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Mike Lindell, inventor and CEO of MyPillow, gives tours of his Shakopee factory in summer 2018.

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MyPillow CEO opens up about his past struggle with crack cocaine addiction

Things are looking up lately for MyPillow founder and CEO Mike Lindell, but that doesn’t surprise him.

After all, Lindell has been telling folks for more than a decade that someday he would impact millions of people’s lives. Considering he has a successful company that employs 1,600 people, his commercials have appeared on TV more than 2 million times, he has a cameo in a movie he helped fund, he’s visited President Donald Trump in the White House, and soon he’ll be publishing a book — it turns out he was right all along.

“Here’s this ex crack addict from Minnesota in the White House being told the president wanted to sit next to me,” Lindell said, recalling one of his visits to Washington, D.C., last year. “If you’d have told me (10 years ago) I’d be speaking to all these people, with my fear of rejection, I’d say, ‘It ain’t gonna happen.’”

Just last month, Lindell celebrated 10 years of sobriety from crack cocaine. His employees at MyPillow, which is headquartered in Chaska with manufacturing facilities in Shakopee, held a surprise celebration for him.

When Lindell was just 7 years old, his parents divorced and, he said, he withdrew and remained shy through his childhood. When he tried cocaine for the first time in the 1980s, it was like someone had pushed a magic button that allowed him to finally open up.

“It was amazing,” he said. “I could talk to people. It didn’t matter if I knew them or not. It was a game changer for me at that time. I felt on top of the world. I was addicted from that point on.”

Lindell describes his former self as a “functioning cocaine addict.” He owned a couple of bars in Carver County through the 1990s, but his functionality changed in 1999 when he switched from cocaine to crack.

After he sold his bars, Lindell had a dream he believes came from God himself — “the idea for MyPillow.”

He didn’t have any luck finding a retailer to buy the pillow idea, so he started making them and selling them at kiosks at Eden Prairie Center. Lindell’s crack addiction remained steadfast as he continued selling his pillows at various malls and home shows throughout the Twin Cities, until late in 2008 when his drug dealer had an intervention on him.

“I was awake for 14 days, and the drug dealers in downtown Minneapolis told each other not to sell to the crazy white guy with the mustache,” he said.

Lindell had shared with his dealer his vision for MyPillow and his dream of writing a book someday, all as a platform for God, and Lindell says his dealer is the person who encouraged him to follow his dream.

“About a month later, on Jan. 16, 2009, I made a prayer to God. I knew what God had chosen me for would be gone in one more day. That door was closing,” Lindell said. “I woke up in the morning after that prayer and I said I want the desire (to do crack) to be gone … and the desire was gone. God did free me of the desire.”

For the next two years, Lindell kept his head, and MyPillow, above water by selling the pillows at home shows. By spring 2011, with about 10 employees, the company was about to fold when Lindell gathered his friends and family to make an infomercial as a Hail Mary effort to keep things going.

“The audience was there, and I was petrified,” Lindell said. “All that stuff we did in that first infomercial, it was a real audience. I had no idea what people would ask.”

People ate it up, though, and just weeks later the company had gotten so big Lindell had to hire hundreds of employees.

The company hit another rough patch in 2014 around the same time Lindell was introduced to the concept of having a relationship with Jesus Christ. He had always believed in a Christian God and had faith in that God, but the concept of a relationship with Jesus was new and intriguing to him.

“I met a gal who had this relationship with Jesus, and she said we needed to pray for the company,” he said. “I seen prophetically then where we were going to be at the end of the year. I said, ‘we’ll be a huge company by the end of the year.’ I get those visions from God.”

Since then, Lindell has amped up his original plan of using his company and fame as a platform to spread the word of God. In 2017, the company donated 60,000 pillows to victims of Hurricane Harvey, and this past summer Lindell donated 70,000 pillows to attendees at Pulse Twin Cities, a Minneapolis Christian evangelism event, for a world record-breaking pillow fight.

The pillow fight wasn’t the only draw that day, though. Lindell also got to pray with the attendees at U.S. Bank Stadium where the pillow fight was held.

“I spoke to more than 50,000 millennials and prayed with them all at U.S. Bank Stadium, and I did the same thing with about 20,000 people in Dallas. I told my story and prayed with them,” Lindell said.

Lindell has also announced a project in the works called the Lindell Recovery Network, which will be a website for addicts to read success stories of people their age with their same addiction who are in recovery.

“It’s going to be the most amazing platform for addicts in the history of the world,” he said. “All these stories of hope. Imagine a website where you put in your age and addiction and up pops all these stories of people your age with your addiction who have already come through it.”

And of course, Lindell’s initial dream of writing a book is becoming a reality this year. Lindell said the book will be titled “What are the odds? From crack addict to CEO,” and he’s hoping it will be released before summer. His dreams don’t end there, though.

“I’m going to end up making a movie out of my book,” he said. “The book is going to change so many people’s lives.”

With so many irons in the fire, it’s a wonder Lindell ever sleeps. When jokingly asked when he finds time for some shuteye, he laughed and said: “Well, when I do sleep, it’s quality.”

Submitted by Diane Toohey  

The Shakopee Vision Clinic stayed open for business on Wednesday during the frigid cold, so Carol Sword and her coworkers tried the boiling water experiment.