LUBBOCK, TX - Mike Gudel has come a long way.
Now 45, he often thinks about his past life of crime, drug abuse, and addiction.
"On the outside i could put a mask on, on the inside I was dying," he said. "It takes courage to step up and change the way you feel."
"I used at eight years old, and then I became an IV user at the age of 11, and then 14 is when I started using on a regular basis," Gudel said. "Then, I quit at 17 or 18, then I went to prison for 13 and half years, (and) got out in 2005."
His criminal history, most-notably a capital murder charge, stacked the odds against him of ever getting the help he needed.
"I was skinny, drawn up, soul-less, I was lost inside, you can look at my face and I was not in there," Gudel told EverythingLubbock.com about looking at photos from his past.
"A week before I got caught, I was wanting to quit and I was crying in a friend's arms," he said.
"I didn't want to admit that a chemical kicked my butt and put my on my knees," Gudel said. "It took my life, it took everything from me, it almost took my soul."
He credited his most recent arrest, in April 2015, with keeping him alive.
"(The officer) saved my life," he said. "Going to jail helped me, it made a way for me."
"Most people think being arrested is the worst thing in the world that could happen, and at that moment it is," Steve Henderson, director of the Lubbock County Adult Probation department said. "For a lot of these people it is the first step into getting into drug court and getting their lives back together."
Gudel's arresting officer, Officer Jason Nuss, said Gudel sets an example of how to handle difficult situations like this.
"It's bigger than me, it's bigger than this police department, it's bigger than Michael," Nuss said.
"99 times out of a hundred, when police arrive somewhere, that person is not happy to see us, and they're at rock bottom or fixing to be at rock bottom," Nuss said. "And for him to almost be proud that I placed him there makes me feel a little bit better about my day-to-day activities... I go into houses and see families being torn apart, mostly by drugs, alcohol, things like that. And for that one person to be proud that I placed him in that situation, to help fix him, it is, it's humbling."
"The grasp that drugs have on our society and how it's tearing up families, tearing up lives, and Michael could be one of those spokespersons of 'hey this drug is real tough, and it is tough to get clean off of it, and it's tough to get back to what is considered a normal life, but I've done it.' And so maybe a bunch of other people can jump on board with him," Nuss added.
Nuss attended Gudel's graduation from drug court in January.
"I did get to hug the individual, and shook his hand and I told him 'You saved my family, you saved my daughter from (not) having a daddy, you saved my wife from (not) having a husband, and you saved my life," Gudel said.
Judge Ruben Reyes presides over drug court.
"I heard because of where I was standing, the graduate say 'You saved my life. when you arrested me, I was about to commit suicide,'" Reyes said.
"I later got a call, how that impacted the officer. Because he's doing his job, they're having an impact on a person's life. It's not just them being prosecuted," Reyes said.
"Drug court took a chance on me," Gudel said. "It was a privilege to be in it."
Gudel has taken up gymnastics to stay healthy. While he does handiwork and plumbing for now, he said he wants to become an intervention counselor, in order to help others going through situations like his.
"Not only do I get to try to do an intervention with a person that can't see the disease, but the family wants to help them... The whole family needs healing," Gudel said.
Gudel has been sober for two years.
"Today I have life, I'm at peace with everything in my life," he said.
For more information about drug court, click here.
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