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Vietnam vet helps others deal with substance abuse

By Sheila Pursglove
Legal News

When Vietnam veteran Jerry Michalowicz was discharged from the Army, he stayed drunk for some three years, received two drunk driving citations and paid some fines and kept on drinking.

"There was no help for those of us who put themselves in very dangerous situations under the guise of protecting our country," he says.

So Michalowicz is very glad about the addition of a Veterans Treatment Track at the Jackson County Recovery Court, where he works as a volunteer from the community, with the support of his employer, adding his life experience with addictions and the treatment of mental disorders to an already diverse team responsible for making sound treatment recommendations.

"Our veterans deserve any and all of the help we can give after being traumatized from the atrocities of the things they have encountered," he says. "This is only a start, and I do have great empathy for our veterans."

The veterans program, that recently celebrated its first anniversary, is part of the Jackson County Recovery Court, presided over by Judge Susan Beebe. The court programs, providing drug treatment and rehabilitation services and lasting at least 12 months, are an alternative to incarceration.

Michalowicz is a case manager, client advocate, and recovery group co-facilitator at Recovery Technology, the largest mental health provider in the greater Jackson area. He works in the Assertive Community Treatment (ACT) program, an intensive and highly integrated approach serving those whose symptoms of mental illness result in serious functioning difficulties in major areas of life, often including work, social relationships, residential independence, money management, and physical health and wellness. The program's mission is to promote independence, rehabilitation and recovery, and prevent homelessness, unnecessary hospitalization and other negative outcomes.

He also works with the Integrated Dual Disorder Treatment (IDDT) program that integrates mental health and substance abuse interventions by the same team, in one setting, providing individualized treatment and rehabilitation for both disorders in a coordinated fashion.

Eight years ago, Michalowicz was asked by the Recovery Court team to consider joining as a representative from the twelve-step community, and he has continued as an active member.

"I stay involved because I believe that offering real substance use disorder treatment gives our people with addictions an opportunity to learn about their illness, get positive reinforcement, and learn how living their lives in the community without alcohol or other drugs beats the hell out of the ongoing cycle of relapse and jail terms which is much more costly to society and the participants themselves," he says. "Recovery Court success equals a lifeline to a new and different life.

"I feel as if I fit right in with the team, and as a recovering person and a certified drug and alcohol counselor, could be an educator for the team and an inspiration to the participants. I believe in 'paying it forward.' And I give thanks to Judge Charles Nelson and attorney Ron Fabian for getting this whole thing started in Jackson County, and for all of my team members, both past and present."

Michalowicz finds it very rewarding to watch a person make positive changes and better choices as they progress in the program.

"I'm filled with joy as they find good jobs, reunite with family, make new friends, reach out to help others, and find a new freedom and happiness in their lives," he says. "My most memorable and heartfelt cases have been the ones where mothers have successfully completed the program, remained clean and sober, have their children back, and are providing good, healthy homes for them."

A Detroit native, Michalowicz served in Vietnam the entire year of 1970. He went on to receive a degree in culinary art from Oakland Community College in 1980, and a bachelor's degree in family life education from Spring Arbor University in 2007.

In addition to a passion for live music and theatre, Michalowicz is a collector of many things, including mixed-media giraffe figurines, rocks and gemstones, and marbles and spheres; and has about 100 tropical houseplants, cacti, and succulents. "I also read five or six daily meditation books each day and am interested in spirituality from a variety of cultures."

Published: Thu, Jun 04, 2015

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