Xenia man builds new life after addiction, jail

Former addict held onto hope when others gave him a second chance.

Finding a job can be challenging. The task can be even tougher and close to impossible for someone convicted of multiple felonies.

Michael Wise of Xenia has 13 felony convictions on his record and has served time in prison twice for crimes related to drugs and theft.

“I was born and raised on the east side of Dayton,” Wise said. “My mom was the only person in my family who didn’t do drugs.”

Wise remembers watching his father sneak down to the basement to smoke marijuana and sitting wrapped in blankets because the power in their house had been disconnected.

In school, Wise struggled was labeled a “slow learner,” and bullied by other students, he said.

Wise said he had his first drink of alcohol at nine years old and by the time he was 17, was drinking regularly with others who made him feel accepted.

He shared his story of substance abuse, incarceration and recovery in hopes that it can help others on their journey.

He dropped out of high school and got married The couple had one son, Christopher, now 24.By age 22 Wise was addicted to methamphetamine.

“I ended up leaving my wife for our babysitter,” Wise said. He started selling and manufacturing meth,” he said.

After two years, Wise was arrested after blowing up two houses. He was convicted and served 54 months in federal prison in Michigan.

By this time, two daughters - Michaela and Maddie - had been born from Wise’s relationship with the former babysitter. So he focused on finding work once he was released from prison. But when he stole checks from his employer and cashed them, he found himself charged with 11 felony counts of grand theft. He went back to prison for 18 months.

“You would have thought that the second time I would have learned my lesson, but I didn’t,” Wise said.

During this period, Wise began to work on his sobriety for the first time – just long enough to gain full custody of his daughters.

“I always wanted to be sober,” Wise said. “I just didn’t know how to do it.”

In 2012, Wise was rushed to the hospital and had surgery for a stomach issue that nearly killed him.

“I felt hopeless,” Wise said.

In 2013, Wise contacted Christopher House – a residential treatment facility in Xenia. The first two weeks of treatment were admittedly difficult, but a walk on a local bike path changed his life.

“I had a spiritual awakening out there,” Wise said. “For the first time in my life I could smell the water in the creek and hear the wind in the trees. God took the blinders off my eyes.”

After leaving Christopher House, Wise lived in a sober living recovery home for four months and began looking for a job. But with no high school diploma or GED and with multiple felony convictions, Wise’s background caused prospective employers to turn him away. After a year, he was finally hired by a company in Xenia to work in the press room.

In 2014, Wise gained permanent custody of his two daughters after finding a stable place to live. Then he applied for a job with the Dayton Food Bank and was hired.

“Mike is one of the reasons we leaned into this work of hiring people that other companies won’t,” said Michelle Riley, CEO of the Dayton Food Bank. “We are called not just to feed the line but also to shorten it.”

While in treatment, Wise met Kip Morris, chief executive officer of Five Star Group – a home services company. Morris became Wise’s mentor and hired him at Five Star in May of 2020.

“Mike is the perfect example of how someone can regain all the things lost during the course of addiction by pursuing God and recognizing the people put in his life to help navigate his recovery journey,” Morris said.

In June of 2021, Morris, along with Chris Adams of Narrow Path Plumbing and Doug Van Dyke of Van Dyke Martin Roofing decided to purchase property in Xenia, formerly the home of the Greene County Career Center. They created Emerge Recovery and Trade Initiative to help recovering men and women by providing education, discipleship and life skills opportunities.

“If you give these guys hope by helping train them and getting them a job so they can make decent money and take care of a family, chances are better that they will stay sober,” Wise said.

And he is living proof of this. His lifelong struggle to find acceptance ended when he became involved with this program and with Morris.

Today at age 49, Wise is married to Amanda, a woman he met through his church. The couple have a son – Preston – who will be two years old in September.

“Even with 13 felonies behind me, I’m a warehouse manager and head up three different sober living facilities,” Wise said. “If it wasn’t for God and what he did in my life, I wouldn’t be here today.”

About the Author