meet, we will collide at some point. What you do with it from there is again, your decision.

Trust your gut. Always. That’s our piece. That’s my peace.

Peace and love,

What Needs Left Unsaid


But I will contradict that right now. and spell it out to the sick and suffering. I get it, you are in a place where hope only exists a few frames in a dream you’ll never remember. Your eyes open and the race is on to swindle money by any means necessary, because that sickness is creeping up your spine. A simple sneeze induces a panic attack. You know the life you’re living is killing you painfully slow. You can give up you know.

I heard that talk a lot, friends and family desparate to see me put down the needle. I know they were worried sick as I self-destructed. Enduring mental torture, waiting for that most random of calls, the one the cements my status- “We’re sorry to tell you your ________ died tonight.” Shocked and confused people offer up the almost cliche response, “at least _________ is at peace now.”

I thank God that call never came. That tonight, my parents rest well, unafraid. I am the person everyone expected to die.the most hopeless of addicts. I got close, dangerously close, too many times. My last breaths before the Narcan hit must have held an unspoken prayer-  “Not yet God.”

Did you hear Philip Seymour Hoffman died last year? Another casualty via a speedball. If you have morbid curiosity, here’s a list of famous dead drug addicts. Want a more detailed one? Here you go. Yet more Americans die from overdoses than are killed in auto accidents. You don’t know their names, unless they hit you personally. Every 12-step program has the 12th tradition regarding anonimity. I’m in CA, but I can’t say anyone else there is.

I got to go home a few weeks ago, to Washington PA. The small, mostly rural county experienced 25 overdoses in 2 days…3 people died. To say this is sobering news is a terrible pun. Read the frightening article about it from the Washington Post- national news WashPA. Just not what you want.

Heroin starts life as a poppy. Pods are slit and opium seeps out. Opium has morphine in it, and that is taken out. From there it’s simple to make heroin, a chemical 4-5 times as strong as morphine. The supply of heroin is dependent on the poppy harvests from places like Afghanistan, Burma and now Mexico and Columbia. What if you could make a drug 100 times as powerful as morphine, and start with 2 easily aquired chemicals? Because you’re a greedy drug lord, you hire a chemist and he makes a kilo of fentanyl, which is actually the equivalent of 25 kilos of heroin. Wow.

In my first attempt at a memoir, Long Sleeved Summers, I laughed at the idea when people told me good bags were being cut with fentanyl. I write in there something like, if that happened, there would be tons of dead junkies. Cue Alanis Morrisette.

Just because it isn’t front page news, the person isn’t famous, or what ever, no one seems to give a shit that people are dying everywhere.I see words like “epidemic” followed by generic numbers, maybe a picture of a sobbing family member asking why. The answer is we’re stuck in that sickness, we are animals, dope is our sole nourishment and we cannot starve to death. We won’t. Until something suspends it, interupts it or ends it once and for all.

Makes the countries that give out pharmaceutical heroin look brilliant. Say what you want, but they aren’t dying. Maybe the sadder point is no one gives a fuck. Unless it stings personally, to someone “important,” life in the junkie world goes on. Fentanyl is not to be fucked around with, shooting blues and D’s is like O’douls vs moon shine. Take care of each other out there, because there are plenty of people who do give a fuck.

So to all the non-famous people dying out there, you’re remembered. People love you. You probably see that now, there isn’t anymore hurt you can cause, it’s a morbid peace that is instilled by your passing. I know a couple people are up there watching me type all this out, trying to keep my emotions in check, but when someone is close to your heart, that bond is never broken.

To the people who’ve lost loved ones, leave a comment, so we can get to know them. No one dies in vain, but they should never be just a digit in a statistic. My lost addicts, up there in the ether, I remember you daily. So I will go first:

A song on the radio, right Aftab, Dylan’s “Like a Rolling Stone” always hits my ears at the right time. It’s fantasy football season and I just don’t care. You won it all that year I think. Truth is I never checked after you switched roles. You’ll always be my brother.


Get Well Soon


Hopeless, self-destructive, desperate behavior repeated daily for years, decades, well, the prognosis is always going to appear beyond poor – he/she will fail . I’ve heard it, I’ve whispered that back to the angel who dangled from my shoulder, rope fraying while the devil made the trip over with a knife to hasten the fall.

No doubt he fell, but it’s exactly why angels have wings. There are inevitable collapses, breaches of trust that split into continental divides. Words can’t become tectonic, but a little work can move some rocks from here to there. People can change; I know this, because I am different. Various kudos I have gotten from therapists, counselors, and souls temporarily in contact with mine at the time:

You’ll be dead by 30.
You’ll never stop using if you don’t quit now.
You’re a lost cause Michael.
You’ve wasted so much talent, so much ability for heroin.
You love drugs more than me. You threw it all away.
Michael, you’re dead to me, and you will be soon enough to the world.

Yet, here I am. Flying home in 3 days. To see family and friends. To give back, attempt to make things right. I am vigilant in my gratitude, it keeps me grounded, it reminds me to be selfless.

So never give up hope if you love one of us. If you are me, I can’t stop the descent. I can tell you though there’s no reason to keep digging any deeper. I pray you understand. Fix yourself by climbing out of that hole, and I promise you there will be a lot of people who will help get you back on your feet. It just has to be that way.

Peace, love and enlightenment to all,

Buy a copy of Shoestring Theories by clicking HERE