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From Addict to Advocate (Part 1)

Mike Lindell, inventor of MyPillow and founder of the Lindell Recovery Network sits down with NC Family President John L. Rustin to discuss his personal experiences with severe drug addiction and recovery, and how his faith has played a role in this journey.

Mike Lindell discusses drug addiction, recovery, and faith

Family Policy Matters
Transcript: From Addict to Advocate (Part 1)

JOHN RUSTIN: Thank you for joining us this week for Family Policy Matters. As our nation celebrates Independence Day, we are reminded that the American Experiment is one of self-governance and self-responsibility. Our Democratic Republic operates properly when the citizenry is both engaged and morally sound. As President John Adams put it, “We have no government armed with power capable of contending with human passions unbridled by morality and religion.  Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” 

Well, I’m sure many of our listeners will recognize the voice of today’s guest who joins me. We’ll discuss not only his success as a businessman and entrepreneur, but also the difficult path he has trod and the struggles he has faced and overcome on his way to recognizing what many would characterize as the American dream. 

Mike Lindell is the inventor and CEO of MyPillow. You’ve probably seen or heard him encouraging consumers to buy his products on TV and radio. But even more compelling than his entrepreneurial success is his personal story of battling with and overcoming intense drug addiction, which has led him to found the Lindell Recovery Network. And Mike is determined to use his success as a platform to talk about his faith, and to encourage his fellow Americans to follow his example of fearless civic engagement. Mike Lindell, welcome to Family Policy Matters. It’s great to have you on the show.

MIKE LINDELL: It’s awesome to be here.

JOHN RUSTIN: Mike, many of our listeners are probably familiar with your pillows and other bedding products, but they may not know about your personal story and journey. As we begin our conversation today, it’d be great if you could share briefly a little bit about that story.

MIKE LINDELL: I’ve always been an entrepreneur. My parents divorced back when I was seven years old and I got put into a new school. I’d either show off or I would be very shy. It affected me, trying to fit in—this fear of rejection. I can look back now and see that. So it got up through my teen years and up into early adulthood, and it kept going that way. I would either do things to show off, like my five-year reunion. Everyone else was finishing college and they were starting to raise families and had a new job, and I wasn’t doing anything. At the five-year reunion, I was just bragging about owing the mafia money for football bets, or getting in a motorcycle accident, or going skydiving and my parachute didn’t open. All these things that happened, but in reality, I just took over the room for attention. In reality, I wanted what they all had. That actually manifested into a cocaine addiction for about 20 years, and then it switched to crack cocaine in the early 2000’s, right around the year 2000. People say, “Well when did you quit all that?” Well I invented MyPillow in 2004, and by the grace of God I quit everything on January 16, 2009. So there was a whole stretch there where all these things happened, including an intervention by drug dealers the year before I quit.

In 2007, I lost a 20-year marriage. With the pillow company, I was actually making pillows and labeling them in our living room. When I invented MyPillow, I was turned down everywhere and we ended up doing home shows and fairs. People tried to take the company and it got to be 2008. It was the middle of the night, and I’d been up for 14 days. And the drug dealers—there’s three of them in downtown Minneapolis—I walk up and I go, “What are you guys doing? You know each other.” And they knew of each other but they had never met. I said, “What is this, an intervention?” The guy says, “Yeah, we’re cutting you off.” And he’s telling the other two guys, “None of you guys are selling Mike anything, he’s been up for 14 days.” The one dealer left in disgust, the other one went down to the streets. It was actually his place we were in. And the other guy had kicked him out, and he sat in the chair. … He ended up falling asleep and I went down to the streets of Minneapolis. I could not buy any more crack anywhere. Everybody was turning me down. I got back upstairs and here’s what he said. He goes, “Give me that phone, I’m going to take a picture of you. You’re going to need it for that book you’ve been telling us about.” And he goes, “You know, you’ve been telling us for years this MyPillow is just a platform for God, and you’re going to come back someday and help us all out of this addiction and this world.” And he said, “We’re not gonna let you die on us.”

And I would always tell those guys that someday I was gonna come back. You know, quit everything and come back and help. I just always remember that intervention. By the way, two of those guys work for me now and are born again Christians. So it’s a pretty amazing story. 

JOHN RUSTIN: That is awesome. Mike, what was the turning point for you in your drug abuse and recovery? I’m certain that experience that you shared had something to do with it, but it had to be more that was going on internally with you?

MIKE LINDELL: Right. Well, God was always chasing me my whole life. He was chasing me. He was always getting me out of things. I get myself in a thing, and say, “God, if I get out of this, I’ll never do this again,” or blah, blah, blah. And I would get in a scrap or whatever, and I would almost just assume I’m going to get through it. And in 2008, when those drug dealers did that intervention, there were a lot of things. A lot of things happened in 2008. And one of the things, my son stood in the driveway crying. He was like 18, and he said, “I can’t stay here anymore.” I thought I was hiding the addiction pretty good, and not affecting him. And that was one thing that hit me hard. But in December of that year, my friend came to me—this is very key—he came to me. He was my equal; we had both started cocaine at the same time, we had both turned to crack cocaine at the same time, and he had been clean for three years. I hadn’t seen him in two years, and I heard that he had quit. He came walking in the door and I said, “Dick, what are you doing?” And he said, “The Lord led me here, what’s going on?” And I said, “Well, as long as you’re here, I have some questions.” The first question I asked him is, “Is it boring?” And he said, “No man, it ain’t boring.” He wasn’t there long, maybe 15-20 minutes, but he left with a concern. I had never seen him like that before. It was also that I knew he had been set free of all this of this addiction. 

It got to be January 16, 2009, and at that point it was like an old fashioned TV where you turn it off and it goes down to this little tiny dot. And you turn it back on, and the TV comes back to life. Well, I couldn’t wait one more day. People say, “Was that your bottom?” And I say, “Well, you know, I made sure I didn’t have any money or anything left of anything,” but I knew that my calling would be gone. God was going to choose someone else and I knew this inside of me. And I said, I actually said a thing, I said, “God, I want to wake up in the morning and never have the desire for these drugs or alcohol or anything again, and I’ll do this. I’ll do what I’m called to do, this platform.” And I actually woke up in the morning and the desire was gone. It was completely gone. And then things started happening.

A week later I had to borrow money from some guys and I didn’t know these guys from Adam. It’s a funny story: I walk in there, and I was afraid even to talk to anybody. But these guys had suits that really made me nervous. I didn’t eat with two forks! I go, “Wow, anybody who eats with more than one fork and wears a suit, they scare me.” So I walk in, there’s a CFO, a CIEIO—all these C’s—and I needed to borrow 30 grand cash with no collateral for these guys that were taking my company. I had to get my fabric back. And I walked in there and I told them this story. I said, “I’ll pay you back 40 for 30 grand. I’ll pay it back within two months. I’m going to do home shows and fairs around the country. And I have a dream of an infomercial someday, and I used to be a crack cocaine addict,” and I’m going on and on. The one guy goes, “Well, when did you quit crack?” And I said, “Last Thursday.” Four of them got up and left the room like Shark Tank, and the other four ended up giving me the money. They still don’t know why they gave me the money. I do: it was a divine appointment.

But, two months later though, I felt led to go to my church. They had an outpatient treatment center that was faith-based and I felt led to go there. I walked in the door and I told this counselor, “I used to be an addict two months ago, and I felt led to come here,” and all this stuff. Well, I went in there on the first day—and I had been in treatment centers throughout the 80s to get my license back and stuff. But this one was different. I was telling, “Oh, I did all these drugs and everything, ” and they’re going, “We don’t care how much you did. We want to know about your family. Tell us about your father and your family.” And I’m going, “What does that have to do with anything?” Well, my family divorced when I was seven back when divorces weren’t common. I learned so much; seeds were planted [in that divorce] where addiction manifests from in that center. And by the way, I hadn’t done a full surrender to Jesus Christ yet, that comes way later. That comes…ready for this? February 18th, 2017. There’s a big gap there! But there was a lot of seeds planted back then with addiction and this center was real important to me.

JOHN RUSTIN: Well thank you for sharing that. Now Mike, I know you’re stepping up to the plate to help stem the tide of drug abuse in our country. Tell us about the mission of the Lindell Recovery Network.

MIKE LINDELL: Well, what I’m doing now, it’s going to be ready to launch in about a month. It’ll coincide this fall with my book coming out: What Are The Odds? From Crack Addict to CEO. All the proceeds from the book and everything are going to finance this Recovery Network. But here’s what it is. (You’re going to be an addict, I’m going to be like the tour guy to this website). I tell the addict, “Put in your age and your addiction.” A 22-year-old opiate addict might not relate to a 50-year-old meth addict. So these stories that I have collected, tens of thousands of them, are about the commonality of the drug. Like for crack, “What you didn’t like about the drug?” I’ll go, “You know, I got tired of always peeking out windows and it was so much work. I got tired of trying to find baking soda ‘cause you need that to make crack. I got tired of going to the grocery stores at two in the morning and buying a set of silverware just cause I needed a spoon.” Now if a crack addict sees that story, he knows I’ve been where he’s been. So they know the commonality, but they see it in their faces going, “Wow, how did they get set free? Every one of them is set free.”

Well, all of these stories came from the alumni from the faith-based treatment centers in this country. Now I tell the addict, (I’m the tour guy) and I say, “Hey you guys, I have vetted over 3,500 centers now over the last year-and-a-half. Every one of them works.” And I tell the addict, “You go in here and it’s going to be like an apprenticeship on life.” It’s just me being my salesman to the addict, not the family. I’m not preying on the family. I’m going to the addict. There’s no money, there’s no rule of 25, it’s free! I get them in there and I say, “You guys, when you get out, I’m going to be waiting for you. I’m going to have paid mentors set up all over the country.” So when they get out, they have a mentor. That mentor, they meet with them in live settings. Now if something goes wrong—let’s say they have a relapse—it’s a relapse match. Every addict that comes out of a center, even if they have Jesus as their foundation, they still have triggers that happen. Let’s say my kids, they’re still upset with me and they won’t talk to me. Now, if that mentor didn’t have that happen to them, they’re going to punch into the app, they’re going to go, “My kids won’t talk to me and I can’t deal with this.” Now mentors are out there that are on call 24/7— just like my call center—that had that exact same thing happen to them, they’re going to get on the phone with them. Or get on that app. And it’s so easy for that person to talk the guy through it because they’ve made it through. They’ve been there. And by the way, this is going to be one of the biggest employers in the country. It’s going to employ tens of thousands of mentors. There’s no better mentors and people to be counselors than people that have been through it, and been saved.

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