Michael Jaimeson is a Louisvillian today, but certainly not born and raised. At first glance, he may seem like a typical resident of the outer Bluegrass region. Louisville is considered the northernmost Southern city or the southernmost Northern city; like the city itself, there have undoubtedly been many contradictions in Jaimeson’s life. Born in Detroit, Michigan, into a life of poverty, in the early ’50s, Jaimeson’s story would take on a quintessential “Cooley High” storyline. addiction
Jaimeson was illegitimate, the second-born son of a young, single mother on welfare. His young life was riddled with adversity, from the estrangement of his birth father to an abusive alcoholic stepfather. Jaimeson also had severe vision impairment, which was undetected until the age of four. His life’s journey began as one with insurmountable challenges. Many of these hardships would influence the course of Jaimeson’s life, and so too would his resilience and determination to overcome them. But according to Jaimeson, the most crucial changes didn’t happen without help in the form of divine intervention.
Early Life of Struggle
During his childhood, Jaimeson took on the role of the family caretaker. Early on, he realized that there was no one to look after him or his sibling. His home life involved living with what he describes as “children in adult bodies” (i.e., his mother and alcoholic stepfather). Therefore, he was forced to take on adult responsibilities like getting a job, paying the bills, and making meals at a very young age.
What happened in Jaimeson’s life was not so different from other young kids growing up in poverty in Detroit in the 1960s. As he developed into early adolescence, he got into trouble with drugs—using and selling them— and affiliated with local neighborhood thugs. He struggled to discover what manhood was all about without any positive role models. Luckily, there was one person he could always turn to, his maternal grandmother, Minnie Mae Adkins. Minnie Mae taught her grandson that “If you keep doing the next right thing, you can never do wrong. “Just by living her life, she inspired me,” said Jaimeson. With the influence of his beloved grandmother, Jaimeson internalized spiritual values; but simultaneously, he rubbed elbows with people considered anything but saintly.
Jaimeson’s early childhood trauma eventually led to a young adult life chained to addiction and involvement in illegal activity. Jaimeson “sold drugs and hustled to continue having access to drugs like marijuana, hallucinogens, speed, alcohol, opiates, and valium.” It’s crucial to understand that addiction doesn’t represent weakness in a person’s character, as some people may unknowingly assume. Instead, addiction is a response to trauma, most often linked with childhood trauma.
As Jaimeson grew out of his teens and into adulthood, he made several attempts to get straight and live a life that would make Minnie Mae proud. In his early 20’s he was involved in the Job Corps program and worked hard to get his GED and Certified Nursing Assistant (CNA) certification, which eventually afforded him a stable job at an all-Black hospital in Detroit. He also managed to get clean and sober, met the love of his life, and stayed in the church for several years.
Jaimeson was devastated when the relationship didn’t work out; his health began to decline, he lost his job, and his drug use started up again. This was a very dark time in Jaimeson’s life when he reportedly “became a heavy drug user, sold a lot of pot, and contemplated suicide daily.”
In his early 30’s, after several failed attempts to get and stay sober, Jaimeson decided to leave his birth city. “I had to leave Detroit; I was running with the wrong crowd and doing a lot of shady things, which would have led to my death or someone else’s,” Jaimeson explained.