It’s Never Too Late

Reggie McKenzie had plans to attend Morehouse College and become an educator when he got out of the Army in 1979. But after experiencing a series of tragic events— including the brutal murder of his sister—Reggie spiraled down a path of drug and alcohol addiction that would last for 25 years.

Throughout the years, Reggie went through numerous drug treatment programs. After getting two DUIs in 2012, he entered another residential treatment program to avoid going to jail.

“I never had any intention to get clean and stay clean,” he said. “I just didn’t want to go to jail.”

But this time was different. Reggie’s counselor— a recovering heroin addict of 20 years—asked Reggie a question that would change the course of his life.

“He said to me, ‘I know you’re just trying to get through this so you don’t go to jail, but do you think your life would be any better if you stopped using drugs and alcohol?’”

Though a seemingly simple question, Reggie said his addiction impeded his ability to see another way of life for himself.

“My thought process had become so skewed after being on drugs and alcohol for so many years. Common sense decision-making was not a part of life.”

Reggie was 54 years old at that time. He stayed up all night and considered what he wanted for his future.

“As much as I wanted to ignore the question, I couldn’t. It stuck with me the whole night. The next day I started coming to the program and applying myself.”

But Reggie faced a roadblock. He didn’t have anywhere to live after he completed the treatment program. Before treatment, Reggie had worked in construction and would move around and stay onsite where he worked, making just enough to get by and feed his addiction.

As he neared the completion of the program, Reggie was connected to CaringWorks, and he entered a program that helps veterans facing homelessness secure stable housing.

Reggie excelled. He started working part-time for the recovery program where he was enrolled. He paid his DUI fines. He fulfilled his community service requirements. Reggie even started community college classes and earned an Associate’s Degree in Desktop Support. He graduated with 3.7 GPA.

“All I did was get up every day and put one foot in front of the other,” he said.

CaringWorks helped Reggie gain more than secure housing. He gained a supportive network of people and resources committed to his success.

“The support system part of the equation is so pertinent,” he said. “Everyone needs someone to talk to.”

It’s been nearly a decade since Reggie completed the recovery program, and his future is bright. He has plans to attend Kennesaw State University and earn a bachelor’s degree in Cyber Security, and he wants to travel soon and vacation in the Dominican Republic.

Reggie also works full time for the recovery program that helped change the trajectory of his life—offering a beacon of hope for other addicts.

“I relish the opportunities to share my story when I see somebody struggling. I tell them it doesn’t have to stay like that.”

Now 63-years old, Reggie added, “It’s never too late.”

 

About CaringWorks:

Built on the single idea that all people—no matter their social or economic standing—should have a chance to improve their quality of life, CaringWorks has served 10,000 clients throughout our 20-year history. Since our inception, we have grown exponentially to become one of Georgia’s leaders in providing permanent supportive housing. We serve hundreds of individuals each year through unique programs and services that are specifically tailored to the needs of those facing chronic homelessness.

Donate today to help us end homelessness.

April 2022