Michael Standiford is 46 years old and is currently enrolled at a university in Florida where he is pursuing his bachelor’s degree in Psychology. This is a far cry from where he was just two years ago back in 2018 – in the emergency room at UofL Health – UofL Hospital, having his life saved, again, from an overdose.
It all started with a turbulent childhood. His mom was only 16 years old when she gave birth to him. Their situation was so bad that a woman from Sellersburg adopted both of them so they were able to stay together. There was an incident where Standiford was left in a house for a weekend by himself. He recalls being too small to reach the lights and was in the dark. The police got involved.
His mom remarried and changed their living situation. Not long after, his baby sister was born, whom Standiford resented as she now received all the love and attention.
At the age of 13, Standiford experimented with drugs and alcohol as his way to cope with the many issues in his life. Once he discovered drugs, there was no moderate state – he took them every chance he could get.
“Drugs and alcohol became my higher power. They determined when I ate, when I slept, when I worked – if I worked.”
He spent 30 years living in active addiction.
Around 2017, he encountered meth, which quickly took him in a downward spiral. He immediately experienced meth-induced paranoid psychosis, which led him to many trips in and out of the emergency room at UofL Hospital.
“I thought I was being chased, I had visions of shadow people. I didn’t know if they were getting ready to kill me. I didn’t know what to do; so I would become suicidal or just become completely out of my mind. When this happened, I thought that if they got me I would have to hide the evidence. The only logical solution in my mind was to eat all my drugs. I would eat three or four ‘8 balls’ in one bite. More than one time it killed me. I remember leaning on the front counter in the ER telling them that I had taken a lot of drugs and that I was dying. I woke up days later on a ventilator.”
Standiford recalls his trips to the emergency room going from once a month to twice a week and even more frequently. He also recalls the compassionate care he received each time.
“They provided peace at a really dark time in my life. I didn’t have a lot of good going on in my life and they reminded me that there are good people in the world, people who care. When I didn’t care about myself, they cared about me. I had given up but they didn’t.”
Standiford recalls the impact of a simple act by a compassionate nurse.
“I remember one time I had vomit in my hair. I had thrown up and then fell into it. But the lady rubbed my head anyway and assured me everything was going to be ok. I was so high, but her care brought me down. It lowered my blood pressure and heart rate. It brought me back to a level where I could live again. I know that was not part of her job, but it saved my life. It was such a powerful experience. It helped me remember that there are good people out there.”
A turning point came in 2018 for Standiford. He was in an area of town he shouldn’t have been, doing things he shouldn’t have been doing. Two guys jumped out and robbed him, and as they turned to leave, they shot him in the stomach. UofL Hospital saved his life again, but not long after, Standiford overdosed yet again. His family moved him to Florida where his cousin recently had success in a recovery program.
“I thought this was just going to be my life. The person I was was a drug addict and an alcoholic. That’s the way it was going to end. I didn’t see any hope. The addiction was too big and I couldn’t see a way out. I don’t know what happened, but one day something did happen and I decided to make a different choice. I had a spiritual awakening. I decided the life I was living was not the life I was designed to live. I made some decisions. I enrolled in school, and now I am working on my bachelor’s in psychology, getting all As.”
With this degree, Standiford’s goal now is to help others like him and share about his personal experience. His message to those currently suffering from addiction:
“Never give up and don’t lose hope. Always hope! Every day you wake up, you get a chance to make a new decision. Admitting complete defeat is the only way to win the fight. Admit you need help. You need to be around like-minded individuals. Find a support group or people who are doing the things you want to do. There was a time I didn’t think it was possible to be sober for even one day. I hope that sharing my story with others will give them hope that it can be done. Take advantage of all that is offered out there. The actual use of drugs and alcohol is the smallest part. The inability to cope, the anxiety and depression – all those issues going on – that’s really the biggest part. We get so used to using drugs and alcohol to cope we don’t realize there are other methods out there. Medication can help, caring staff can help, programs and therapy that you can be referred to are all very effective tools. Nobody can stay clean and sober alone – you got to have help.”
Standiford also has a message for the doctors and staff at UofL Hospital.
“Don’t give up doing what you are doing. You may not see the cases where people turn their lives around, but it does happen and it has put me on a path to help others. Addicts get to a point where they lose everything, especially hope. When there’s no hope, there’s nothing else. But we do recover. It’s a choice to wake up and make a choice that you don’t have to live this way anymore, and for me it wouldn’t have been possible if UofL Hospital staff hadn’t been so loving and caring.”
Standiford has been sober for two years. It’s a night and day difference, and his family can’t believe it.
“My mom died in 2013 of cancer. A lot of what I do is for her. I didn’t get to change my life when she was alive but I know she’s watching and I know she’s proud.”