U.P. trio to complete in triathlon to raise drug addiction awareness

GLADSTONE — Drug addiction is plaguing communities all over the Upper Peninsula, affecting not only those directly battling the habit, but for their loved ones as well.

Overcoming the addiction is a hard feat, but as one Delta County man shows us, the path to recovery is well worth it.

“I guess I used to play a victim role and I don’t play that anymore. The whole drug escapade is more of a selfish business and I’m not in that business anymore,” said Mike Neeld, a participant in the Ironman North Carolina Triathlon to help raise awareness for drug addiction.

Mike Neeld grew up in Delta County and had a typical U.P. upbringing that nurtured his love for sports and motocross. After graduating from Northern Michigan University, Neeld moved away for work and wound up at a high–stress job.

What started as one pill to make him feel better turned into a nearly eight–year long drug addiction.

“I didn’t really realize there was a problem until it was too late,” said his mom, Lori Aho. “We had done a family intervention and tried to get him some help that way. It was like a roller coaster. He seemed to get better for a while but then he would go back to it. It’s a vicious cycle.”

“I went to jail, I got in lieu of conviction so I didn’t get any felonies or anything else,” said Neeld. “I got sent to a treatment facility that’s changed my life. The statistics of going to prison and coming out of prison, relapsing — you’re pretty much guaranteed to fail.”

Neeld was skating on thin ice and rehabilitation attempts were ultimately unsuccessful. That is until he ended up at Western Michigan Teen Challenge, a one–year faith based treatment program in downstate Muskegon.

“I guess the biggest thing is, you need to be honest with yourself and what you want out of life. The drugs, ultimately at the end, you’re either going to go to prison or you’re going to die and you’re going to leave your loved ones, your family, your children without a father, without a mother,” said Neeld.

Since completing the program, Neeld and Aho have dedicated an incredible amount of time to Delta County’s Angel Program and the Drug Court. The duo also mentor at Bay Pines, a juvenile detention center in Escanaba.

Helping people find the right path is their ultimate goal.

“It’s a hard struggle because you don’t realize it’s a problem until it’s too late and then now your body is dependent on it and now you need it. It’s not an easy task to change your life. It’s one of the hardest things you’re ever going to do, but it’s always worth it,” Neeld said. “Just like anything of great value comes with a cost — there’s a sacrifice involved.”

Neeld now focuses on physical activity, a healthier habit he picked up during recovery. The mother and son, along with a third addiction advocate, Mindy Davenport, are just days away from one of their toughest challenges yet: The Ironman North Carolina.

Together, the trio calling themselves Team Tri Sobriety, will complete a 2.4 mile swim, 26.2 mile run and a 112 mile bike triathlon later this month.

Aho started Your Journey, Your Cause through the Ironman Foundation and the three are raising money for the Delta County Task Force, which will be used to fund initiatives in the community to combat drug addiction, like the Drug Court.

For more information on how you can help raise money for Team Tri Sobriety, click here.