I started by asking when he knew he hit bottom. Most guys would cough, hack and fiddle, trying to soft-pedal it. Not Mike Irby.
"It happened after the first year and a half in prison," he said. "I was into a lot of self-pity then, you know, how I'm a screw-up, my kids will never know me, how my life is over.
"I got fat. I was getting even lazier. One day I was sitting on my bunk in my underwear, and I just said, I can't do this anymore."
That afternoon, he signed up for classes. He talked to the teachers about what he needed to do to be successful.
He remembers the date Feb. 12, 2008, as if it were his birthday. "No forgetting that day," he says. It was the day he walked out of prison.
I think we can use all the Christmas stories we can get our hands on, and Irby's is a good one.
For the first time in 11 years, he will spend the day with his now-15- year-old daughter, Lyia, in his very own home. Trust me, this is a huge thing.
He was a burglar but, clearly, not a very good one. He explains it this way:
"I was such an avid methamphetamine user, I couldn't reason or think clearly. I had to have money and my drugs somehow, so I resorted to burglary."
Authorities in Denver, Jefferson and Arapahoe counties got him on a host of charges.
"You don't just break into one house and get 14 years," Irby, 41, says flatly.
Through his prison teachers, he entered an intensive, 18-month behavior-modification program. He was to observe others, identify their negative behaviors and apply it to his own life. It opened his eyes, he said.
Once released from prison, he immediately enrolled in James Thomas' offender re-entry program in Aurora called the Road Called STRATE, which seeks to reunite former inmates with their families by helping them find jobs, enroll in school and generally atone for their past.
Irby enrolled first in a parenting class. He "just paid attention," he said. He wanted Lyia back.