Devastation Ignites Passion in Local Kingman Resident

Published by The Bee News

June 15, 2021

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KINGMAN, AZ June, 15, 2021 – In 2013, Michael Esser received a call that would change his life forever. His 21 year old daughter was the passenger in a friend’s truck that had been forced off the road and into a palm tree by a drunk driver. The impact killed both his daughter and her friend instantly. The drunk driver escaped and had to be tracked down to a nearby hotel. This drunk driver was no stranger to being caught behind the wheel while being intoxicated. He had just completed DUI/DWI counseling for a previous drunk driving offense a mere 9 days before this accident.
Devastated, Michael turned his loss into a mission to figure out a better way of reaching DUI/DWI offenders so that they would be less likely to reoffend. So, he earned a degree in Chemical Dependency, read every book he could find, and began teaching DUI/DWI classes in his local community. He began collecting group data and anonymous feedback from the participants that allowed him to build and adjust his program over time based on needs and responses. He then tracked clients through public access for three years after their completion to see if they reoffended. Finally, he maintained a unique “open door” policy that clients would regularly take him up on for three specific reasons.
First, Michael’s demeanor towards the clients wasn’t that of a father who lost a daughter to someone who had committed the same crime they did, but instead more like a genuinely concerned older brother who wanted to help you be and do better, with no judgements.
Second, by design, Michael filled every part of his office with layers of various pop culture toys and comics from his childhood. This essentially turned his office into a spectacle of superheroes and science fiction that was so overwhelming and captivating that it caused those that entered to drop their guard and begin engaging almost immediately, versus the weeks or months it might have taken otherwise. This was because it instantly allowed them to relate to each other something they had in common, from a time before “life” happened.
Finally, the design of Michael’s group sessions were deliberately centered around a weekly self-assessment that he created that allowed everyone to self-reflect on their past week, identify ups and downs, assign a number to those findings, and gauge the five essential areas of their life and how they felt they were doing. This was followed by the required education being delivered in creative ways and the clients understanding recorded. Finally, every session was concluded with the assigning of homework, Michael described as “thought exercises” or something relevant to ponder over the next week leading up to the next group.
This group process was something clients could anticipate and even look forward to, you see because the self assessment portion of the group was something that everyone took turns sharing with the group, in exchange for feedback and support from the rest of the group who were being taught active listening skills. In addition, the groups had new members coming in and existing members completing the program every week. This allowed those that had learned the process to help the newer participants adjust and gave the veteran’s in the group the ability to return the mentorship and support they received when they began.
Michael’s overall philosophy is based around something he’s called, the “Self-Preservation” approach.
“I learned that if you give someone enough time, with enough information, that they will make the best decisions for their life. Not my life, not your life, their life.” Michael adds, “When you show someone how to do that, it changes everything.”
Essentially, Michael was able to rebrand the idea of what a DUI/DWI class was supposed to be and turned it into something that truly helped the individual break free from what he describes as the, “auto-pilot mode” that we all eventually find ourselves in as adults. The same auto-pilot mode that has us mindlessly doing the same things over and over in our lives everyday because there is no resistance, there’s also no growth. But, when that same mode finds us not thinking through our decisions and actions until it’s too late, it can cost us and those around us deeply.
Michael captured all of this into an 8 to 18 week program that is extremely affordable, duplicateable, something that could be taught by even the newest behavioral health professional, and benefit everyone regardless of their level of offense.
He wanted to find a way to reach people quickly and have that interaction be both meaningful and lasting, and according to those that have participated in his program, it’s working.
MADD estimates that 1 out of every 3 DUI/DWI offenders reoffend and get a second DUI/ DWI, or 33%.
Michael admits his program was developed in a smaller community, with only a few thousand participants, over only a few years, but boasts that the results he saw had only 1 out of every 20 DUI/DWI offenders in his program reoffended in the time he did his study, or 5%. That’s a 95% success rate versus the 66% estimated average.
Michael has received praise from various Mohave County Judges and Probation Department heads over the years for his work within the community and was awarded the Arizona Association of Drug Court Professionals Annual Commitment to Excellence Award in 2016.
Note: The non-profit parent company Michael was working for closed it’s doors permanently in 2020 and Michael has now devoted his attention to getting his workbook in as many hands as possible.

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