Wheeling Man Combats Personal Addiction, Overcomes Drug Use

As a 16-year-old high school student, Mike Kalinowski faced a drug obsession that would later lead him to hitting rock bottom and turning his life around.

Though Kalinowski is living a healthier lifestyle than he was two years ago, he can still recall wasted nights with bad people. After a falling out with his high school girlfriend, he was offered a single pill by a friend, which began his drug addiction.

“It was a Vicodin and I had never even smoked weed. He was like, ‘Hey man, try this. It’ll make you feel better,'” said Kalinowski. He describes his beginning with drugs as “by the book.”

His fellow classmate provided him with drugs and recruited him as a new customer.

“A few weeks later, he gave me a couple of Xanax (and) I went from there doing other stuff. It was all pretty much just, ‘Try this, try this, try this.’ Basically he was trying to build a customer base, which he did. It was messed up. He was one of my friends — well, he was supposed to be one of my friends,” Kalinowski said.

The two were classmates for four years before entering the drug scene as sophomores at Wheeling Park High School. As Kalinowski entered a new relationship, he began to stay away from prescription medication up until the end of the partnership.

As Kalinowski continued taking Xanax, Vicodin and lysergic acid diethylamide, he soon was met with the harsh reality of drug use.

“I took what I thought was acid because that’s what I was told it was and it turned out to be acid that had PCP and ecstasy somehow mixed in. That’s what they found in my system (at the hospital),” he said.

Kalinowski would wake up from a coma three days later with his father at his bedside.

“I woke up and the first thing that came to my mind was, ‘What happened?’ My dad told me I overdosed and I said, ‘There’s no way. I wasn’t doing anything you can overdose on,’ or so I thought. After I woke up, I was in the hospital for nine days.”

According to Kalinowski, his long-time friend provided him with the drug and advertised it as being acid alone.

“The last things I remember was spinning around thinking, ‘Am I drunk or tripping?’ He knew what it was, (but) he advertised it as just acid,” said Kalinowski.

A tracheostomy procedure was administered to create an opening through Kalinowski’s neck into his trachea, among several tubes assisting in keeping his body stable.

“They tried to take the breathing tube out two or three times. The third time they were finally able to do it. The first and second time I aspirated. Technically, my heart stopped three separate times,” said Kalinowski.

He has heard the story of his drug overdose from family members several times, especially his mother. Doctors told his parents after several attempts to help Kalinowski, he may die.

After being faced with possibly losing a child, Kalinowski decided he couldn’t put his family through such an ordeal.

“My mom doesn’t want me doing drugs anymore. … The doctor looked her right in the eye and said, ‘He’s going to die,’ and she broke down crying right then,” said Kalinowski.

Seven years later, from Kalinowski’s first initial experience with drugs, he is now drug free and has lost over 100 pounds.

“I stopped doing drugs. Going from drinking, partying, doing drugs and being as messed up as I could be at any given time, I am now working a full-time job. I am completely supporting myself and I’ve got two cars now. I’m doing well,” he said.

As he looks back on all the time he spent with fellow drug addicts, Kalinowski wants others doing drugs to consider who their real friends are and if addiction is worth it.

“The people you’re partying with aren’t friends. They’re there to get high and drunk with other people because they’re miserable. They aren’t there to hang out and have a good conversation with you.

“They just want to be around other people that want to get high. It’s sociable and they’d see you on the street the next day (and) they won’t even acknowledge you. If you asked any of them to come jump your car or help you move a couch, you can bet that not one of them would be there unless they could catch a buzz,” he said.

Kalinowski will be turning 24 years old in April and looks to the future with positivity.

“I beat it and life is all around a lot better,” he said.