Becoming a new man
By: Brent Rinehart
Growing up in rural South Carolina, there was not much entertainment for Thomas McGraw. He started going to parties in high school, where he’d drink and have fun with his friends. As time went on, that fun he was experiencing required more and more effort to achieve. He started dabbling with harder drugs.
In his hometown, methamphetamine use is prominent and widespread. When Thomas was 18, he began working at a landscape company, along with some other guys who were using meth. They introduced him to the drug for the first time. He describes that first experience as “euphoric,” and he was hooked.
But, it wasn’t long until he was out of control.
Overdoses. Near-death experiences. Close encounters with guns and violence. Homelessness.
“None of my family wanted anything to do with me,” Thomas shared.
He knew the path he was on wasn’t sustainable and he needed to change.
“I tried to quit drugs on my own,” he said. “I justified the drinking because it gave me the escape I was looking for without being illegal and as dangerous.”
Multiple DUI charges later, he knew he needed to “get with the program” before he killed himself or someone else. He just didn’t know exactly where to start.
“For a lot of guys, [this life] is all they know,” Thomas said. “There are no recovery programs where I’m from.”
Although his relationships were badly damaged, his mom did some research on his behalf and learned about The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center in Charlotte. She gave Thomas the number and even offered to drive him there. In May 2021, Thomas said yes to recovery.
“You’ve got to want it for yourself,” Thomas said about his motivation to take her up on her offer this time. “Your family can’t push you. You’ve got to love yourself enough to do it. I was just tired of the way I was.”
Without the Adult Rehabilitation Center program, Thomas said he would be “dead or in prison.” There was no hope before, but now he can see his future. He draws his strength from being around other men battling the same addictions he was battling.
“It’s the people all together with the same mindset,” said Thomas. “All I needed was other people, pursuing the same goals and seeing that it’s possible.”
Now, more than two years sober, Thomas is enrolling in college at Central Piedmont Community College, with the help of a scholarship program recently established by the Rehabilitation Center’s volunteer advisory council. He has a plan to study business administration. He also currently serves as the resident manager at the Adult Rehabilitation Center, helping other men navigate the program.
“We can’t do recovery for the men,” said Major Richard New, administrator for The Salvation Army Adult Rehabilitation Center. “Our aim is to create an atmosphere of recovery – a place for a new start.”
Thomas is a different man today – one who has his sights set on his future. He no longer has to focus on the “way he was.” He can focus on the man he knows he can be.
Brent Rinehart is the Director of Communications for The Salvation Army of Greater Charlotte.