Mike Addison likes to call himself a “hope dealer.”
His gripping, personal story of how he overcame drug and alcohol abuse, mental illness, violence and death in his own family was his main topic as featured speaker during the Southern Kentucky Chamber of Commerce’s monthly membership luncheon Tuesday.
“People like me don’t come and get to speak to people like you,” Addison, who currently serves as lead pastor at New Hope Ministries Church of God and Vice President of the Appalachian Childrens’ Home in Barbourville, told the crowd of business and community leaders.
Born into crushing poverty — his mother a high school dropout who had two kids in her teens, and father an often laid-off coal miner — Addison said his family lived “so far back in the sticks our June Bugs didn’t come until August.”
The family’s poor fortunes shifted when his father was injured and could no longer work, and became addicted to prescription painkillers. His mother became the family breadwinner. She went back to school, got a GED and degree from a community college and started working in the telecommunications industry.
Financially, the family was doing better. But his father …
“He couldn’t handle it. He became jealous. He was no longer the breadwinner of the family.”
Addison said the abuse started as verbal screaming. Soon, it became physical. His mother was severely injured on several occasions.
“If you’ve ever been connected with domestic violence, it’s kind of a prison without bars. You feel you can’t tell anyone,” Addison told the crowd. “We were embarrassed to tell school counselors and coaches. My mom couldn’t tell anybody at church. We just felt like we couldn’t tell anybody.”
Addison said he tried to call the police during one of his father’s violent outbursts. Before he could dial 911, his dad threatened him, at gunpoint, with death if he ever tried to call he cops again.
Things escalated to a gruesome, life-altering moment in downtown Norton, Virginia on August 15, 1995 when his dad snapped.
“My father pulled in behind my mother at the post office on Main Street of my hometown … and he took out a .38 caliber pistol and shot her once in the head,” Addison said.
“And as she laid there, begging for her life, he went over the top of her and shot her again in the heart, and threw the gun at her and sat there and kicked her until the police arrived and arrested him.”
Gregory Scott Addison is currently serving a life sentence in prison for killing his wife, Janet Addison.
Addison said he turned to a life of “bitterness, rage and addiction.” He was constantly in trouble at school. He was addicted to drugs and alcohol and lived a rebel lifestyle.
Orphaned, he lived on his own in a repossessed house rather than be turned over to state custody.
In a powerful turn of events, Addison said he had driven his car to a strip-mining site one night when he experienced divine intervention.
“I realized I had become everyone my mother raised me not to be,” he said.
Twenty-three years later, he hasn’t taken another drink or done anymore illegal drugs. He’s taken his message to 14 countries and preaches the gospel every Sunday at his vibrant, growing Corbin church.
Addison dovetailed the experiences of his life into the importance of the Appalachian Childrens’ Home — a licensed treatment facility on the outskirts of Barbourville that has 48 kids between ages 11 and 17 who have all been court ordered to be there.
“What do you think it feels like for nobody in the world to want you?” Addison said, referring to his own life and the kids who reside at the home. “That’s the clients we serve.”
Many of the kids at the home are just like he was growing up. They are stuck at the “sticky ends,” he said, referring to the fact that most people born into poverty tend to stay there their entire lives. To break that cycle, he asked local business leaders to do their best to make their companies and organizations strong and the best they can be. To employ more people, pay more competitive wages, hire more workers and do good things in the community.
“I came from that sticky end where there’s nothing. I’ve been through the cycle of poverty,” he said. “Give your community a hand up not a hand out.”
He said the children’s home specializes in “dealing hope” to kids who have lost all hope.
“By running a good business and being great community partners, then you become hope dealers as well.”
Tuesday’s luncheon was held at The Corbin Center and was sponsored by Grace Health.