HIGH POINT — “There’s so many of them,” Roy Autry says, pausing to consider the challenges he faced after getting out of prison.
Autry had spent the morning in court, getting his official release from three years of probation.
The 36-year-old ticks off the roadblocks he's faced:“There's weed, there's guns, there's drugs, there's women, there's the streets, there's work, there's family, there’s friends, there's clothes.
"Everything is a challenge when you’re trying to change your life," Autry says, "nothing’s easy.”
But the most important challenge, Autry says, was himself.
“You got to want to change,” says Autry, whose crimes include selling drugs, committing assaults and possessing a stolen vehicle. “You got to want to do that before you do anything. You’re building a new life and destroying the old life.
"I’ve watched so many of my friends die and take their last breath in my face. It was crazy," he says. "I lost my mama (to alcohol), I lost daddy (to crack), I lost everything."
He found help through the High Point Community Against Violence, a nonprofit that offers violent offenders a chance to turn their lives around. It's Autry's second time in the program. Unlike his first go-round, Autry said this time it's helped him, primarily because of its executive director Jim Summey and general contractor Ed Kimsey, who partners with the nonprofit.
Summey helped Autry get through the break-up of a five-year relationship with his girlfriend.
"Once I found out that my girlfriend had cheated on me, I really wanted to go crazy," Autry said. "But I talked to Jim and he was just like, leave, and that's what I did. I packed me some clothes and some shoes and I left the house."
He stayed with his sister for two weeks, but she kicked him out because Section 8 housing rules wouldn't allow him to stay there.
"So for about two weeks I either slept on a homeboy's couch or slept in my car until I got this apartment," he said.
"The day I split ... I had a little eye-opener," Autry said. "Like life don't stop, things go wrong, you work through it, you can get back right."
Autry works with Kimsey, a licensed general contractor who teaches carpentry skills to program participants and puts them to work repairing substandard homes or on Habitat for Humanity houses. Since graduating from Kimsey's classes, Autry now helps him teach other students.
"It is what I needed," Autry says. "To be a part of a team, to have support, to have somebody to listen to you, to have somebody to work with.
“You get tired of being a bad person, you get tired of having a bad image, especially in your kids’ eyes,” says Autry, who is trying to rebuild relationships with his seven children, ages 4 to 22.
He admits he still struggles with a gambling addiction.
"Every time I get sad, I'll get frustrated or I'll get mad, I'll just go sit in front of a computer (and gamble), even though I end up broke," he says.
But Autry is striving for a better life.
“I go a day at a time,” Autry says. “You can’t think about next week, you can’t think about next month.
“You got to make this day be a plus. That’s my main focus, is making this day be a plus, and then make tomorrow be a plus.”