Mike Pike smiles when he shows other people a 25-year token.
He had his last beer 26 years ago and completed a recovery program 25 years ago.
Ever since, he has remained sober.
Alcohol used to make him want to fight other people. Over the last 11 years, he has been fighting for others through leading Alcoholics Anonymous and Celebrate Recovery classes.
So what has kept him away from alcohol?
“The holy spirit, God,” the 73-year-old Seymour man quickly responded. “In AA, you look for God as a higher power, your 12 steps, and so me looking for God, I thought, ‘Well, I’ll go to church.’”
He remembers standing in the back of the Presbyterian church in Seymour in June 1996 shortly after a one-day relapse and looking at a cross on the wall.
“The holy spirit came out of that and came right into my heart,” Pike said. “It’s just something that you’ve just got to really know to feel it. He has helped me. He has never let me go. I don’t say God’s name in vain. … The holy spirit helps me not to do that.”
Growing up in Jennings County, Pike was a farm boy. He was 14 and the eldest of seven kids when his father was killed on a farm tractor.
Having to deal with that at a young age, he started drinking alcohol and smoking cigarettes.
Shortly after graduating from high school in 1969, he was drafted into the U.S. Army and served in the infantry until 1973. He is a Vietnam War veteran.
When he returned home, he resumed doing drywall work and continued to drink alcohol.
“I was a functioning alcoholic,” he said. “I was married for 10 years, had five children and she and I just couldn’t get along, so we got divorced.”
After his mother died of leukemia, he moved to Seymour and has remained there ever since. He and his brother started a drywall business, Pike’s Drywall, and he said he continued to drink on a daily basis and often frequented local bars.
In 1985 while visiting the Chatterbox one day, a man started cussing at Pike and said he was going to fight him. After Pike returned from the restroom, the man was cussing at him again, and Pike punched him and knocked him down to the floor. The bartender told Pike if he didn’t quit, she was going to call the police.
“I thought to myself, ‘Do I really want to go to jail over this guy?’ so I got up,” he said. “Whenever I got up, he had a knife already out opened in his pocket, and he stabbed me right in the mouth, cut a tooth out, split my tongue in two.”
Pike wound up being stabbed 20 times, including on his face, eye, ear, head and lung, resulting in a hole in one of his lungs.
At the hospital receiving treatment, Pike said he saw “a white light.”
“Jesus or an angel one was standing here talking to me, and I heard him telling me, he said, ‘Mike, I’m just not ready for you yet,’” he said.
Despite that incident, Pike said he continued to drink. One morning, he was pulled over after leaving the Chatterbox with another guy, and the officer asked how many beers he had consumed. Pike responded, “14 or 15.”
The officer called Pike’s wife to come get his truck, and he drove Pike around for four hours just talking to him. The officer asked if he was sick and tired of what he was doing.
“I said, ‘Yes, really and truthfully, I am. I am an alcoholic. I’ve been one for 34 years,’” Pike said. “He said, ‘I’ll talk to the prosecutor and see what we can do. I know you’re a good guy. You’re just an alcoholic.’”
Pike pleaded guilty, paid a $423 fine and had his driver’s license taken away for two weeks.
In 1996, he started going to a treatment center in downtown Seymour. The man who became his sponsor, Eric Turner, is still in that role today.
Pike was doing good until June 17, which was Father’s Day that year, when he relapsed.
“I told myself, ‘One beer, one good, cold beer,’” he said. “That’s what we always think. That one beer led into a blackout. I drank and drank and drank all that afternoon into the early evening.”
The bartender, who knew Pike was in sobriety, called his wife, Cindy, and she came and picked him up.
“Two days after that, I was beating myself up because I had done so good and opened up and everything, and I knew half of the people that they sent up there (to the treatment center) because I had drank with them at one time or another,” Pike said. “Eric had called me up and said, ‘If you’re tired of beating yourself up, get your butt back up here and start over again.’ I said, ‘I can do that?’ He said, ‘Sure. Lots of us have relapsed.’”
Pike resumed the program and completed it in 1997. Since then, he has never had a drink.
He wound up teaching AA classes for nine years at various places.
Then in 2011, Rick Wilson asked him to take over the Celebrate Recovery program at The Alley in Seymour, and Pike joined the church’s board, too.
Still today, he is teaching the Christ-centered, 12-step recovery program for anyone struggling with hurt, pain or addiction of any kind. He’s also vice president of The Alley’s board, a lifetime member of the American Legion and has owned Mike Pike Drywall for nearly 30 years.
Plus, he has six kids and eight grandchildren and has been married to Cindy for 17 years.
He said he is proud of how far he has come since giving up alcohol.
“I’ve got a better heart now,” he said. “My heart was open. I wasn’t a bad person. It’s just I blamed God, I hated God and I blamed myself. There wasn’t anything I could have done to help my dad, really. I was only 14 years old. It just happened. It was an accident that happened.”
Today, he said he is “blessed beyond means.”
“I could have been dead at least three times I know, and I wasn’t,” Pike said. “Right now today, I’m blessed. … That’s the holy spirit in my heart. God gives me that feeling. In all honesty, God makes me feel good in my heart.”