We all have traumas and setbacks in our lives. We all encounter rejection and betrayal. But it’s what we do with those painful moments that determines the outcome of our lives. Our pain can be a gateway to hope, the very thing that leads us into a new life, or it can be our end. The choice is ours.
In 2007, I found myself at this gateway. I was in a dark and lonely place where it seemed I had lost everything that mattered. When I shared my problems with a friend, I realized just how hopeless my life had become. We were out at sea when I asked for his advice on dealing with my situation. I’ll never forget his response: “Mike, if that were me, I’d jump.”
Well, I didn’t jump into the sea, but I did dive deeper into darkness and kept going down the track of destruction I’d been traveling for years. Thankfully, God didn’t abandon me, and He didn’t give up on the plans He had for me either. Instead, He pursued me relentlessly, intervening in my life in the most incredible ways.
I grew up in a Christian home. Even when I wasn’t living for Him, I knew God had a plan for me. I’d heard about His good plans in church, and people often reminded me that I was destined for something big. And then there were the dreams I’d had.
One dream in 2004 vividly showed me inventing a pillow. It was so clear, I knew it had to be from God. I woke up and went to work immediately—at 2 a.m. My daughter came downstairs for some water and found a room full of sticky notes and a business plan for MyPillow. I excitedly told her that I was making pillows, and they were going to change the world. “That’s so random, Dad,” she said, and went back to bed.
I had another dream later that showed me how MyPillow would provide me with a large platform to help others. Helping others made me feel good about myself, so this excited me. It wasn’t often that I felt good about myself.
For most of my life, I’d felt out of place and different. My parents divorced when I was seven years old, and I had to go to a new school. Back then, divorce was uncommon, and being from a one-parent home often made me feel less-than.
Because of how different I’d felt as a child, I often struggled with social interaction. I would either clam up under the anxiety of speaking to someone or show off by doing crazy things. I didn’t know what to do with my hurt, so I escaped the pain however I could.
Eventually, I turned to the temporary escape of alcohol, gambling, and drugs. Under the influence of drugs, my social anxiety decreased. I felt more confident and relaxed, and I was able to talk to people. But it was false courage at best.
As I grew older, I tried launching my own business. I’d always had an entrepreneurial mind, but I didn’t have a lot of success. I was faced with the failures of my life in 1984 at my five-year class reunion.
Looking around at my classmates and listening to their stories, it seemed everyone had it all together but me. I was a college dropout and a compulsive gambler, the single guy who owed the mafia money for football bets. (Truth—they even broke both my arms for my debts.)
I lay in bed the night of that reunion, and sadness filled my heart. I felt so empty and alone and behind in life. I was angry with myself for not being where I thought I should be and for wasting time. I longed for the families my classmates had spoken of, and I prayed, “God, please give me a woman to love and a family.” I thought for sure if I had a family, I’d be happy, content, and fulfilled.
In 1987, I met a woman and got married. We had four beautiful children together. God had given me everything I had requested. I started a lunch wagon and then opened bars. (Not the best place for an addict to spend his days.) I worked hard. Yet even with my family and successful businesses, I remained discontent, and drugs continued to get me through my days.
There’s a big misconception about addiction. Many people imagine addicts are homeless people living on the streets. And some are. But addicts also have beautiful homes and families. It doesn’t matter how many forks a person uses—addiction can affect anyone.
For 15 years, I functioned as an addict. I drank and used cocaine daily yet continued to work hard. It seemed a normal thing to do—the people I hung out with did the same. These substances helped me feel more confident and secure. They enabled me to talk to my customers.
But when I came down from the drugs, unhappiness was always waiting for me. So I continued to combat it the only way I knew how. In the early 2000s, I turned to crack cocaine. With each passing day, I focused less on my business and more on finding my next hit.
It wasn’t long before I lost my bar. Everything I had worked so hard to gain was gone, and I was devastated. “What now?” I thought.
As crushing as it was, this disappointment had to happen. It was the beginning of several events God used to bring me into the calling He had for my life. During this time, I had that first dream for MyPillow—a vision from God of something new.
Over the next year, I worked tirelessly, designing the MyPillow pillow. I bought a farm grinder and started chopping foam. My children were involved in every stage of the process, from making logos, developing prototypes, and hiring their friends to help with production. When my neighbors found out what I was doing, they joked, “What? Mike’s making pillows now? Is he on crack?!” (Little did they know, I was.)
With the end product in hand, I passionately set out to revolutionize the pillow industry. But my excitement was met with rejection as every retail store turned me down. A friend suggested I sell out of a kiosk at the local mall. I didn’t even know how to spell kiosk, but I gave it a try. I only worked a couple of days there, but that was all God needed to bring about His divine appointment.
One of the people passing by “just happened” to be the head of the Minnesota Home and Garden Show. He asked for my business card as he purchased his MyPillow. The pillow impacted his life so much that he then called and suggested I get a booth at the show. So I did.
I only sold about 12 pillows the first day of the show. I was so anxious—I just didn’t know how to talk to people without the help of drugs. (I was still using at this time but always made sure I was sober at the shows.) I stood behind a table to keep customers from invading my space.
After that first day, many of my customers came back to the show just to tell me how the MyPillow had helped them. This boosted my confidence exponentially. To me, it wasn’t about making money as much as it was about helping people.
For the next six years, I sold at the Home and Gardens Show and at the Minnesota State Fair with great success. Our family could have lived well off the proceeds from these events alone, but I knew MyPillow was destined for greater things.
Although I was on track for success, I was still unhappy, and I kept relying on drugs to mask my pain. In 2007, the inevitable happened—my addiction caught up with me and took everything, including my 20-year marriage. I almost lost MyPillow, too, as others tried to take my business. I encountered painful betrayal. And this is when that friend confirmed the hopelessness of my life with his comment, “Mike, if it were me, I’d jump.”
My painful circumstances kept intensifying, and so did my drug use. I was using crack cocaine daily by this point, but then came another God intervention.
I was staying in a crack house in downtown Minneapolis. I came out of the bedroom, and three drug dealers were standing there. These guys knew of each other but had never met. I asked, “What are you guys doing here?”
One said, “Mike, you’ve been up for 14 days. We aren’t selling you any more.”
I was like, “What is this, an intervention?”
A little later, I hit the streets. Turned out, these guys had given an order that no one was to sell to me. Furious, I went back to the house and let that dealer have a piece of my mind.
He replied, “Man, you’ve been telling us for years how MyPillow is a platform from God and that you were going to quit drugs and come back and help all of us out of this addiction world we’re living in.” He rolled his eyes and grabbed my phone.
Then he took a picture of me and said, “Here. You’re gonna need this picture for that d— book you keep telling us you’re gonna write.” The picture is now on the cover of my book, What Are the Odds? From Crack Addict to CEO.
I wish I could say I walked away from drugs that night, but I didn’t. Instead, my life continued its downward spiral. Thankfully, God still hadn’t given up on me. Seven months later, He intervened again.
I was lying on my back on the floor in an empty house in the middle of the woods, looking at the ceiling. As I pondered the hopelessness of my life, there was a knock at the door. I was surprised to see my former friend, Dick. He and I had grown up together, and we had started using drugs together, too, including crack. But Dick had found the Lord. His life had taken a different direction, and I hadn’t seen him since.
“What are you doing here?” I asked. He told me the Lord had prompted him to visit and wanted to know what was going on. I knew I could trust Dick, and I started to share the details of my life. I also asked him many questions about his faith. I knew he’d tried all sorts of recovery programs like I had, but this Jesus thing seemed to have made a difference. I wanted to understand how and why.
For the next two hours, Dick shared how Christ had changed his life when all else had failed. I was especially interested in knowing whether the Christian life was boring. He assured me it was not.
I didn’t accept Jesus into my life that night, but God used Dick to plant another seed of hope that would soon take root.
On January 16, 2009, my spirit was filled with urgency. I knew I was about to lose my opportunity to fulfill any call God had on my life, so I asked Him to deliver me from my addiction. It wasn’t the first time I had prayed. I had done so many times in jail, bargaining with God to make my problems go away. But something about this day was different.
Desperate for change, I told God I was willing to do whatever He wanted, but I needed Him to set me free of my desire for drugs first.
When I awoke the next day, it was an absolute miracle. I had no physical or mental desire whatsoever for drugs, alcohol, or anything, and I haven’t had any since.
I was free. I am free! I immediately dove into rebuilding and reclaiming MyPillow. I committed to making it into a large platform that could help other addicts find the freedom I had found.
I set off, more passionate than ever. That monkey of addiction was finally off my back. The first thing I needed was to secure $30,000. I was so intimidated as I met with investors and shared my story of being a former crack addict. One of them asked when I had quit. He looked surprised when I responded, “Last Thursday.” Incredibly, they agreed to loan me the $30,000 I needed. They couldn’t even check my license because I didn’t have one. It was another divine intervention.
Months later, I realized the importance of discovering the reasons behind my addiction. I went to an outpatient center at my sister’s church. The first night there, I bragged to the other guys about how many treatment centers I’d been in, how many drugs I’d used, and how I had forgotten more about addiction recovery than most counselors ever knew.
Rafe, the counselor, told me he didn’t care about all that. Instead, he wanted to know about my father and my childhood. I thought to myself, what in the world does this have to do with anything?
Rafe helped me understand that addictions often stem from childhood traumas, especially fatherlessness. Dealing with past traumas was essential to recovery. I needed to address them, or they would continue to manifest themselves in unhealthy ways. I also learned that those wounds had opened a door for Satan to insert His lies in my life. I learned a lot there, but I wasn’t yet ready to surrender my life to Jesus. Instead, I continued to focus on building the company.
I was still struggling to get retailers to accept my product, so I decided to take the pillow to the people through the magic of television. I convinced my friends and family to pool their money and help me create an infomercial.
No one ever told me an infomercial isn’t the greatest marketing technique, so I believed it would work. Someone suggested I should hire an actor, but I knew if I wanted the thing to create sales, it would have to be authentic. And no one believed in MyPillow more than I did.
We arranged for a studio audience, and I hired a cohost. On the day we shot, I was scared to death. Even after years of sales, I still had a paralyzing fear of talking to people. It didn’t help that the producer said I was the worst guy ever to do an infomercial and that I would never make it on TV.
I was living in my sister’s basement when that infomercial aired at 3:00 a.m. on October 7, 2011. It was so surreal to see myself selling MyPillow on television. Over the next 40 days, MyPillow grew from 10 employees to 500. It was a miracle that we were able to produce all the pillows needed to meet the demand.
Over the next few years, MyPillow made hundreds of millions of dollars, but I began taking important things for granted, and before I knew it, MyPillow was six million dollars in debt. That was 2014, and once again, MyPillow was hanging on by a thread. We were two days from going under when God intervened once again.
This time, He used a woman named Kendra. She had seen my struggles and encouraged me to pray. She then asked about my relationship with God. I told her I believed in Him, always had. But she challenged me to develop a personal, intimate relationship with Him. I could see Kendra had an inner peace and confidence that I didn’t. I had seen these qualities in other Christians too. For the next three years, I observed Kendra’s relationship with God. Deep down, I knew it was what I needed.
Finally, on February 18, 2017, I got on my knees and fully surrendered my life to Jesus. At that moment, a weight fell off my shoulders. Relief came over me as I received God’s forgiveness and forgave myself. From that day forward, my life and MyPillow have remained in the Lord’s hands. MyPillow and my life are testaments to the power of prayer. There have been so many miracles, I can’t even begin to share them all.
A couple of months after surrendering to Jesus, I stood in front of 15,000 people at US Bank Stadium, sharing my story. I was amazed at how God had taken me—a guy so terrified of public speaking he had to rely on drugs even to talk—and put me on stage to be a source of hope to others.
Many people shared afterward how my story had helped them. It made me feel good to know that I was finally on the path God had desired for me. Now, I was positioned to help others find that right path too.
As you can see, it took me many years to finally surrender my life to God and to step into His purposes. It used to bother me that I had wasted so much time, but God never wastes anything. It’s not about how quickly or through what means we come to surrender—it’s just about us finally getting there.
Are you there yet? If not, today can be the day. Go ahead, get on your knees right now and surrender your life to Jesus. Give Him everything—your desire to use, your trauma, that inner pain, those disappointments, and your failures. Give Him your family, business, or prison sentence. Why wait? You’ve probably already tried everything else. Take it from me—Jesus is the answer. You can trust Him with your life.
Let me close with some of my favorite Bible verses. Proverbs 3:5–6 says, “Trust in the Lord with all your heart; do not depend on your own understanding. Seek his will in all you do, and he will show you which path to take” (NLT). Do it. It makes all the difference.
Mike Lindell, inventor and CEO of MyPillow, is passionate about helping others find freedom from addiction through Christ. For free recovery resources, visit LindellRecoveryNetwork.org. To purchase Mike’s newly released book, What Are the Odds? From Crack Addict to CEO, visit Amazon.com. Softcover prison versions are also available (ISBN code 1734283432).