Three years ago, Michael Porter nearly died of a bleeding ulcer resulting from his alcohol addiction. Although working since 2016, he had been mostly homeless after doing jail time for peddling marijuana.

Next month, Porter will be honored as one of the hotel industry's top general managers. His comeback is rooted in his drive, talent and the support of those who inspired him.

The Mississippi native moved to Minneapolis in 2016 for a fresh start after five years in prison. He found work. But he lacked enough purpose to get sober. That changed when he was rushed to Region's hospital in 2018 after a bout of drinking.

A doctor told Porter, now 40, that he was killing himself. A St. Paul woman who had befriended him told him she loved him — but he had to change.

As he slept in the hospital after his 2018 collapse, Porter dreamed of his one-time mentor, Chokwe Lumumba, the late civil rights lawyer and Jackson, Miss., mayor, whose son had been a friend of Porter's in high school.

When Porter started getting in trouble after dropping out of community college 20 years ago, Lumumba had cautioned him "to hold yourself accountable." Lumumba told Porter he was drinking too much and to start helping himself and others.

When Porter awakened in the hospital, "the light switched on," he said.

Porter quit drinking. And he has tried to honor every day since with determination, hard work and gratitude. Porter has had an economic and spiritual recovery.

In 2016, he had a $10-an-hour job collecting donations at Goodwill Industries. He moved on to a job in retail at Auto Zone for $12 an hour, and also worked an overnight shift for $13 an hour at a Cub store.

He performed well, but he was still drinking. He lived intermittently at the Salvation Army's downtown shelter or slept a few hours between shifts on the Minneapolis-St. Paul light rail train.

Then Porter met Tenaya Crenshaw-Porter. The courtship was slow and tentative. When she discovered he was homeless, Crenshaw-Porter, with the approval of her three sons who lived with her, let him stay in her basement.

"He didn't tell me he was a drinker," she recalled. "I had alcohol in my family. I didn't want that. I liked him. And I had talked to his mom and grandma in Mississippi."

That day in 2018, Crenshaw-Porter arrived home from work and found Porter collapsed on the bathroom floor. She took him to the hospital. Porter, who had hidden his addiction, confessed to her and the Region's doctor. They were married in August 2018.

After the scare, Porter took an hourly job at a St. Paul eastside Speedway. He was promoted to a $35,000 a year job as a store manager. He liked work, he said, earning the praise of supervisors and customers. Porter spearheaded the turnaround of an underperforming store into a solid operation, he said.

Two years ago, Autron McIntosh, an area manager for Motel 6 who had noticed the Speedway turnaround, introduced himself. He offered a stunned Porter a big raise to manage the underperforming Motel 6 a couple of blocks away.

Next month, Porter and his wife plan to be in Los Angeles on an expense-paid trip to accept an award from the American Hotel and Lodging Association for small property general manager of the year. He cleaned up the 200-room Motel 6 on Old Hudson Road, which now regularly surpasses a 90% occupancy rate. The occasional parking lot drug dealing and prostitution are gone.

Porter is a hit with neighbors and cops for his success and his community work.

"We had to get this right," Porter said of the Motel 6 turnaround. "It starts with treating everyone with respect and proper training. During COVID-19, we had the right protocols in place. We gave employees raises. And if they needed toilet paper or soap at home, they got it. They saw me mopping floors and picking up trash. We built trust."

Porter held a party for the staff after learning that he'd won the national award.

"It felt good," Porter said. "We won the award. I'm nothing without the other employees."

Porter recently took his first days off since the pandemic hit in 2020 to have foot surgery.

"Managers 'with a past' tend to be my best managers," McIntosh said last week. "They are willing to get in the trenches with their people. He took that property to a new level. And Michael is a good guy in the community."

A marriage, career, recognition and self-respect is a long way from the five years Porter spent in the Mississippi State Penitentiary at Parchman.

Porter, a star basketball player in high school, went to community college in St. Louis, Mo. He dropped out before graduation. Unable to find work after returning to Jackson, Porter sold marijuana on the street. He was arrested and sentenced to jail in 2010.

He chose a hard-labor sentence, including roofing and working adjacent farm fields, to reduce his sentence. That backfired when he returned to prison for violating parole by hanging with former convicts and testing positive for alcohol and marijuana.

He read voraciously at night, including the Bible. He dreamed of a better life.

Chokwe Lumumba would be proud of him.