Michael DeLeon’s life changed dramatically at the age of 24, right after he tried cocaine for the first time.
The former vice president of sales and marketing at a multi-million dollar packaging company, DeLeon had quite a life. But he also put in a lot of hours and became worn down as a result.
When a co-worker suggested cocaine as an alternative to already-dangerous caffeine pills, DeLeon obliged.
“He put that cocaine on my desk, I snorted it and I had a big problem,” said DeLeon to students at Caseville Schools on Tuesday afternoon.
DeLeon visited the school as part of the Huron County Sheriff’s Office’s continued fight against drug abuse in the area. In hopes of bringing the problem to light with the area’s youth, the sheriff’s office decided to bring in nationally renowned speaker and drug abuse survivor DeLeon, founder of Steered Straight Inc.
DeLeon told students following that day, his life spiraled completely out of control.
After he lost his job, he blew through $200,000 in 60 days, began stealing and robbing for money, found his way into a gang, lost his wife and moved in with his mother. After a drug deal gone bad, that resulted in his mother’s murder, DeLeon found himself in prison.
“I get to live with that for the rest of my life,” DeLeon said. “I’m her son and I’m entirely responsible for her death. I didn’t kill her, but I’m responsible.”
During his presentation, DeLeon talked to kids about choices and how the wrong ones can lead to disaster. He urged them to have open conversations with the important people in their lives, such as parents, teachers, counselors and clergy.
“I’m trying to educate people on making good choices,” DeLeon said.
In all, DeLeon spent 12 years in prison for all of his poor choices. He also put his family’s lives at risk and nearly died himself a few times.
“I am so fortunate and so blessed, but I don’t deserve it and I almost didn’t see it,” he said of his life.
Once he got things together, DeLeon said he was on a mission to fight against the country’s drug problem. As a speaker, filmmaker and author on the subject, DeLeon traveled to 47 states and was on the road for 307 days last year. He also attended the funerals of 162 people that died at the hands of drugs in the past four years.
“I wish I never had to tell this story, but I do because I don’t want my life to become your life,” he said.
With concerns over the continued drug abuse in our county, Huron County Sheriff Kelly J. Hanson said his office used drug forfeiture funds to bring DeLeon’s program to Caseville.
“Personally, and I believe most will agree, we stand our best chances in getting through to someone at a school age,” Hanson said. “I can honestly say that we as law enforcement, educators, substance abuse counselors, mental health workers, health officials, court officials and the many others who are dealing with the increased abuse and death due to substance abuse, have stepped up our efforts in order to try to change something that continues to get worse.”
Hanson said last year, five people from the county died as the result of drug abuse.
For more information on DeLeon’s mission with Steered Straight, visit www.steeredstraight.org.
By: Seth Stapleton