Mike Lindell’s story is about the ripple effect. It’s a story about an insomniac who had a bout of divine inspiration in a dream, leading to the multimillion-dollar MyPillow empire.
It’s a story about how a drug addict hit such a low that three dealers had to hold an intervention for him. It’s a story about how a drug addict ended up honored by the president (or “from the crack house to the White House,” someone on his publishing team put it).
It’s a story about a business that was pulled back from the brink of ruin time after time at million-to-one odds. It’s a story about how childhood wounds of the heart manifested as addiction and the cure to both was the same. It’s a story of 14 near-death experiences, including skydiving with a faulty parachute.
As Lindell looked at all his stories and experiences laid out before him in preparation for his book, a member of the team picked up one of the sheets of paper. He said, “Let’s just take this one—Mike, you just lived through something nobody on the planet could live through. [Any normal person] would surrender right here and go, ‘Thank you, Lord, for saving me.'”
Lindell is well known for using is platform—built on faith—to help addicts and communities, and speak about his faith. So I asked whether he had always had that relationship with God.
“That didn’t come until—are you ready for this? Feb. 18, 2017. So that’s only two years ago,” Lindell said.
“God chased me throughout decades. I had good seeds planted—he just chased me. I would only pray if I needed something. I’d have a gun to my head, or get out of something, or be out on the streets completely penniless and say, ‘Please help me, God,'” Lindell said.
Lindell always believed there was a God that existed, but for a long time, it didn’t amount to much more than that. But then miracle after miracle started piling up, until it was undeniable.
“It’s a story of miracles,” Lindell said. “Look at the odds in your own life and add it up, one in a million, one in a billion, when do you consider it a miracle?”
His memoir, “What Are the Odds?” comes out in early December, and Lindell believes it will inspire good.
“Whether you’re an entrepreneur, whether you’re an addict, or whether you’re a normal person, because we all face adversity,” Lindell said. “My friends that have watched me, the ones that were crack cocaine addicts, every one of them has quit. That’s over 50 people, that I know directly, who quit because I was an example.”
“But the book isn’t just about addiction, the book is about hope, that with God, all things are possible,” Lindell said. The book is also key to a plan he has to help addicts across the country, in a permanent and sustainable way.
Lindell knew, even as a child, he would one day write a book.
“Things always happen to me that were like, what are the odds?” he said. “I would keep proof—when I owed bookies for football bets and they came to break my arm, back in 1982, I kept what they wrote on a Hardee’s bag, I kept evidence that it all happened.”
Lindell was just 7 when his parents got divorced, at a time when divorces weren’t common, and he was put in a new school. It sent shockwaves through his life.
“[I felt] I wasn’t worthy. I had fear of rejection, and you can’t get rejected if you don’t talk to people,” Lindell said. Of course, he hadn’t realized this at the time, and wouldn’t for many years.
He became this shy outsider prone to sudden bursts of “showing off” so he could gain attention, because he couldn’t otherwise talk to people. Later at a school reunion, he’d tell stories about how he got 17 tickets in two days and crashed his motorcycle, or his run-in with the mafia, and watch everyone become mesmerized by his tales. He laid in bed and cried that night, because he wanted what they had—jobs they’d stuck with, families they’d built.
Then, the drugs began in the early 1980s, and Lindell was actually initially reticent.
Lindell, in his early 20s, had gotten back from working on his uncle’s farm late and was crashing on a friend’s couch. The friend, Dick, did cocaine. Lindell had never tried drugs, but that day, he was tired. Dick handed him a small rock and told him to hold it under his tongue; he said it would wake him right up.
“I reluctantly did that, because I thought, well, I’m not going to snort it or whatever,” Lindell said. “For me, it was instant. I hit the ground running.”
“It not only masked all my pain, but it made me feel like I was on top of the world, and all my unworthiness and everything was gone,” Lindell said. He could talk to people. He felt great.
By 2000, both he and his friend had switched to crack cocaine.
Not long after Lindell started drugs, he developed an entrepreneurial streak: an opportunity would come out of nowhere and he would start a business—and then another, and another. He had mixed success, but did well enough. He was the owner of two bars in 2004, when he woke up with an idea. He’d been given divine inspiration during his fitful sleep: MyPillow.
He labored for more than a year to make the perfect foam pillow, which could hold its customized shape throughout the night. His enthusiasm for the idea was mind-boggling to some, and he was turned down everywhere. The prototype was hand-sewn, the foam ripped by him and his son out on the deck at home in various sizes—the secret to holding its shape. No stores wanted his bizarre product.
Then, someone suggested Lindell just sell the product himself at a shopping center kiosk.
He was there just one day, because Lindell realized he couldn’t talk to people—and that’s what a kiosk is: a little stand where you have to talk to people. But he did sell at least one pillow that day. Not long after, Lindell got a call from a satisfied caller who told him the pillow had changed his life, and gave him the best night’s sleep. He also happened to work with the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show, and invited Lindell to sell his pillows there.
With a big table in front of him and a large banner at his back, Lindell felt shielded enough that he could sell the pillow. Popularity was growing, and people were coming back the next day to tell him how much it had changed their sleep. Lindell felt he’d found his calling, his former drug-induced insomnia had turned into something good, and was helping people. He was on the right track.
But Lindell realized that once he stepped out from behind the table, his tongue was tied. He still couldn’t talk to people.
He was still addicted to crack cocaine, while the business waxed and waned. He knew deep down that his addiction couldn’t go on, but recovery seemed insurmountable.
Late in 2008, sitting in a rundown place with no money left, Lindell saw Dick again.
“I heard he’d been freed of that, that he had not done any drugs for three years and that he found the Lord. I hadn’t talked to him in a year. And he came walking in,” Lindell said.
“The end was near, and he showed up out of the blue,” Lindell said. He asked Dick if being clean was boring, and Dick said it wasn’t, sparking an hour-long conversation in which he answered all sorts of questions for Lindell.
It gave Lindell hope, because “he was so similar.”
“Nobody had been where I had been other than maybe Dick, because I couldn’t compare my [experience] to anybody else.”
They had started cocaine around the same time, crack cocaine around the same time, and had similar experiences with the drug. Another concerned voice wouldn’t have had the same effect on Lindell. Dick’s experience was crucial in Lindell’s journey to quit drugs.
Lindell says his “rock bottom” was bad, and typical, but it wasn’t the day he quit. It’s a very Lindell story: he had been up for two weeks straight, trying to get more crack cocaine. He was penniless and had lost a 20-year marriage. The three biggest drug dealers in the area ended up having to hold an intervention; they told him they wouldn’t sell him drugs because they couldn’t let him die. One of them stayed with Lindell in an empty warehouse and took a picture of him to show just how low he was; he later found out one of the others went to spread the word not to sell to Lindell anymore.
The one who stayed told Lindell, “You’ve been telling us for years that this pillow is just a platform for God, and you’re going to come back someday and help us all out of this addiction.”
Lindell had always worn a cross, and spoke about God. Even as a bar owner, he would be talking with his friends after the bar closed and doing drugs, and he would talk about the Bible and Jesus. Over 20 of these friends quit drugs after those conversations.
But by then, in that warehouse in 2009, Lindell knew what his calling was. And he knew that if he waited even one more day, his calling would be gone.
He prayed, “God, I want to wake up in the morning and never have any of these desires again, for any of these addictions.”
The next morning, that desire was gone. Lindell sought treatment at a faith-based treatment center not long after, and in 2009, finally rid himself of drugs.
Miracle After Miracle
Lindell is a hugely trusting person; it manifests not just in his faith in God’s will, but the people around him who he’s given second, third, and fourth chances. Just because one person betrays you and breaks trust doesn’t mean the next person will. Lindell—he’s been betrayed in every way you can name.
After he rid himself of his addictions, he started working to get his business back. People he’d worked closely with had planned to take the business over without him, and Lindell needed to raise $30,000 immediately to at least get his fabric back.
First he prayed, then he met with a group of eight potential investors and told them his dream.
“When did you quit crack?” Lindell said one of them asked him. “I said, ‘Last Thursday.'”
Four of them got up and left—but the other four were so moved by Lindell’s passion, they stayed and invested. He was able to pay them back in three months.
In 2011, Lindell had the idea for an infomercial—”I had no idea infomercials didn’t work”—and family, friends, and others pooled their money and raised $300,000 for the endeavor.
There was a big studio audience, and after seeing them, Lindell couldn’t speak. It took him one hour just to be able to say the first line. They ended up getting rid of the teleprompter, and recreating the set to look like one of the home and garden shows where Lindell was used to doing his sales pitch. After a day of filming, it finally aired.
In less than two months, Lindell went from working in his basement with five employees to having 50 employees.
“We just exploded,” he said. “I was hiring people off the streets.”
A few years later, in 2014, the business hit another low. MyPillow was millions in debt, and Lindell had no idea what he had done wrong. He and his employees prayed on the matter, and then put out a commercial. The company came roaring back. That set the tone for the sort of divine intervention Lindell experienced over the next several years, up to the present.
Before Donald Trump ran for president, he had invited Lindell to Trump Tower. They would talk about manufacturing, family values, and faith, among other things. But the day before the meeting, Lindell remembers looking out at Central Park and feeling so unworthy.
The year after, he was invited to the National Prayer Breakfast and prayed with Dr. Ben Carson. The year after that, Lindell was invited to the White House for a manufacturing summit and sat next to the president.
A photo of him went national, and Lindell’s friends couldn’t believe it.
“All my friends are going, ‘Jesus is real!'” he said with a laugh. “‘There’s no way Mike Lindell, this crack addict, is sitting next to the president!'”
The year 2017 brought another gift for Lindell. Several people had come into Lindell’s life as if by divine appointment over the years, and they told him about their experiences with Operation Restored Warrior. In 2017, he was invited to participate in a Drop Zone.
“I was very timid going in there, because I’m thinking, ‘I’m not worthy of all these veterans that are in there, and all this trauma they’ve went through, and the horrible things that they had to face,'” Lindell said. “But I’ll tell you, everybody’s got trauma, and everybody’s got wounds. We went in there and everybody gets their hearts restored. That’s a big thing. And I just fit right in.”
He walked out of that Drop Zone restored.
“I went in there with hope,” Lindell said. “I did a full surrender and Jesus showed up.”
And the idea of speaking to a crowd no longer paralyzed Lindell with fear.
Lindell’s book will conclude with an event that took place just recently: Late in August, he spoke to a packed stadium of students at a Liberty University event.
“Today’s the first day I’ve spoke out like this and told the full story,” he told them. “If you would have told me even two years ago that I would be able to speak publicly, I would have said that is impossible, utterly impossible.”
From One Ex-Addict to Another
For more than a decade, Lindell has been dedicating his efforts to helping people break out of their addiction, and knows firsthand what works. The purpose of selling his book, Lindell says, is so he can fund the Lindell Recovery Network, which he hopes to launch this fall.
The first part to go online will be a video library he’s been working on, where users can find experiences of former addicts.
“But they’re not going to tell their ‘rock bottoms,’ and that’s very key,” Lindell said. “They’re going to say what they didn’t like about the drug.”
“Rock bottom” stories don’t work, because every one of them is different, he says. “Then the addict says, I’m either worse than him, or I’m not that bad, I can keep using,” Lindell said. The videos will be specific.
A 22-year-old heroin addict can find a video of another 22-year-old heroin addict, because they’re not going to relate to a 57-year-old crack addict’s story, he said.
“So I would say, I didn’t like trying to find baking soda in the middle of the night, I didn’t like going to a grocery store in the middle of the night and buying a set of silverware when all I needed was a spoon,” he said. “I’d have to cut up electrical wire to make a screen—things like that.”
“We don’t need some counselor telling you about your problems—addicts don’t listen to that,” Lindell said. “They need to see people that have been there and they need to hear back how they made it out of there.”
He isn’t embarking on this endeavor alone; he’s working with various faith-based treatment centers, including Salvation Army, Teen Challenge, and Union Gospel Mission.
Lindell is clear that it must the faith-based organizations doing the work, and he’s vetted the centers and related churches himself.
“They are the only ones that are working on a massive scale,” he said. He’s had, and seen, experiences with secular centers, and he says they don’t work. People come out of treatment without drugs, but also without hope. It doesn’t last. At their worst, the treatment centers effectively monetize addiction, Lindell said, buying up all the advertising, guilting family members to pay for treatment, but delivering no results.
“We’re not taking any public money, so they can’t tell us we can’t talk about Jesus,” he said. “That’s what’s happening right now to faith-based centers.”
He’s put $5 million of his own money into the project and will be financing these organizations to employ mentors who can work directly with addicts seeking help. He aims to employ thousands, including the people who finish the treatment programs.
“When you come out of treatment centers, you have to have God, and you have that base, because you know what? You’re not going to have trust,” Lindell said. “Addicts want trust—addicts are the hardest workers on the planet, the hardest workers. But you know what, when you come out, you’re not going to have trust.”
Lindell has, since the beginning of MyPillow, hired former addicts looking for a second chance, oftentimes on the spot.
“Addiction is the hardest thing. People say to me all the time, ‘Mike, you work so hard.’ I say no, you know what, I love what I’m doing. I’ll tell you what the hardest work I ever did in my life, was being an addict,” Lindell said. “Every single addict out there knows how hard that work is, you work 24/7 trying to find drugs, trying to hide drugs.”
“And when they’re set free, they’re the hardest workers,” he said. “Self-worth is a big thing; you give someone a second chance that’s really been restored, and their heart has been set free, they just want to go, go, go.”
The recovery options, support network, and the jobs he has lined up are just part of one plan of many Lindell has in the works.
“It’s going to be a complete circle of hope, help, and mentorship,” he said of the Lindell Recovery Network.
“Because nothing else has worked in this country,” Lindell said. “Nothing else has worked. I know what works.”
Lindell’s story of miracles has had a ripple effect, and everyone who knows him has every reason to believe his network can help thousands. Maybe even millions, he hopes.
“It’s been very exciting for me to fulfill my calling,” he said. “And it’s been very rewarding to know I’ve been on the right path.”
“I’m still getting emails from people going, ‘I quit. You gave me hope,'” Lindell said. “A lot of people, all they need is hope. All I’m doing is getting this on a massive scale and very quickly.”