Location: Gateway via Bec Cranford
Male, Age 54
“Honest, Direct, Loving & Caring
Generous & Spiritual
Clean & Apperance
Learn 2 Listen & Listen to Learn”
Daniel Enger: (Interviewer) Good morning, today is October 20, 2021, and we’re here at the Gateway Center in metro Atlanta, my name is Daniel Enger and I have the pleasure of being here with you today Terry. I’m grateful to you for taking the time to talk, and I’m looking forward to hearing your story and to learning from you. My first question is a really big one Terry namely, please tell the story of your life from the time you were a small child up to the present day and please start by saying your name.
Terry: Good morning, my name is Terry Edward Williams, I was born in Miami, Florida, on October 29, 1966. I was born in a big family, a loving family, caring family, a spiritual family. Went to school was taught all the right things, had food on the table even when it didn’t seem like it was much to my mother but it always seemed enough for our household you know. I went to school finished school I dropped out of school in the 12th grade. Why? I got caught up in the lifestyle of the streets, the drugs, the action, the action that brought me joy so that’s when I started living the life of crime. Do I regret it? I regret a whole lot of some of the things I did, did I enjoy it? (chuckle) I enjoyed it. I can be honest about it today because I fall back on my spiritual side which was what I was brought up in, a spiritual family. In 1987 I came to Atlanta full of excitement there was so much to do, but I also brought my lifestyles of crime wit me. So, just doing crime, and living, and enjoying spending money, buying up everything, making everybody happy, I came to have the taste of getting myself in trouble and getting locked up. I first went to prison in 1990 three years later got out, 2 years got out in 1991 and still, It was the excitement of the lifestyle of alcohol, drugs, and crime, my passion I was young so that’s what we did, that’s what I did. I end up getting myself in more trouble going back to prison, well this time I went to prison in 1992 I got out in 2002 now I’m older I’m in my 30’s. Well, with a living hard background it’s hard to get a job, so I turned back to the streets and what it had to offer. Crime, clubs, all of the above anything that came with the streets of Atlanta with a Black American with no job. Finally, I’m doing yes drugs, plenty drugs, plenty drinkin had a all-time high, drinkin and druggin had a all-time high. In the process I really didn’t know that I was settin myself up for failure but I didn’t see it, you never see it you never know when the ladder goin come up under you, that’s all fine and dandy. Now I’m a convict on the street I’m back to livin street life sellin drugs, buyin illegal merchandise resellin, doin everything that the streets had to offer in Atlanta, which still has to offer, which I’m not doin it today thanks to my Higher Power. Well, I get to 2007 I go back to prison short spans the fun don’t last long, the laughter don’t last long I got more sadness than laughter. But while I was in prison I went and finished and got my GED. So, I got back out again 2006 – 2007 I got back out 2011 now I got almost 20 years in prison, jails, and institutions. 20 years of crime now I’m on 30 years of my life with drugs and alcohol addiction fun that I thought it was. Wasn’t fun, didn’t know until the end it wasn’t no fun because I didn’t know what was at the end of the road, but there was something at the end of the road (big sigh). I went after I got out and I was on parole I went and I got certified in HVAC heating and air, and it was great school and achievement, I went achieving certain things but it still wasn’t no fun I still had the mindset of the streets, the women, the clubs, fast cars, big houses, a multitude of things which I thought was fun, it was fun for the moment. Now, coming into a relationship sneakin, doin drugs, snortin cocaine, drinkin beer popin ecstasy, doin the day doin the night. I got a fiancée I been in a relationship all this period of time but the drugs the alcohol, the lying the cheatin, the denial statement, secret garden it start to take a toll on my life. Didn’t even know the ladder was getting short, the ladder was gettin short. When it got to bein about 2016 – 2017 I start experience homeliness that was only due to I got tired, sick and tired of goin to jail, prison I done spunt a multitude of my life in der. So now I don’t wanna go der no mo, I can’t get a good decent job so now, the sadness set in the homeliness, sleepin wherever you can sleep, eatin whatever you can eat, it’s only two types of people on these streets at night it’s a predor and it’s a prey. Unfortunately, I wasn’t the prey so I took advantage of the weakness of the other people and which other people took the weakness of me in other areas. Every dime you got every nickel you got went to drugs and alcohol, you ate or I ate in spurts I might eat today I might not eat again for three days, but I’m getting high. But at the same time not only was the ladder getting shorter in my life but my health was dwindling rippin and runnin getting high havin fun which I thought I was havin fun my health was deterioratin (big sigh). I ended up in the hospital runnin tests now I find out I got a multitude of health problems congested heart failure, arthritis I can’t stand up long, I can’t see my eyesight goin, which brought me to Gateway in 2018. But I left Gateway recuperative care still getting high, the drugs and alcohol addiction is very powerful, baffling, and cunning. I lived for drugs , I lived to use, snortin cocaine, popin ecstasy, drinkin all day and night that’s what I liked to do, that’s what I loved to do, I didn’t like to do that. But the ladder was still getting shorter I didn’t even see it. Experience homelessness sleepin where you can, eatin where you can, goin to truck stops sneakin and takin a shower and brushin you teeth, goin in the store takin a cup putting water in it brushin your teeth however you can, rinsing your mouth out. Pickin sometimes you find yourself doin all the wrong things to eat, where that land me back till I’m bein sick and tired of bein sick and tired. Homeless now three years body achin body in pain well the Lord just opened my eyes up one particular day in the morning tears runnin down my eyes. I remember askin I went to the bus stop and asked the bus driver I need help and I need a ride to Gateway and I don’t have any money. I’m on drugs and alcohol real bad never forget what the bus driver said Marta bus driver “if you want help and you askin for it I will help you get a ride there” and he let me on the bus. When I got to the train station he made it where I could get on the train to go to Gateway and I came to Gateway August 19,2020. And I came to the front desk and spoke with some other people that I know and I didn’t know it my life was beginning to change, because I had a spiritual side of me and I didn’t know what to expect. You never know, you never know what’s in store for you. But I entered this program called the Upward Program for drug addiction, substance abuse, well, all this while I thought that drugs were my problem but let me tell you let me give you the truth. Drugs was not my problem, I was my own problem, it started wit me it ended wit me. And when I came in that door beat down wit no hope, I didn’t have nowhere else to go if I didn’t come in that door the Upward Program I wouldn’t be livin today. I wouldn’t be livin to tell you this story but my Higher Power God as my choice he took over my body, my soul, I didn’t do it. I was told I had a purpose, I had a purpose he wasn’t ready for me to dissipate, get killed my health; he had a purpose for me and my purpose is carryin on right now today. Well anyway I’m homeless I was stayin in a place not fit for human habitation, I went through the program I learned, I soaked in all the knowledge that came with drug addiction I came to understand that if I just change my thinking I could actually change the way I do things, I could actually change the way that I perceive things, I could actually change the way that I live life. And living life on life terms that’s the way that we live it today. Well, I a soaked in so much knowledge cause I love to read Imma readin person, I’m I love to learn, I love to listen, I love to listen to learn, and I love to learn to listen. Well, this was my first time in the rehabilitation outside of prison and jail so, the times that I wasn’t on drugs that mean I was forced to cause I was incarcerated. But this time I came in because I was sick and tired, of bein sick and tired, of bein sick and tired. It was another way to live and that was the way that I was brought in this world to live. Well, after about five months of studyin all the books the AA the NAA books, gone to tremendous meetins just learnin about myself, readin the Bible I eventually changed my way of thinking at all cost. Well by this time I’m on disability yeah the pain and suffering my health all that I’m livin up under the government I can’t stand up long, I can’t bend long, I can’t a lot of things that I can’t do that came wit havin fun that I thought. Well, I was introduced to a program called Step Up Program wit my mental oh Yeah I got mental issues it came with it. You can believe that with all the shootin and stabbin and everything gone on in the streets with the lifestyle and drugs oh yeah, plenty blood shed so my mind is not what it used to be. But, wit me gone to my behavioral health therapy and my psychiatrist and taking care of my substance abuse altogether I actually realized that something was workin and something was changing. I got a new chance got a new chance at life. I went from homeless to home I’m livin in my own two-bedroom apartment, fully furnished, King size bed, 65” flat screen TV, living room, bedroom, food throughout the whole house, I cook my food now, I don’t eat out I buy and cook 95 percent of what goes in my body I enjoy livin life on life terms. What I recommend and I can actually say for myself from having mental issues very much mental issues, is you have to take care of the problem wit that individual together, it’s mental aspects and it’s addiction disease they have to be taken care of together. Because if you take care of one problem without taking care of the other problem it’s got to co-exist. If you can get a person to listen I was taught I learned who the best teacher to listen to a addict, is another addict. The days of me in the ditch, the days of me starvin, the days of me not takin a bath, the days of me not cuttin my hair, the days of me not brushin my teeth, another addict will take heed to that. It’s not easy, it’s never easy but it can be done you know why it can be done I did it, people before me did it, people still doin it, starts with honesty that’s the gateway to recovery bein honest about your situation. Making amends to the one’s you hurt your family members that you hurt, your kids, the man at the store that you used to go in there and steal his candy and his beers, the restaurant you used to go in and snatch the sandwiches off the rack, I mean you have to make amends but you also have to make amend to yourself. See it started wit me it ended wit me so from one addict, from one homeless to another I like to tell you it can be done, I did it. That’s my story, once again, my name is Terry Edward Williams, I’m glad to be able to share my story.
Daniel: Terry, of all the things you have accomplished or overcome in your life so far what are you most proud of?
Terry: Out of all my accomplishments the most thing I’m proud of. I’m proud of having my life back, I am proud of the person that God put me here on earth to be, I’m proud that my mother had the chance to see me change, I’m proud that I’m sittin here and I can speak about my change, see in order to change I had to be the change.
Daniel: Terry, you’ve gained a lot of hard-fought wisdom from experiences in your life so far, now imagine if you were invited to share your wisdom with school kids in your community giving them guidance to live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives, what would you tell them?
Terry: First of all, as a teenager when you see them goin around that corner as a young teenage male please don’t go round there cause they doin somethin they ain’t got no business. That’s all it take is that one time to go round there and you see the women goin round there, and you see the shiny objects, you see the cars, you see the designer clothes. I suggest you stay in school cause you goin get those same objects the right way and you’re not gonna lose em. Cause in my lifetime I gained the fame but I lost it ten folds, and I got a record to prove everything I’m sayin it’s so thick I had so many names I didn’t know my name sometime my actual name… I didn’t use Terry Williams in the last 20 years. Don’t go round that corner continue going to school it’ll work for you the right way.
Daniel: Terry, in what ways would you say your life is going well these days? Please talk a little bit about how life is good for you at the present time.
Terry: Life is good for me right now I manage money, I can buy what I want when I want, I might can’t buy no mansion but I sure can buy me a ticket to the museum, I can go to a ballgame, I can sit down and treat myself to a meal, I can buy me a hat, I can buy me a little designer clothes cause I’m doin it the right way and it’s mines, I can smile because I’m honest today.
Daniel: Terry, what’s behind that what led to those things going well for you, how did it happen, who or what has contributed most to your doing well these days?
Terry: I blame it all on my Higher Power it wasn’t me it was God, It wasn’t me I couldn’t of did it. I couldn’t have done it but, it took my hide to be skint up, it took me to get drug around, it took me to actually get shot, stabbed, pepper sprayed, aw man everything that you can name it took all that for me to realize I was sick and tired of bein sick and tired. But you can look at me today yeah I survived I went to the war zone, street zone I survived, it’s a lot of people who hadn’t survived I’m one of many it’s a lot of people not here to tell they story. And I suggest listen to what I say because it’s true I been there I done it it’s not no myth what I’m tellin you can’t get in no cyclopedia you got to get this from really livin, like I said everybody ain’t live to tell their story I’m one, I’m fortunate I’m one I didn’t die in the streets I survived the streets.
Daniel: Terry, looking ahead now when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life what are your hopes and dreams looking ahead?
Terry: Well my hopes and dreams looking today is all them years incarcerated me readin books, me readin literature I learned the law. I don’t go in places that can turn to a bloodshed when I go to parks and recreation, I go places like me that wants to live I don’t have to be seen today, I don’t have to be in the lime light today, I’m somebody today and that’s what helps me live today it works for me but I’m living to tell this story so it works.
Daniel: Terry, as you pursue your hopes and dreams what are some of the personal strengths you can draw on?
Terry: My personal strengths that I can draw on is my mother, my kids, my grandkids, because I’m someone they can count on now. Oh, don’t forget now I’m someone I can go in my pocket and buy them something cause I didn’t spend it on drugs and alcohol last night. Yeah, I’m somebody now that I can honestly know how to tell people no and mean it, I am somebody that make decisions about my life today and mean it, I’m somebody that you’d like to meet because I’m honest and I love achieving goals today. Oh by the way I’m bout to take my CDL Driver license so I’m headed in another direction in my life. Remember I told you about that ladder it’s gettin when the ladder get snatched from up under ya you go down well I’m not doin that today I’m goin up, those are some things that keep me motivated you know. Thinkin about goin to a Falcon football game Hey yeah a Hawks game, yeah Georgia Bulldogs game yeah, but I’m livin today to be able to make those decisions. But if I can help one person every day of my life I did my job remember I told you I have a purpose and I can’t keep the blessings that God bestowed upon me I have to givem back, If I close my hand and hold my blessings how can I get somemo I got to let em go, I have to help others cause someone helped me.
Daniel: Terry, what are the challenges and obstacles that you see standing in between you and the realization of your hopes and dreams, what holds you back?
Terry: I’m just I told you I’m very aggressive, don’t nothin hold me back the only thing hold me back is me and I’m not holdin myself back, I go to sleep at night I’m sleep by 9:30 – 10 o’clock I have a good game on I try to stretch it if I can watch it but I’m up at 6 – 6:30 every morning so, the mind frame that I got I can’t be hold back I’m not that person today I’m very ambitious.
Daniel: Terry, what needs to be done so the challenges and obstacles can be overcome so that you can realize your personal hopes and dreams?
Terry: Well, the challenge is for me, the challenge is for me, I been through my challenges I’m on a different path cause see first of all everything is a two-way street I stay on my side of my street the streets that I know about and have been on I don’t cross the double lines no more I carry on. I network wit peoples just like me and we come to terms as a whole and help people that used to be like me because everybody deserve a shot and a second chance at life.
Daniel: Terry, allow me please to now switch to the community defined as you would wish tell me first how would you describe your community, who are the people who make up your community?
Terry: Well, my community I live on the Westside of Atlanta and the Westside of Atlanta was full of drugs and prostitution you know, and crime. And you go to sleep at night if you in the streets you know it’s some people not gonna make it. But how I describe my community is not like it used to be I mean all kind of nationalities have moved in my community, White, Asian, Chinese it’s because the world is changing and peoples like you and I helpin it change we speakin it into existence, what we can and what we cannot do but it’s only one thing drugs and alcohol cannot play a part in it.
Daniel: Terry, when it comes to living a healthy, safe, stable, and happy life how would you describe the hopes and dreams of people in your community?
Terry: Well, the life and the world that we livin today I would suggest we have to shorten the night life it was a point in time that the fun places like clubs and stuff they used to close early 12 and one o’clock, two o’clock, now they open till five and six, seven in the morning, I think they have to cut that back out. And if you limit a person consuming alcohol at all times of night you’ll cut back on a lot of other things in the wee hours of the night. That’s just my suggestion cause it did work you look at crime now and you look at crime then when they close early it’s statistics it will show you.
Daniel: You told me a minute ago about the people in your community what do you think they aspire for, Terry, what do you think they dream and hope for?
Terry: Well, every person that I ever met in my life they dream of success, we dream beyond our imaginations we are basically inspire our families, our loved ones, if they can be better than me or if I can help them be better than me or if the peoples in my community can help the young generation be better than themselves we did our job.
Daniel: In your community Terry, what are some of the strengths that people draw on as they strive to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? What are some of the strengths in your community do people have?
Terry: Network, network being able to sit down and speak with other people, being able to dream first and foremost being able to read and write. Education is the key to success if we can inspire our Boys and Girls Clubs to produce much more things for the younger generation, we can actually bring upon stronger education we can have more doctors, we can have more lawyers, we can have more teachers, we can have more astronauts, we can have more nurses, we can now have other people just like you and I that who are willing to help other people be successful. Believe it or not it don’t take nothin much some little words of encouragement.
Daniel: Terry, what are the challenges and obstacles that make it harder for people in your community to realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? What holds back the people in your community?
Terry: Well, sometimes we have people that we look up to as higher standards like some of our politicians some of our leaders we vote them in do they actually do what they say they gone do when they got my vote? (big sigh) I’m not inclined to say so but if you read and you see like I do everything people say ain’t peaches and cream but, that does not stop us from gaining love and respect for another leader cause if that one don’t do another will. So, I’m not gonna stop because one bad apple done fell out the tree, it’s just like tires on a car if they get bald get some new ones.
Daniel: Terry, what needs to be done so that the challenges and obstacles you just mentioned can be overcome and people in your community can realize their hopes and dreams? What can be done?
Terry: Well, we have to keep soul searching like I say Mayors and Governors I mean everybody right now in high positions if they stop tryin to cut each others throat and just be who they are be the person that you are, say what you mean and mean what you say if those people can just do the little things, we’ll bring our whole community back as one as being happy, as being loving, as being caring. We can go on picnics again and have fun instead of goin out here on a picnic and not knowin if I’m gonna make it back. They cutting each others throats so what do you think that does to the people on the bottom of the chain? If the peoples on top of the chain cutting each others throats that make the little people do the same thing. We have to come together as one and I guarantee you that it worked before it can work again.
Daniel: Terry, on that same vein I’d like for you to imagine for a moment that you are a powerful leader you’re somebody who’s a decision maker who can really make things happen, my question is how would you change the system to help people in your community realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives? As a powerful leader how would you change the system?
Terry: First of all, I’d bring the cost of college tuition down make it more affordable for the peoples who don’t have it, give more grants for the less fortunate. Because if we can put people back into books and cyclopedias instead of Instagram, Tick Tock, you know Twitter, and put people back on what’s real in America we’ll accomplish much more. The people today they wanna get a facelift, they wanna get a lift in the buttocks I mean if you jus be the person that you are and stop tryna be the person that you not we as one we’ll be betta off.
Daniel: Terry, my last question for you. Imagine you had a million dollars and you could spend it to help your community realize their hopes and dreams and live healthy, safe, stable, and happy lives, how exactly would you spend that money?
Terry: Imma tell you what I’d do right now, first of all Imma take 50 cent and by me a Coca-Cola. But Imma take the rest and Imma open more libraries, because if I can put people back in gaining more knowledge, open they eyes and ears to ideas understanding that they are somebody they can reach they goals. If you study hard it’ll pay off so me for the younger generation, the middle generation, even the older generation I want more libraries, where you can be at peace, where you can get all the resources, that you need, and whatever areas that you need that’s where all my money would go at. And I’d be happy and I’ll sleep at night to know that someone in some area have learned something different that day.