CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Standing side-by-side Thursday, Tony Barnett and Lyndon Perry each started a new chapter.
"First time I've been able to put on a cap and gown in my life, so it’s a major accomplishment. Family’s here, friends are here. I'm overwhelmed," Barnett told Channel 9.
The smiles on their faces weren’t always there. Both have battled alcoholism. For Barnett, it started at age 12.
"Respect for myself, respect for others, everything, family, friends, job, homes, you name it, I lost it,” said Barnett. "I was literally dying in the streets, so I decided to make a change."
When Perry's daughter died in 2016, he spiraled downward until family urged him to get help.
"I was going nowhere. I was lost. I didn’t really care whether I drank myself to death,” he said. "I was feeling miserable every day."
When asked how feels now, he said, "I feel wonderful."
They both completed the substance abuse recovery program with the Charlotte Rescue Mission.
They then applied to work at the Community Matters Café and completed the 120-day life skills training program they just graduated from.
"Gave me hope, responsibility. Let me see that I could change, that I am changing," said Barnett.
"This café has shown me a different way. It’s really given me a second chance," Perry said. "I had a family out there that I wasn’t part of, and now, being sober I get another chance to get to know them."
You can learn more about the Community Matters Café here.
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