Emotionally, financially and mentally, Mike Keltz said he was broken.
Alcohol had consumed his life. His wife filed for divorce, and he couldn’t be around his two children.
He later was arrested for possession of methamphetamine, marijuana and paraphernalia. He decided to move to another state for a while just to try to clear his mind.
Once he returned to Seymour for a court date, he was down to 160 pounds, found himself living in a hotel, didn’t have a vehicle and wound up exhausting all of his money.
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“I was sick. I could barely get out of bed. If I was getting out of bed, it was to go get another drink,” he said. “I was totally broken, totally hopeless. There were some really dark days.”
Someone suggested he contact Todd’s Place, a transitional housing facility in Seymour that helps men recover from drug and alcohol addictions.
Keltz called to ask about the program’s requirements, which include a desire to stop using drugs and alcohol and a desire to have a relationship with God.
He said he spent a half-hour going around his hotel room scraping together enough change to take a bus to Todd’s Place, only to find out it wasn’t far at all from his hotel.
Once he arrived at the facility, he said he was full of tears crying. Director of operations Kristopher Hunley greeted him and said, “Welcome home.”
That was a life-changing moment.
“I’ll forever be grateful for that because without this, honestly, I hate to think where I would have been,” said Keltz, who recently turned 40.
“This was my last shot. This was my make-or-break situation,” he said. “If this doesn’t work, I don’t know how I’m going to do it because the desperation, being hungry, I was this close to being on the streets.”
He said he knew something had to change and something had to give, and he just needed some rest.
“When I came in here that day, it just felt like a weight had been lifted off of my shoulders. I felt like I could breathe,” he said. “There was a sense of security that I didn’t have to worry about where I was going to sleep, what I was going to eat, what I was going to do.”
At that time, Todd’s Place had only been open a few weeks, and Keltz was among nearly a dozen men going through the recovery process.
After six months of attending meetings and church services and landing a job, Keltz graduated from the program in January.
Since then, he has remained clean and sober, received a promotion at his workplace and gotten up to 205 pounds. He’s still living at Todd’s Place, where he helps with Celebrate Recovery and Alcoholics Anonymous classes and church services.
He recently went to court and earned the right to see his daughter for the first time in about 18 months. And this month, he hopes to get his felony dropped to a misdemeanor so he can apply for a place to live.
“I finally have come to this place where I’m content. I do have goals that are within reach,” he said. “I pray about everything now, and God will open those doors when he’s ready for me and as he sees fit. I’m comfortable, and I have it good here, and I enjoy what I do. I have some purpose now.”
Todd’s Place celebrated its one-year anniversary May 23. Of its 25 graduates, 22 have remained clean or sober.
Hunley said he’s proud of Keltz for turning his life around and feeling called to help other men going through the program.
“He has been the perfect Todd’s Place example,” Hunley said. “He’s the leader at his work, he has done everything for probation that he needed to do, he has done everything in the program, made every meeting.”
‘Sense of purpose’
Hunley said nearly half of the men who have graduated are still around Todd’s Place helping in whatever way they can.“He feels a sense of purpose,” Hunley said of Keltz. “It made him feel a part of something, and God is really using him, and he’s really wanting to start preaching. He’s the perfect role model for what we stand for and what we want to encourage guys here to be. He has really been an example and leader to the new guys coming into the program, too.”
Growing up in south Florida, Keltz said there was some abuse in his household in his early childhood. He said he feels that later led to his abuse of alcohol, which started in his 20s.
“I had suppressed so many things, and it wasn’t until I actually became clean and had the freedom and had the breakthrough that I started really dealing with the emotions,” he said. “I think that’s one thing about addiction, you run from everything or you use to cover up the feelings and things of that nature. I was guilty of that, especially with the loss of my family. That’s the hardest thing to date in life I’ve ever dealt with.”
Keltz and his wife separated in August 2015.
“I was that stubborn guy,” he said of that time in his life. “I was mad at God. I had turned my back on God. I didn’t understand why. I blamed God for the problems and asked him why he would let something like this happen. It was a confusing time. I felt helpless because having pride in myself on being a husband and a father, and then that being gone, it felt like the purpose was kind of gone.”
Back on track
After starting at Todd’s Place, Keltz and the other men helped each other get their lives back on track.“It was humbling to sit around 12 guys who were actually broken and depended on each other to feel better,” he said. “We had a lot of guys leaning on each other and kind of carrying each other. I was ready to do whatever it took. I tell everybody this is a grown man’s program. When you come in here, you have to have the willingness or the desire (to change). … For me, it did exactly what I needed it to do.”
In finding a job, Keltz had been a chef for almost 25 years while living in Florida, cooking gourmet food at country clubs for a majority of his career, so he thought that line of work would suit him best.
He found out about the nearby Travel Centers of America needing help in the kitchen, so he applied and was hired.
Keltz said it took about a month for him to tell his manager he lived at Todd’s Place because he didn’t want to be judged or have it used against him.
Fortunately, his manager didn’t have a problem with it.
“I have a great relationship with my boss,” Keltz said. “He’s unbelievable. I’m so grateful and so thankful for him because I am allowed to be myself, and I’m allowed to be open, and I don’t have to apologize for anything in my past. I don’t have to apologize for the stigma of living in a transitional facility.”
Keltz has worked himself up to kitchen specialist, and he has helped other men at Todd’s Place get jobs at the travel center.
He said the center also is no longer an underachieving store.
“We have eight stores in our district, and we’re No. 1 right now,” Keltz said. “We’re just excelling at everything we’re doing. We’re the only one in the green, so we have a lot to be proud of. I let these guys know that all of the time, ‘It’s because of what you do that we’re able to as a team have these results.’”
Once his probation ends this month and if he gets his felony dropped, Keltz will start in the management program.
“God just literally took off in my life like nothing I’ve ever seen. I’m almost blown away at how quickly things took off,” he said. “I’ve always worked, and I’ve always maintained a job, but I’ve lost a lot, too, due to the alcoholism and things like that. I’ve always had the drive, the willingness, so once that started coming back for me, the rest is history.”
Sharing his story
Earlier this year, Keltz had the opportunity to share his story at a church in front of 200 people. That’s led him to stay around Todd’s Place.“It was then that I thought, ‘Wow! Maybe this is what God has for me,’” he said. “So many doors have been opened already, so I don’t want to cap on what God can do. I want to be open and obedient and just continue to be led where he leads me. If I’m still here 20 years later, amen. I’m OK with that.”
He said it’s all about relating to the men, understanding their situation and leading them to God.
“I just try to be a solution to these guys when they are coming in, a solution to Kris when he needs a hand or he needs something,” he said. “I don’t feel like I owe it to anybody but myself, but in return, it has just gotten me to where I’m at, and I don’t question it anymore. It has been, I guess you could say, a breakthrough in my life.”
Keltz said he will forever be connected to Todd’s Place.
“I’ve made some friendships and some relationships that will last the rest of my life,” he said. “This is where it started for me. I’ll forever be grateful for what they have done for me. I’m blessed to be able to be a part of something that just continues to grow.”