My name is Michael Anthony Moschella. I’m 29-years-old and I was born in Anchorage, Alaska. I’ve been through a lot of shit in my life. I was asked to tell my story. I’m not bragging or ashamed of what I’ve done. It made me who I am today. So, here goes…
Words & Photos / Micheal Moschella
My name is Micheal Anthony Moschella. I’m 29-years-old and I was born in Anchorage, Alaska. I’ve been through a lot of shit in my life. I was asked to tell my story. I’m not bragging or ashamed of what I’ve done. It made me who I am today. So, here goes…
My Mom and Dad had two boys. My parents were both partiers, but my dad stopped when I was born. A year and a half later my brother Chris was born. My Mom refused to give up the party life and eventually left the picture when he was born. My Dad raised us and worked all the time to provide for us.
Mike and his dad Anthony //
I heard about my mom overdosing on methadone when I was 13. I had mixed feelings about that whole thing because I didn’t really know her. She was still my mom, so I loved her. I went to see her in the hospital a couple times, but she was all hooked up to hoses and tubes. It was hard to see her like that, so eventually I stopped going. She was in a coma – brain-dead for about 10 years. When she came to, she was bed ridden, paralyzed, and couldn’t talk. She only communicated through blinking. As I got older, I made a couple visits, only to see the same thing. In 2014, my aunt called and said my mom caught a respiratory infection and the antibiotics couldn’t fight it off, so I might want to come to the hospital and say my goodbyes. She died and I buried her a few days before Christmas. To this day, I regret not going to see her more, not being a good enough son.
I don’t know why, but I always found myself getting into trouble growing up. Fighting, destroying property, getting suspended, you name it. As I got older, like 13 or 14, the offenses became greater: stealing cars, robbing homes, doing drugs, and eventually selling drugs. Naturally, I was in and out of Juvie since I was 14. At 15, I was shipped off to youth corp. It’s pretty much a boot camp in Ft. Richardson for troubled youth between the ages of 16 and 18, but I was court ordered to go at only 15. It was a six-month program – I made it five and a half months before getting kicked out.
From the time I was 15, I was always running away. I’m not sure why, but I just didn’t have any respect for authority back then. Even though my dad tried everything he could to help me, I was on my own schedule and didn’t want to hear it from anyone. I had a really bad addiction to cocaine from ages 15-21. I was selling coke and guns, so I had access to it at all times. I was doing lines from the minute I woke up – in school bathrooms and then throughout the night – until eventually I drank myself to sleep. At 17, I was shipped off to rehab in Utah. I sobered up there, caught up on all my grades, and was just playing their game so I could get out. I knew right when I got out I was going back to the coke and the partying. I was released from rehab right before my 18th birthday. I signed up for school and held it together alright, but was eventually expelled for drugs and alcohol. Luckily, my girlfriend’s mom was a counselor and re-evaluated my transcripts. It turns out I should have graduated the semester previously. So I received my diploma at graduation and was escorted off school grounds by security immediately after walking.
After high school, I got a job and started making legit money. But I still partied. I might not remember every single party (who does?) but the one that’s remains the most vivid is the one that changed my whole life. My buddy, my girlfriend, and her friends were drinking, having a good time when her friend was pushed down some stairs. My friend and some dude got in a fight outside about it. My friend had the upper hand, until five or six guys jumped in. So, I jumped in. I remember hitting guys, pulling guys off and then… I woke up in a hospital bed to doctors cutting my clothes off. A few minutes of shock and then I went back out.
A couple weeks later I awoke from my coma to find myself strapped to a hospital bed. I couldn’t talk or move the entire right side of my body. My dad was next to the bedside and told me what had happened. He told me how badly I was hurt. I got tears in my eyes when I realized just how bad that was. During the fight, some dude came up behind me and cracked me in the head with a crow bar. Reports state there was brain matter on the crow bar. When my friend took me to the hospital, doctors said I wouldn’t make it and for my friends and family to say their goodbyes. I think, at one point, the news even reported that I was dead.
As it turns out, I wasn’t dead. I just couldn’t talk, walk, or really do anything. I saw double for a couple months. I had to learn how to eat, hold my bladder, absolutely everything that our body should be able to do naturally. I was a 20-year-old baby. I lost about 40 pounds after just a couple months of being in the hospital because I was eating through a tube. I had to learn how to swallow and chew solid food again. I was lost, angry, depressed, you name it.
I grew up very active. I played football, wrestled, boxed, snowmachined, wakeboarded. I had it all and I could do it all. Now, I couldn’t do anything. I couldn’t even walk, let alone run. I had physical and speech therapy every day. I went from a wheelchair, to a walker, to a cane, and finally I was able to walk unassisted. As for talking again, that was a whole different level of difficulty. I had to learn what sounds each of the letters made, then put them together to form three to four letter words. I was far from forming a complete sentence in the beginning. You would expect the pain to be the most difficult part, but the the hardest part about it all was the mental struggle I endured. It was a mind fuck. I knew what I wanted to do, but I just couldn’t get my body to do it. I would say the word in my head, but couldn’t make my mouth do the same. I would tell my leg to move forward and it wouldn’t listen to my brain. I would yell and scream in my head, but nothing translated.
I went out in public as little as possible for the first year after my “accident.” I was embarrassed of my speech because I spoke way slower than normal. I walked with a limp at first because I was still relearning my basic motor skills. It sucked. I remember staying in the truck while my dad went into stores and shit because I was so embarrassed of myself and didn’t want to look like an ass in front of people. I wouldn’t say I was depressed, more bummed out at the thought that I would be like this forever.
It took about two years to fully recover. As time went on, my therapy sessions decreased from every day to eventually two days a week. I was getting better and stronger. I passed my driving test the first time and was finally allowed to drive again. My dad took me to the gym to get back what I had lost in the hospital. I still couldn’t do a sit up though. Most of the workouts were impossible at that time. I would try with everything I had. With tears in my eyes and every ounce of fight I had in me, I tried. All I wanted was one sit up, one rep on the bench press, one set of normalcy. I kept at it. Again, I would yell and scream in my head to do it and eventually I could. More and more I could accomplish each rep. I got a job at the gym and it became an addiction. What I couldn’t do the week previously became easier and each week after. I slowly continued to make progress.
I was hooked. I’ve always been active, but this was different. It was actually challenging and I liked it. I could go on and on about my passion for lifting, but I’ll save that for another time. I was working and lifting every chance I could get. I started to feel normal again, but began going out on weekends. From there I started getting drunk and high on different shit. I had my shit together for the most part, so I felt it was justified. Eventually, I started selling drugs again, received two DUIs, and I was right back in trouble again. I really didn’t care because I was finally making money again. It wasn’t until I was robbed and pistol-whipped a couple times that I really thought about my life and what I was doing. I quit selling drugs for a while, but I was still drinking all the time. I got a job and started being somewhat healthy again. That was my perspective at least.
Every day after work I was getting high. It was a never-ending cycle. Eventually I lost my job and started selling Oxycontin and heroin. As I made more money, I began doing more and more of the shit. I was high all day, every day, until I overdosed. I woke up three days later in the hospital. Apparently, my buddy I was staying with got up for work in the morning and found me passed out and turning blue. Again, I found myself waking up in a hospital. This time I changed back into my clothes, snuck out, called my buddy, and went off to get high again.
One night my buddy called me and said him and a buddy wanted to get high off a pack of Oxys. I was tired, but it was money, so I agreed to meet up with them. His “buddy” ended up being a snitch and set us both up. I was charged with possession with intent to distribute, a Class A felony. I was now facing five to eight years, unless I snitched on someone else. Well, anyone that knows me knows I’m not about that. I knew the risks involved in selling drugs and it was my responsibility to face the consequence. I think it’s pretty shitty to be involved with illegal contraband and get caught up then switch sides by getting other people in trouble for the same shit I was doing. I’m not a hypocrite, so I plead to a deal instead.
It was at that time, when I was about to serve two years in prison, that I decided I didn’t want to be a piece of shit anymore. I didn’t want to sell drugs and be in and out of jails and prisons any longer. I wanted to be the man that my dad had worked all those years to help me become. So, I started working out again. I entered into jail at 145 pounds, about 50 pounds lighter than my normal weight. In prison, I took every class possible to better myself. I took anger management, drug rehab, criminal thinking, etc. Yea, I got into trouble, but nothing major. For the most part, I kept my nose clean. In prison, it’s a whole different set of rules and if I didn’t learn them quickly I could have found myself in a lot of trouble, fast. I also learned a lot about patience and discipline, and most of all, respect for authority. That was something new for me, but it’s a big one because the guards can make your life hell.
In Prison //
Above all, I learned what really matters in life: my family, being a man of your word, and treating everyone with kindness, no matter what you think of them. If you live a positive life and do positive things, positive things will happen to you in turn. That’s what I remind myself often. I read the letters loved ones sent me in prison. I read them often. They kept me going. I’m not too religious, but I tried to pray every night and just asked God to keep me headed in the right direction. Not to sound too cliché, but I think every day – one day at a time – if I do the right thing, then I’m on my way to becoming a better man. Everything seemed to be looking up.
I completed my drug class and was shipped back to Anchorage. I stayed at a halfway house for the last couple months of my sentence. It was a shock seeing all the colors, having the choices to just live again. Even just wearing my own clothes again was a blessing. I liked this feeling and I swore to myself I would never look back.
After my release, I got a job at Alaska Fitness. I was honest during my interview, I told them I just need a chance, to prove myself, and I wouldn’t disappoint. Eventually I got a job at GNC as well, and worked my way up to a manager. I now have my personal trainer certificate, my license, and drive my own vehicle. I was doing what most take for granted – the “normal” stuff I had avoided for so long. Since then, I have held both jobs for over two years and I train people to become better, physically, every day. I have learned so much through the years, but I still have a lot more to learn. I don’t take anything for granted anymore, I just try my best to live positively, and set a good example for others.
So, that’s my story. Most don’t know it, or maybe some of you know a portion of it – what you have heard through others. But this is the first time I have really shared it so openly, the whole truth. Sure, most won’t agree with my actions, but after all I've been through, after my constant struggle to better myself, I intend to continue to push forward. Even as I write this, with my left hand – the opposite of what I've known for most of my life (another side effect of getting hit in the head) – I'm reminded to stay humble and persevere.