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Called to Serve

I was born 47 years ago in Syracuse New York. I grew up very active in school, sports and other activities. A good student, I loved learning gaining knowledge from books and experientially from my travels. As I grew older I developed strong beliefs and opinions. A good debater, my goal in life was to attend Notre Dame University and become an attorney.

I derailed my pursuits by using alcohol and other drugs and become addicted. My active addiction lasted approximately 18 years destroying many of my dreams and possibilities. At age 22 I achieved sobriety and for the past 24 years, maintained long-term recovery. The first half of my life centered on my active addiction, the second half centers on helping others heal and recover from theirs.

Upon graduation from high school I followed in my father’s footsteps. My father, a high-ranking career military officer attended the United States Military Academy and dedicated himself in service to his country in the US Army. I too accepted my call to service and attended the Military Academy only to discover that my call to service was not to military service.

I searched to find my call by working in various fields. I worked with children and youth, sold light bulbs, worked with health care professionals, taught tennis, worked with individuals involved in the criminal justice system, with the brain injury and recovery communities and as a physical therapy aide. In 2005 I founded a non-profit organization, SpiritWorks Foundation, whose mission is to help individuals achieve long-term recovery from addiction. I now work as Executive Director of SpiritWorks and provide recovery support coaching for people whose lives are affected by addiction.

Recently I heard the statement, “what we need is a God idea, not a good idea.” That statement allowed me to crystallize my call. With the “God idea” etched in my heart I accepted the call to serve women with substance use disorders focusing on the collateral damage to others, especially the youngest members of our society, the children. I dedicated my life to making a positive difference in the lives of children by empowering the women who care for them to find their voice and speak their truth.

I encountered World Pulse on the recommendation of a former coaching client I read stories of women changing the world and when I read about the Voices of Our Future 2011 decided it was time for me to get involved. With something bold to say, and the capacity and passion to do so clearly, I too set out to change the world. Addiction, a global health crisis affects women and children, cutting across cultures, countries, races, economic levels, ages, and genders. Serving as companion to women who are affected by addiction is a passion and privilege. It is my ultimate call, my “God idea” and now my personal vision.


YAOtieno's picture


Hi Jan,

Glad you found your God idea. Just surprised by your story, You were addicted for 18 years and got clear of your addiction at 22years, does that mean you were exposed to alcohol and drugs as early as 4 years old?

A candle looses nothing my lighting another

Jan Michelle's picture

Right On

Good morning,

I appreciate your comments, I too am glad that I found my God idea and that I have a call to support other women. To answer your question about my exposure to drugs and alcohol, yes I was exposed to alcohol at the age of 4. I was introduced to drugs when I was 8 and in full blown addiction shortly thereafter. My story is a powerful testimony to the power of resilience, falling down 7 times and getting up 8. I am now on a mission to help other women and hope to do so in a bold way.

Thanks for writing to me.

Peace, Jan

peace, Jan

Hiba's picture

Hi Jan, Your story is one of

Hi Jan,

Your story is one of the best stories I have ever heard. Your sentence "The first half of my life centered on my active addiction, the second half centers on helping others heal and recover from theirs." sums it all up so eloquently.

I cannot but wish you all the very best of luck!


Mila's picture

Comments on Week 2

Hi Jan,

Thank you for sharing such a personal story with us. You are a great writers with such a captivating story that really does motivate others. It is always amazing to hear of someone using their troubles to help others. Like your first commenter, I was a bit confused by your ages of drug use, just so hard/sad to imagine someone addicted at such a young age. I am very proud of you for finding your calling and going with it. What made you chose World Pulse?
Please keep sharing your voice with the world.


Hannah B's picture

thank you!

Thank you for sharing your story and your experience with us! It seems that you have a lot of courage and persistence, and I am sure that you are inspiring other women to move forward in their lives from difficult pasts.
I wish you luck in all of your pursuits!

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