A former drug addict comes clean and writes a book, hoping to inspire change
Chauncey Taylor played a part in the destruction of her life. His foundation wasn’t the best, but he had a nurturing mother who was trying to raise her son not to become a statistic.
It also changed his life.
Now Taylor is giving back to the New Orleans community where he was once an issue. Finding Jesus while in prison, he left with altered mental focus. Taylor enrolled in college, where he is pursuing an education in hopes of doing social work. He also speaks in public, using his story to educate and inspire others not to go down the same path – and if they do, that change is possible.
His book, How adversity pushed me to changedetails his drug addiction and violent past.
Zenger talks to Chauncey Taylor about his shortcomings and his redemption.
Zenger: How was your childhood?
Taylor: I grew up in a single parent family. The challenge for me was to be the only boy with four girls. A poor neighborhood, social housing. I stayed in the 8th arrondissement for two years with my uncle, who took me in when my father died. My mom moved in with a guy she ended up marrying. I didn’t vibrate with him, so I moved out.
I got into it with this guy and got caught from school with a handgun. I had two years of probation. The judge gave me probation because she said my mother was a good person. That’s how I knew God’s hands were on my life. A lot of things I should have had, I didn’t. I only got a long stint in jail because I pulled off a hot-button incident. I got caught, and from that incident, I decided to leave this life alone.
Currently, I claim a moral status. Having my priorities together and being in tune with the creator. I’m not perfect, but I’m better than I was. I attended Catholic school for a while. The handgun incident kicked me out of school for two years, but I was reinstated in a program stipulated by the judge. I stayed in school for a year and a half, then I dropped out in 10th grade.
After that, I kissed the streets. I was drawn to the lifestyle of selling drugs, periodically using them, smoking marijuana. I snorted cocaine, I snorted heroin a few times, but I didn’t like it.
I caught my first stint for being caught in possession of crack. The detective planted it on me. I didn’t get caught with anything. He searched me, he found nothing, and he planted the stone on me. It was two weeks after my 18th birthday.
He told me he knew I threw the drugs away because he couldn’t find them. But he said if he checked my backseat and found nothing, he would let me go. He found a bag. In the 90s, that’s how it was sold. He found one of these bags on the seat and loaded me with accessories. I said, “It’s not mine.” They put me down anyway, because I was on probation, and it was a violation. They just wanted me off the streets.
Zenger: How long was your trial period?
Taylor: They imposed a three-year sentence. I had five years probation and a three year suspended sentence hanging over my head. After that, I was enrolled in the boot-camp program. When I was in training camp, I was there for about a year and a half. The counselor took me back to court because I was fine.
The judge declared that I had served 85% of my time and commended me for my efforts. But he could not recommend that I be released. So, I did my full service. I stayed on the streets for two years, then I started living in crime again.
Zenger: Changing this way of life inspired you to write a book: “How adversity pushed me to change”.
Taylor: Yes! I feel like everything happens for a reason. Adversity is the thing that drives us to change our lives. Now that I have changed my life, I am looking for things for my good. I still face adversity, but these things help me develop my character. When I interview guys like you, I am able to conduct myself in an appropriate and professional manner.
Zenger: You seemed to have been in and out of prison often. Overall, how long did you spend there?
Taylor: About 20 years old. I did two and a half years; then 17 and a half (attempted murder). And I did about 90 days in a juvenile detention center. I have no regrets or bitterness from my past. As a reflection of my past, I use it to propel me to be a better person in the future.
Zenger: What are your ultimate goals now?
Taylor: I want to give back. I want to use my story to enlighten and give others a chance to receive things I have never received: mentorship, inspiration, encouragement and motivation. We were given the opposite side of the game. You’re on the streets, that’s what you do, you hustle to survive. Now that I’ve seen both sides of the fence, the grass isn’t any greener on that side. I better stay on this side. My mom raised me to be a good guy. He was a very strict and caring person.
I always had the tools that taught me to do better. After receiving so much guidance over the years…I am currently in school to become a social worker to help others grow and shape their perceptions, based on a moral perspective.
I had experience. I lost one of my best friends. I come home with this guy, and he decides to do some crazy stuff, and he got smoked. It upset my mind. He was able to run towards me and when he came towards me, I saw the hole in his shirt. I’m like, “Dude shot you.” He said, “I can’t do it.” I lived two blocks away, so I said to him, “Let’s try to go to my house. He was like, “No man, go home. I’m gonna stay here.” He was young. I was 15 and he was 13 out of 14. He was a wild guy. I used to keep him with me to keep him out of trouble.
He had two younger siblings. He left his mother’s house because she was having fun with a guy. Sometimes when women have fun with men, they become insensitive to their children. He felt like his mother was neglecting him, so he turned to the streets and started selling fake drugs. I did everything I could to stop him, but I couldn’t. Some things you can’t prevent. I became rebellious and thought of reprisals.
But I feel good about what I’m pursuing now. I look forward to standing in front of a crowd of people and sharing my story.
Zenger: Assassination attempts?
Taylor: I almost got killed three times, twice in the same block. To me, being sane again is a miracle. I have a testimony to speak about. I’m motivated. My will to live is so strong. That’s why I’m pursuing this associate degree. I published a book; I want to open a non-profit organization. I don’t intend to spoil anymore. I’ve been home for three years and six months and it’s an accomplishment. I’m sober, I don’t get high. I’ve been around guys I was incarcerated with, and they all tell me I’ve changed. I realized that I had to detach myself from certain people to achieve my goals.
Zenger: What led to your change?
Taylor: Drugs! I came home with my feet on the ground running. I found a job, I do good and listen… I felt comfortable. I have my own apartment and have become complacent in life. I started smoking and sipping a little. All my bills paid, and I wanted to experiment again. One thing leads to another. I fell asleep at the wheel, I had a few accidents, and then, you know, I have no vehicle, no place to stay. I was placed in a rehabilitation center. That’s what did it. I was in a hotel for a week before going to rehab.
I stayed in rehab for 90 days, and that’s when I decided to pull myself together. After having a conversation with a guy named Robert, one of the advisers. He said: “Chauncey, when you speak in these meetings, the way you speak, you can be a counsellor. Have you ever thought about going back to school and being a social worker?”
I said, “Rob, I never thought about it, but I wouldn’t mind doing it.” He told me to try. After I got out of rehab, I immediately enrolled in college and began pursuing my studies in psychology, with a focus on social work. And it’s going well right now. I’m just beginning to discover what true happiness is.
This story was provided to Newsweek by Zenger News.