From selfish addict to compassionate teacher

One of the most important instructor traits is having a sense of empathy. Instructors who can relate to their students and the challenges they face on the learning journey have better engagement and receive higher ratings. Empathetic instructors also report greater satisfaction from the act of teaching and helping others, regardless of the financial benefit. Michael Magyar, 49, is a prime example of an instructor who’s developed empathy for his students after going through his own challenges.


Michael is quick to say that his story is not unique. He was an addict and served time at the Essex County Correctional Facility (aka, “the Farm”), after which he was an in-patient at the Crescent House Transitional Housing Program in Lowell, MA. That’s where he created his Addict’s Map of Consciousness while on parole and probation, which became the basis for his Udemy course, “Addiction Recovery Made Simple.” Today, Michael lives in supportive housing for homeless veterans.

Spreading the word on Udemy

It was late one night that Michael was lying in bed watching a YouTube video about making money with Google AdWords to help him get to sleep. The speaker mentioned Udemy as a place to learn more, so Michael jotted it down so he could look it up the next day. When he visited the Udemy marketplace, he forgot about Google AdWords and got excited about creating a course instead. He already had an e-book available on Amazon called “Full of Fear” that outlines his philosophy on addiction recovery and thought it would make the perfect foundation for a Udemy course.

While the e-book’s been downloaded about 29 times, Michael‘s Udemy’s course has more than 1,000 students (“Udemy is blowing Amazon away”), and they’ve left reviews and comments, which is really gratifying for him. Michael’s example also demonstrates a larger trend toward people preferring to consume learning content in video format rather than reading a book or website.  

Udemy is Michael’s first experience with online learning, but he has been a teacher before. In jail, he taught other inmates about the spiritual loss of values that can lead to addiction. He had been in Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotics Anonymous programs himself and had heard guest lecturers say they were “full of fear.” Michael was extremely curious about what exactly that meant.

To help himself grasp the concept, he converted some of AA and NA’s ideas into a flowchart, which he then adapted into his “map of consciousness.” One of the correctional officers, also an addiction expert, was impressed and asked Michael to share and discuss it at his next AA class. From there, word spread and Michael was presenting his work to different groups of inmates at the facility. The reception was overwhelmingly supportive, with inmates telling him after class, “hey, man, that was pretty good.” At a time when he felt like “a dead man walking” inside the “large coffin” of a jail, getting any kind of positive feedback was a gift.

Using his personal struggle to help others

Michael had no real expectations or goals when he created his Udemy course. He just knew his map wasn’t widely available, and he wanted it to get more exposure. Now, with his course up on Udemy, Michael sees how he can reach even more people with his message: you need to let go of your fear in order to break your addiction to yourself, which leads to other addictions, whether that’s drugs, sex, food, power, or something else. He’s aware of his map being shared on various online forums too. He’s also gotten opportunities offline, such as when his probation officer watched Michael’s video and invited him to speak to troubled youth in Salem, MA.

“I’d really like to do more of that,” Michael says. “I want to teach kids how ridiculous addiction is, how it controls our anger and our behavior and even the words we use. We’re so much better than that primitive way of thinking.”

addict's map

He acknowledges this is “quite heavy stuff” but also believes it can be “a lot of fun to recognize what you’re afraid of and get outside of it. Then you’re no longer fighting with your spouse; you’re holding hands.” To get a simple message from a student saying they learned a lot from the course is a huge reward for Michael. As an addict himself, he didn’t expect other addicts would leave comments but knows “I’m doing well just to make a connection.”

Now, Michael is motivated to work on his next Udemy course and is thinking of something “a little more advanced” about the seven levels of consciousness. Given how many students took his first course, you might think he’d be eager to reap the financial rewards along with the spiritual, but he shuts down that idea immediately. “You want to know why the course is free? Karma!” he says without hesitation. “The universe pays us back from the good works that we do. Just look at my life. Udemy helped my spiritual recovery by placing connections with people above the fear of not having enough money.”