Sept. 10, 2021

E108 Who is Michael Unbroken

In this episode, I would love to share my back story with you. I'm going to include the preface to my book Think Unbroken Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma. This is a dive into my background, story, journey, and what's led me to where I am today.

I believe that we all are capable of healing. We all are capable of growing. We all are capable of changing, doing the thing, and becoming the hero of Our Own Story. 

Learn more at

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In this episode, I would love to share my back story with you. I'm going to include the preface to my book Think Unbroken Understanding and Overcoming Childhood Trauma. This is a dive into my background, story, journey, and what's led me to where I am today.

I believe that we all are capable of healing. We all are capable of growing. We all are capable of changing, doing the thing, and becoming the hero of Our Own Story. 

Learn more at

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Preface, downhill, head-on. This crash has come and slowly move or watch the slow death of your way of life. There's a science of fear, it plagues my mind and it keeps us right here. The science of fear, the Temper Trap, child abuse is war.

It was in November of 2013 that I decided to change everything that was happening in my life. I was a hundred and fifty pounds overweight, cheating on my girlfriend, sick with a bacterial infection from drinking too much, smoking almost two packs of cigarettes a day, and getting high from the moment I woke up, to the moment I went to sleep. I was thriving as a wedding photographer, building an e-commerce clothing brand, and working the third job to cover the expenses of the second business. To say the least, I was a workaholic consumed with a million projects, which meant I didn't have to be alone with myself or my girlfriend.

Photography led me down an incredible path but required all of my energy. I was working with huge companies and getting recognized for my talent and multiple publications. The business part of my life was great, but my personal life was a disaster in a word, my life was chaos.

One morning, everything changed. I woke up and my lungs were on fire. My head was pounding. My body was shaking and I felt the most lost. I had ever felt feelings of guilt and shame spun around in my head, like a police siren after getting extremely fucking intoxicated and cheating on my partner again, the pain of knowing that I was sabotaging my life again, left me feeling like a total loser which in turn was sabotaging my life, I was in The Vortex. The voice inside screamed you are a fucking loser, look at your life, you are a piece of shit.

It was hard to argue with the voice in my head because it was telling the truth. It's impossible to lie to ourselves and sometimes self-talk is right. The vibration in my body screamed help, and I didn't know if I was having a panic attack, dying, or both.

At 28 years old, it felt like I was on the precipice of my demise. This wasn't the first time that I had taken a can of gasoline, doused my house, and struck a match. I was a regular pyromaniac when it came to burning down the things that I loved myself included, including self-destruction and numbness was more comfortable than filling the consequences of my actions or love or kindness.

That morning, as I was getting ready to head out to another wedding expo. I walked into the bathroom and did something that I had never done before. I went to the mirror and force myself to look into my own eyes, to this day I have no idea why I did that, my eyes were sunken, my skin jaundiced, my teeth yellowed, and the realm smushed face in front of me, resembled that of someone else. That morning was the first time in my life that I ever really looked at myself, and I was so incredibly embarrassed and ashamed of the person I saw looking back. I was a master of deception and crafting tells, hiding the truth from myself and orchestrating bullshit, but I couldn't hide that the darkness inside was manifesting on the outside. There was nowhere to hide from the shame and embarrassment of being a hundred and fifty pounds overweight as I struggle to button the size for XL shirt and wrap size 47 pants around my waist.

There was nowhere to hide from the truth that I was drinking and smoking myself to death, that I was running from intimacy, vulnerability, compassion, and that I was terrified of my own potential. Trauma by definition is a deeply disturbing or distressing event, and I was forged in its fire. I was a living and breathing real-life caricature of trauma. The person in that mirror was not the real me and I knew it.

My journey is not dissimilar to that of millions of people around the world. I grew up in chaos. My mother, Donna was a drug addict and alcoholic. She cut my finger off when I was almost four. She claimed, it was a bicycle accident, but my grandmother told me otherwise, I will never know the truth. She was a narcissist, a liar, a thief, and ultimately a victim of the same abuse that my brother, sister, and I suffered, she was cold, manipulative, callous, cruel, narcissistic, bipolar, manic-depressive, suicidal, and only out for herself. She always put herself before her children. She often walked about the house naked and high, it wasn't until I read the truth by Nail Estruss that I came to understand that our relationship was covertly incestuous due to her often sleeping nude next to me, when my stepfather or other men were not around, crowning me the man of the house, rewarding me for being her big man and often using me as an in-between for her relationships.

I learned to become a master manipulator, liar, and thief, from watching her coerce her way through life while weaving countless webs of deceit to get what she wanted from other people. I believe that it was her own abuse, which led her down a path of self-destruction and it rubbed off on my siblings and me. Our home was just another example of the end generation of child abuse manifesting itself. Drugs were not uncommon in my home. I'd always seen my mother popping pills and her weed and Alcohol stashes were easy to find. Sometimes there would be more prescription bottles strewn across the floors of our house than food. My mother's addiction, lay at the bottom of those little oranges, vials with white caps. She did have some medical use for them, but more often than not, it was her way of coping with the world. Sadly, she chose those bottles over the well-being of her children, and a more than one occasion it was me, sprinting to the phone to signal for help as she grasps for her life overdosing again and again.

When I was 16, I had enough of my mother putting drugs before me and using my brothers and me against each other, with the help of my grandmother, I filed a restraining order against her and my stepfather. The next year of my life would turn out to be the best of childhood. I excelled in sports, had straight A's, and met the first girl that actually liked me back. I can pinpoint the fact of the relationship with my mother and stepfather as a direct corresponding factor in my grades. Teachers often thought that I didn't care or had a learning disability, but the truth is my brain and body were consumed by fear and toxic stress.

When I was 18, I made a decision that I felt was the only choice I could make for self-preservation. I told my mother that she and I would never speak again. Earlier that night, I had to physically defend myself from her after she attacked me in my sleep until that night I had never hit her, even in self-defense, but her drug-fueled attack was the last straw. I only saw her a couple of times after that night from 18 until the day she died, I had almost no contact with her, ultimately, those little round, oval and triangle-shaped pills would take her life.

My father Michael, who I am named after. Abandoned me when I was barely two years old, when people ask me about him, I tell them that I never met him but that is not entirely true. The truth is that I did meet him around my fifth birthday. He picked up my brothers and me from the run-down apartment we lived in, on the west side of Indianapolis with my mother and our mutt mixed breed dog Wolfie. He took us to the shopping mall on the north side of D2 by his presence or at least that is what we were told was going to happen. There were no presents, but we did have a slice of pizza in the food court, after asking to ride the penny horses, he beat us in front of onlookers who did nothing to stop him. I don't know what we did that was so wrong. I will never forget that day, that is my only memory of him, and to carry his name is a burden that I often feel.

Part of me has always thought that I would change my name and the other part of me wants to prove my strength despite him. My stepfather Sebastian was hyper abusive and like to torture me by flicking me in the head, calling me fat and worthless, and hitting me for asking questions. He wants to slam me into the living room closet door when I confused the word Pisces for feces, as I tried to read my baby brother's horoscope from the Indy star Sunday paper. My youngest brother is his only biological son and the only one that didn't suffer. My stepfather found joy, and gagging my brothers and me out of our beds and beating us. He would scream, keep crying and I'll give you something to cry about. Eventually, I learned to stop crying and accept pain as a way of life. I used to think that my childhood officially ended the night that he beat my brothers and me so hard that I passed out on the kitchen floor, after putting wet dishes away in the cabinet, the punishment, I endured for simple mistakes of being a child were harsher than most people who commit rape and murder.

I could handle the torment and bullying at school because I knew I got to go home at school. I was an easy target. I smelled like piss or hand-me-downs, and have the temperament of a toddler. The abuse and torment I experienced at home, would shape the next two decades of my life. The only Solace I had were the Knights that my stepfather was gone and working, hundreds of miles away as an over-the-road truck driver. The hearing has car door closes in the driveway announcing his arrival was always the most terrifying moment as a child. I never knew when he was going to be back from a trip.

Well, into my 20s, the sound of a car door closing would send me sprinting to the window to the lookout. I knew that the time between that door closing and him getting into the house, was enough to stuff a teddy bear into my underwear and to take the brunt of the punishment that I surely was about to receive.

As six foot four and over 200 pounds, he packed a punch and I felt it more than I care to remember, between being locked in closets, having my head slammed into walls, beaten from mispronouncing words, and constantly walking on eggshells for fear of his wrath, I was in a constant state of fear.

There were no days off and the holidays were even worse. I'll never forget the Christmas that he got his new bikes, which were taken away only days later.

We were too stupid and retarded to deserve them. My nights were robbed of sleep and my days were filled with vicious attacks. It was never enough to be hit once or twice. The good biddings, never seemed to end until I was on the ground in the fetal position and gasping for air.

Today, as I stand at 6 feet 4 and 200 pounds. I know my strengths and I can't imagine a more cowardly act than hitting a child or making fun of them for wetting the bed. I wet the bed until my late teens because my nervous system was completely and utterly fucked up. I know that like, my mother has childhood must have been filled with torment after torment on some of the summer days during school breaks, we would stay with his mother, Mary, who babysat my brother's me along with her for foster children. The way she treated those children is on par with the worst horror movies I've seen. She treated her foster children, worse than my brothers and I were treated by her son, my stepfather.

They were starved, beaten, and embarrassed on a daily basis, once after hiding corn, muffin, in her panties to eat later in the day. One of the Foster girls was dragged to the garage by her hair, strip naked, beaten, and forced to eat the muffin off the oil-soaked floor in front of every child in that house.

This was so common that I wasn't shocked. I've encountered so many terrible and misguided people but she was evil in ways that I didn't know a person could be We're being evicted again, we moved into Mary's house. It was like living in Hell, the walls, the smells, and the feeling of hearing the screams of those tortured foster children haunted me, every night. It was a real-life haunted house, and for years I was forced to call it home.

All of my experiences have taught me that child abuse is not sporadic and I would argue that abuse is a learned behavior repeated, generationally time and again. I read somewhere recently that hurt people – hurt people. It only makes sense to me that being a practitioner of abuse is embedded in the abused. I grew up in the Mormon Church. I grew up in the Mormon church, and since we were often homeless or deeply impoverished, the church parishioners would take us into their homes and offer us, tithes to cover, electric and water bills. It was during this time that I was molested by one of the wards mother's when I shared this with my mother. She told me that I wasn't allowed to say a word, a few years later, when I mentioned it again, she told me that it didn't happen and that I was a liar. I carried the shame of that experience for decades. I saw the worst parts of the church and witness other children being hurt and abused when my brothers and I would stay with them. When my mother was gone on a binge and my stepfather out of town, I would find myself staying with different families from the Brownsburg Ward of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints over multiple years I stayed with upwards of 30 different families, and much like ours. What happened behind closed doors was often hidden by Sunday smiles and kitchens?

By the time I was 11, I had been stripped entirely of my childhood between the beatings, belittlement, molestation, bedwetting, shame, tattered clothes, foodless nights, bullying, and homelessness I was ready to kill myself. Around this time, my baby brother went with his father, my stepfather, and he and my mother finally divorced the second youngest of his boys, went into the care of the state after threatening to kill himself, he was only eight. My sister lived with her father, and escaped, most of these experiences, our family was anything but healthy and functional and it hurt to know of all the dysfunctional families we were the worst.

When I was 12 my vehement races, grandmother Gladys adopted my next youngest brother and me. Racism was a daily part of life living with my grandmother. It was not uncommon for her to scream spic, jap, nigger, coon, jew, beaner, and a litany of other diatribes out the car window or under her breath at the grocery store. It wasn't until my last few years of high school that the direction of her racism changed and began to directly impact my brothers and me. By the time, I was a senior in high school, she would often say, I guess you want to go to prison with those nigger friends of yours, and I didn't raise you to be another one of these black bums. This would be the downfall of our relationship and one of the major reasons that I removed myself from her in the same way, I had my mother. Looking back and knowing that a copy of Adolf Hitler's autobiography and Manifesto; Mein Kampf, was in the living room. I was not surprised by our racism. I will forever be thankful to my grandma for taking me in, however, being a bi-racial teen and a racist household in an almost all-black neighborhood led to a full-on identity crisis, in high school that would take me another 10 years to sort out.

High school was certainly no walk in the park while I did well in sports, the dog-eat-dog prison-like environment at my school, one of the worst in America, drove me to stay intoxicated as often as possible. In fact, Northwest High School had such a deplorable graduation and pass rate that it was listed as a dropout Factory in a study at John Hopkins. It has since been shut down due to budget deficits and declining enrollment. In high school, I was deep into using and selling drugs, breaking into houses and cars, committing robberies, skipping, getting into fights and hurting people, and honing my skills as a con artist. In essence, I was a full-on product of my environment. I started drinking daily before I graduated and the sad truth is that a lot of us did? I was on a one-way path to being kicked out of school, but there were two teachers who without question impacted the direction of my life. Mr. Hollingsworth was the only man in my life that instilled any sense of belief in me. He made me feel valued and believed in my talent on the wrestling mat, and in school. He was the only person who ever recognized that something bad had happened to me and the only person to tell me that I was going to do something important with my life. His support will never be lost on me and I am forever grateful.

My life seemed to be headed towards total collapse, but by sheer luck, I had another amazing teacher who taught me the most important lesson I have ever learned. Mr. Brown was the kind of teacher that had seen everything and I'm sure I'm not the first or last kid to try to win him over, in an effort to get out of showing up. In the last semester of my senior year, he failed me for not showing up to class, and I was forced to attend summer school while my friends were beginning, their first season of real freedom. I begged him to pass me, I literally cried and begged him. I punched the lockers and screamed, but he wasn't fazed.

My world was ripped upside down as I had become the biggest loser in school. When my friends found out, they ostracize me, I was now the laughing stock of a school of laughingstocks, what they didn't know, and what I hadn't yet realized is that trauma was guiding every action in my life. What Mr. Brown did was not only courageous, but to this day, the single most important thing that anyone has done for me, what he did was teach me that I can't get by in life on my charm and good looks. He taught me that if I want something, I have to work for it.

After not being able to get into the military because of my medical history. I spent the next couple of years, getting fucked up, chasing girls, working in restaurants, and partying until 6 A.M. I had no regard for my own well-being or those around me and constantly put myself in others at risk as I rode the spiral of sex, drugs, and booze. Like I was Tommy Lee of Mötley Crüe in full disclosure. Tommy Lee was my idol as a kid. I knew that I was destined for something outside of homelessness and abuse, but I didn't know how to get there except through money and power.

I made a decision that I would do whatever it took to legally, make a six-figure income. By the time I was 21, I assume that the way out of poverty and the insanity of my youth was money. So I worked my ass off until ultimately finding success in Corporate America at one of the largest insurance companies in the country.

At 21 years old, I was making more money legally than anyone I knew, but the income only exacerbated, the stirrings of darkness awaiting deep within me. Eventually, I would walk away from that six-figure lifestyle to chase my dream of becoming a professional photographer, pursuing my dream of Photography didn't change the fact that the demons were encircling me and would soon engulf my soul.

On my 26th birthday, I put a gun in my mouth as my girlfriend found it on the bathroom door, begging me not to kill myself. I will never forget the taste of the cold metal against my tongue. I pulled the trigger, but the pain didn't strike the bullet casing. A failure to fire. I had guns in my life since I was a child and I will never understand why that round malfunction. Two days later, I went to the firing range in the same gun that worked like new. Fast forward three years, my photography and e-commerce businesses were booming, but everything else around me was in shambles. My relationships were a total lie because I was addicted to sex porn and was surrounded by toxic people who encouraged me to continue down the path I was on, instead of getting my shit together.

Being young with money opens the world to the best and worst possibilities, and I chose to swim in a pool filled with alcohol and drugs. I was drinking and getting stoned every day. I was addicted to feeling numb and I only cared about getting fucked up. I sought validation from every external source I could find, I was in the worst shape of my life weighing in, at over 340 pounds. In addition to being morbidly obese, I was smoking two packs of cigarettes a day. I was depressed, anxious, having panic attacks, and suicidal thoughts. I felt like complete shit. I couldn't face the cold hard fucking truth that I needed to stop making excuses and take my life back.

After another drug and alcohol-fueled night, I woke up hating myself. I hated who I was, and who I had become as a child, I promised myself that I would be better than the people who brought me into the world. I'd broken that promise to myself. I decided on a single moment that everything had to change, this was my mirror moment, which was 7 years ago.

There's a lot to be said about the impact of our past and the way that it shapes us into the people we are and will become but more often than not, it's a crutch and an excuse. I no longer seek validation for my existence through external sources and a found a real and true love for myself. I'm no longer playing the victim. I have transformed my body and my mind through hard work, dedication, persistence, and the unwavering belief that I can do anything.

One of the hardest truths that I had to admit to myself, was that vicious and undeserved trauma happened to me again and again. I had to accept that I had survived some of the most toxic environments imaginable. And then I lost my way because I was so dissociated from the truth. They say that the truth will set you free and I agree with that to an extent, the part that they leave out is that you have to acknowledge and feel the truth if you won't be released from its grasp.

 Today, I educate people around the world on the effects of trauma and how to get out of the vortex. Take their lives back and become the person that they know they are capable of being. The most critical piece of being is taking the first steps towards healing when I look back at that moment in the mirror. I'm reminded of the promise I made to myself. I promised myself to stop making excuses. I'd do anything to get healthy including leaving everything behind to start over from scratch. It's not that I was running from who I was. I was running towards who I wanted to be. What I didn't know was that the road to recovery and healing would be more daunting and confusing than the actual trauma itself.

Surprisingly, the process of discovering who I am was more complicated than being the person that the world wanted me to be. The day, everything changed, I acknowledged that I was responsible for creating the Michael I saw staring back at me. The Michael that stands in front of me today is the same, but with one huge difference today, I love myself. I love my strength, courage personality, body, heart, and mind.

I had to walk over the fiery, hot coals and smoking ashes of the flames at once, and golf me because that was the only way I could create who I am today.

When I look in the mirror now, the welling police sirens have turned into a powerful yet gentle whisper of a breeze that tells me you are strong, you are capable, you are loved. It is through your story that others will find their light. It is through your power that change will happen. Go forward without fear because today could be the best day of your life.

Trauma doesn't give a shit about where you live, what color your skin is, how much money you have, or your status in society. As many as 70% of adults may be survivors of trauma. My mission is to guide survivors of trauma by connecting them with the warriors that they genuinely are. The battle against trauma is one that must be faced together and it's easier to do it with a team by your side. Society may have once labeled me as an outcast, a loser, a drunk, a stoner, a liar, a cheater, and a thief, and those labels were all true. However, the one label I have always rejected was being called broken. I never felt broken, but I long for someone to show up and guide me through the healing process, they never came. I decided to write this book because it is what I needed. When I started my journey, I hope that you find it to be the same.

I am here for you.

We are in this together.

We are not alone.

We Are The Unbroken.

Michael UnbrokenProfile Photo

Michael Unbroken


Michael is an entrepreneur, best-selling author, speaker, coach, and advocate for adult survivors of childhood trauma.