From prison to Best of the Best, Cory Milligan knows life’s highs and lows. Today as The Corsicana Daily Sun honors the Best of the Best of Navarro County, we share Milligan’s story. He hopes it can help families of drug abusers.

“My biggest thing is about giving hope to parents and family members who feel like they are not ever going to get their kid back,” said Milligan.

Cory Milligan was chosen by Daily Sun readers as Best of the Best in flooring installation. It was a long and difficult journey that started about 20 years ago.

Milligan said his father had been in and mostly out of his life since he was an infant. His father, a drug abuser, showed up when Milligan was about 15.

“He wanted me to go to North Carolina with him to work on a skyscraper. We would work for two months and make $10,000.”

Milligan says he remembers what happened on that trip. “I was laying on the bed. My father had a crushed can against his face. I was watching him wondering what he was doing. I heard the crackling sounds.”

Milligan, who had never tried any drug at that point in his life, was about to get a taste of getting high. It was crack. Milligan shared the words that transpired next from father to son, “Wanna try it?”

He knew of his father’s drug past. He knew that to be the reason his dad left the family when he was just a year old. Milligan himself remembers the popularity of the show C.O.P.S. He in fact had wanted to join the Drug Enforcement Agency one day.

“I said no a few times. By the end of the night, I was an addict,” Milligan said. The money they made on that work trip was quickly gone. Drugs had soaked up almost every penny of it.

Upon returning to Corsicana, Milligan quickly sought to score meth. “I had a class ring that I had inscribed with DEA on it,” said Milligan. “I had no money after that trip to North Carolina, so I pawned that ring for $20.”

His dreams of being a DEA agent slipped away and his life spiraled downhill. He quickly developed a criminal record. “I’ve been arrested 21 times for drug crimes. I was in and out of jail and prison.”

It’s hard for a parent to walk away from a child. His mother, Linda Morehead, stood by her son on his first two trips to prison.

However, on his third stay, things changed for Milligan, “You know you’ve messed up when mama won’t call. Nobody from my family wrote or visited.” Milligan knew it was up to him to make a change.

“I knew that I could get a job making $9 an hour doing flooring. I knew I wouldn’t have a place to stay and didn’t expect family support.”

Upon leaving prison for the third time, he did get one surprise. His mother showed up as he walked out of the prison gates a final time.

After the reunion, Milligan got to work. “I made a little, cheap pamphlet from photos of my previous work. I started handing that out around town.”

He was able to get work and make some money, but he wanted something more. “For about a year I would buy used tools at yard sales so that I could go into business for myself.” Milligan said, “Working for others, I made $250 to $300 a week.”

Enter Tresa Shimonek of The Vintage Farmhouse and Interiors by Design. Milligan visited her shop one day and the rest they say is history.

“I knew he had a rough past. It was not in me to judge. He didn’t do anything to me,” said Shimonek. While Milligan thinks that it was Shimonek who opened the door for him, she sees it a little differently.

“We come from different backgrounds and experiences, but we want the same thing,” said Shimonek. “I didn’t do anything special. We had the same goals of wanting to own our own business. I was able to do it because of his work.” It seems that in their own way, they have changed each other’s lives. Milligan’s first paycheck from his own business jumped to $1,200 a week. Shimonek says, “He opened my eyes. He’s the true meaning of hope.”

Milligan understands that sharing his story may mean some people won’t want him to work in their homes. He understands that he hurt others during his path of self-destruction. He hopes his mistakes can help others.

“If you keep giving drug addicts money and keep bailing them out, they are never going to quit,” said Milligan. Shimonek also understands that people may be hesitant. “I take it very personal. If you are trying to do better, it’s hard to get back on your feet. I am not going to put someone I don’t trust into a customer’s home.”

In fact, in ten years of working together, Shimonek says she has only had one customer who wouldn’t let Milligan into their home.

When The Daily Sun staff told Milligan of his Best of the Best win, he said he cried for 30 minutes. He hadn’t shared his nomination for fear that he’d come in dead last. He contacted two people right off the bat: his daughter Hope Hanna and his probation officer Brenda Ross.

“My daughter said I deserved it. Ross cried,” Milligan said. He refers to Ross as his mom since he’s known her since he was 13. She was there when he went to prison.

Shimonek was thrilled as well when she heard the news, “He’s loyal. He’s everything people think he wouldn’t be.”

Milligan is grateful to the people who are forgiving. From here, he hopes to keep doing what he is doing. He says, “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”