MAYS LANDING — Twenty-five Atlantic County Drug Court participants finished the eight-week Minor Adjustments course Tuesday, run by former addict and ex-prison inmate Michael “Mickey” Williams Jr., of Bridgeton.
The course’s mantra is “Anywhere but Backwards,” and participants repeated it throughout the ceremony. Some say it aloud multiple times every day to keep them focused on staying drug- and crime-free, they said.
“To obtain our freedom is easy, to maintain it is the challenge,” the group recited in a call-and-response manner with Williams, 45.
The mission of the nonprofit Minor Adjustments Group is “to teach men and women how to make the necessary adjustments in life, which will allow them to obtain and maintain a productive lifestyle after incarceration and/or rehabilitation.”
The course was part of their several-year commitment to regular attendance at drug court and its programs. Drug court includes support groups, random drug testing and visits from court representatives at home and in the community.
Most people are in the drug court program five years, said Atlantic County Drug Court Coordinator Celeste Goodson.
Williams provided the course free of charge for this group, but there are 315 people currently in the drug court program in Atlantic County. He’d like to offer it to all of them, and is seeking grants and other funding to make that possible, he said.
Williams, who now works with Glory Tabernacle Church in Bridgeton, said he spent his years from ages 16 to 38 addicted to drugs, selling drugs, in prison or halfway houses and rehabilitation centers.
“Repeated failure after failure after failure” is on his list of qualifications to help others break out of the addiction and incarceration pattern, he said in the 2013 “Minor Adjustments Workbook,” which he wrote with wife Lernell Williams. It outlines his program of mental discipline and religious teaching.
His first book was “Pushed Out the Crack House into God’s House,” published in 2012, which described his waking up to God and to his own value as someone who could help others.
“Mr. Mike, I got a lot from your program, and that’s coming from a hard-headed individual,” said Douglas Adkins, of Atlantic City, in the final class. He’s the father of a 3-week-old baby boy.
“After your years in prison, you are a very successful man. Some are gonna get it and some ain’t, but your efforts and passion I appreciate from the bottom of my heart,” Adkins said.
Nigel Garland, of Atlantic City, said Williams’ insistence that they take themselves out of the (criminal justice) system, rather than blame the system for their problems, really hit home for him.
“You are not coming in here to do this for money,” Garland said. “You have lived everything you are talking about.”
Leslie Bailey, 50, of Mays Landing, said she has been in jail and prison multiple times.
“Many times I’ve been released,” she said. But now she said she sees a way to stay free.
Sherwood Armstead, 25, of Atlantic City, had never been to prison but was facing the possibility after a drug-selling conviction. He said his addiction to marijuana led him to sell drugs.
Instead he took the offer of attending drug court, and is two years into a five-year program. On Nov. 14, he’ll be two years clean with no drug use.
“I work for a telemarketing company Monday to Friday, and on Saturday I do a construction job,” he said. “I have a fiancee and four kids. I don’t think I’d be able to do the stuff I’m doing without drug court.”
He said the Minor Adjustments course will help in all aspects of his life.