Published in The Blade, 10-22-2020
Michael Anspach's journey back to his roots and working at the family law firm was long, uncertain, and sometimes painful, but the 35-year-old's next chapter could be one of his best.
Michael is back in Toledo working with his father, Bob Anspach, at Anspach Law downtown. Michael graduated from Maumee Valley Country Day School in 2004 and went off to Boston College to study philosophy and music, but there he ran into some of the biggest challenges of his life.
It was his first time leaving home and he struggled to adjust to new surroundings and a big city. "I felt like a small fish in a very big pond," Michael said. "I found ways of coping by making friends with people who drank and used illicit substances and that's how I coped with feeling disconnected or out of place. That was in 2005 and I went to treatment shortly, but I wasn't done using."
It took Michael another seven years to complete his degree as he battled drug and alcohol addiction. A vicious cycle developed where he used drugs, felt shame and guilt, then used more.
Many addicts who eventually get sober experience rock bottom first and Michael's lowest moment came in 2011. He wound up in a Boston hospital for four days suffering from withdrawal symptoms.
"I was in a room all alone in a hospital gown and I dropped to my knees with tears in my eyes and said, 'God if you exist, help me. I'll do anything,'" Michael said. "It came to the point where it was either stop drinking and using or die." While Michael was hospitalized, his father happened to be in Boston taking a deposition. He talked to his son over the phone but decided against visiting him.
Bob is all too familiar with the process as someone who entered a treatment facility himself in 2005 to address an alcohol problem.
"Ultimately it is the individual's own journey," Bob said. "You or I can never completely let go of thinking about what we could have done differently. But through my own recovery, I realized no one could save me but myself and whatever [higher] power. I knew this had to be his own journey."
Michael went back into treatment and finished his degree. He said the second time worked because he did it for himself instead of other people.
He became interested in yoga and other spiritual practices during his extended recovery. He moved to southern California with the intention of opening up his own yoga studio.
He hired a lawyer to help him secure a space, and that's when he said a fire was lit. Those legal conversations made him realize he wanted a career in law.
He obtained a law degree from Marquette University in Milwaukee and returned to the Glass City in 2018.
"Every time I came home I saw these signs about doing better in Toledo," he said. "I kept seeing these pop up and at some point, I had the thought of starting a business. I had the idea that no matter what I did, I would do better in Toledo."
Michael has maintained his sobriety and recently purchased the former Toledo Sign Co. building at 25 S. Huron St. He and his father's firm relocated there this month. The space allows for better collaboration and has a "family dynamic."
Michael said the biggest thing anyone struggling with addiction can do is ask for help.
"The most important mantra I live by is 'This too shall pass,'" Michael said. "At any moment, I can feel anything. But no matter what, it's going to change. Reach out for help and remember it's only temporary."
Bob said alcohol and drug abuse is too common in the legal realm, calling it a "hazard of the profession." It would have been easy to lose hope as his son was dealing with serious issues, but that never happened.
When he dealt with his own addiction, he knew he still had a loving family and a successful practice backing him up.
"So all those things together made me believe that there was hope and a joyful ending," Bob said. "So far, that's proven to be true."