PORTLAND, Ore. — “I have all these job duties and descriptions, but I am here to create smiles, to enhance this experience,” said Mike Hovey, patient care supervisor at Fora Health. “I’m here to be an example of what is possible.”
Every day when Mike Hovey comes to work at Fora Health, he enters the Southeast Portland addiction treatment center with purpose.
“I emulate the spirit of recovery while I walk through these halls,” he said.
Hovey uses his own life struggles and successes through addiction to help others.
“I think it really is a recovery triathlon that people come in here. It’s mental, physical, and emotional. It’s a battle,” he said.
Hovey is being awarded the Peer Specialist of the Year by the National Council of Wellbeing conference in Los Angeles, California for his life-changing work at Fora Health Treatment Center.
Hovey oversees the peer team and case managers. He connects to his clients through his own experiences; his own pain and the adversities he’s overcome.
“Every success story is a miracle in recovery. It truly is and I know I am a walking, evidence-based miracle,” he said. “And I get to be part of and experience miracles every day.”
It’s a job and life that Hovey said he didn’t know he could have after a lifetime of drugs and crime.
“I started young. I was a ward of the court. From 15 to 21 I was more incarcerated than on the streets,” he said.
In those formative years, he adopted a distorted view of the world and didn’t see any other way of living.
“By 21 I was a two-time felon. I was an intravenous drug user. I was a meth cook. I was a father. I was a husband, and I was an addict, and I was lost,” he said.
At the age of 30, he hit rock bottom. He was back in trouble with the law and says he lost his family. That’s when he saw his world crumbling and started to make a change. It would take another five years of self-work to reach sobriety.
“It really led me to this point,” he said. “If I didn’t light those fires in hell, I wouldn’t be able to touch the lives that I touch today. Like, I needed that darkness and the contrast to truly have the ability to really captivate hearts and give them hope.”
Hovey said there’s one thing in particular that helped him then and continues to help him now.
“And I would have never guessed it in my world: Meditation,” Hovey said. “Meditation was the thing that lifted this veil from my eyes to see the world. It truly was the one thing that helped me cultivate self-discipline, self-respect, and self-love. That’s what I try to do for our folks here... all it takes is a minor shift in perception. And you can live new in this world.”
He brings that lived experience with him to work every day to show others a path forward.
“They say to take it one day at a time, but I know I can mess up a lot of things in a day," he said. "So, I tell people, one decision at a time. One decision at a time and try to make that best decision at that moment and keep moving forward and showing up for your recovery.”
Hovey said he sees the grip the fentanyl crisis has on the community. Oregon is the second-worst state in the U.S. for addiction, according to a survey from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Service Administration. The state fell to 50th in access to treatment with 18% of Oregonians needing treatment and not receiving it.
“We definitely have a crisis in our community. Portland is on the map. We’re bad here for our addiction problems and I truly believe we have a plague on our streets,” he said.
That’s why, now more than ever, advocacy and access to treatment and recovery services are needed, he said.
“We really don’t have access to services. That is so needed. It’s not just housing. It’s wrap around-services,” Hovey said.
He’s doing his part every day by showing up to work and sharing the joy he found through recovery
“To be able to, not just exist in this life, but to live. I’m finally alive,” he said.