A fresh college graduate at the age of 65, a North Carolina man spent years stuck in a destructive pattern of alcohol and drugs that led to a suicide attempt.
Thanks to his own determination and the generosity of others, Freddie Sherrill finally managed to turn his life around.
The Charlotte native grew up poor and with no father figure. He started getting into trouble at a young age.
“I would go to the grocery stores and start stealing food and take it home to help my mother and feed my sister and brothers,” he said, WBTV reported.
Starting at age 8, Sherrill did four stretches in truancy school, according to the Charlotte Observer.
Substance abuse wasn’t far behind.
“I was drinking, smoking, and snorting and shooting cocaine. And then I went to heroin,” he said.
Sherrill also spent time at treatment centers and did five stretches in jail.
“I was institutionalized, I couldn’t function in society. The only structure that I had in my life was when I was in training school or I was in jail or I was in prison,” he added.
He reached a breaking point in 1988 and tried to kill himself.
“I went and got my pistol and was gonna throw my brains out,” he said, WBLTV reported. “When I took the gun and put it to my head and pulled the trigger the gun wouldn’t go off. I just kept crying and crying and crying. I threw the gun down on the ground and it said ‘pow pow pow.'”
That was a decisive moment for Sherrill, who said he always wanted to get sober, but didn’t know how. While staying at a halfway house in Morganton, North Carolina, he met a pastor, Steve Eason, formerly of the town’s First Presbyterian Church.
Eason saw Sherrill’s potential and offered a helping hand. He hired Shirrell as a sexton at his church.
For the past 16 years, Sherrill has been the event setup coordinator at Myers Park Presbyterian Church.
In time, Sherrill turned his focus to education.
First, he obtained a G.E.D.
“I took the GED test 6 times and on the sixth time I passed it by one point,” Sherrill told WBTV news.
In May, Sherrill graduated with a bachelor’s degree in human service from Queens University of Charlotte, taking 13 years to do it.
“Finally, today I can say that I’m a productive member of society. I haven’t arrived, that’s just part of the journey, and the journey continues on,” he said.
According to a WBTV report, Sherrill now plans to start his own non-profit to help people turn their lives around.