Fighting Tooth and Nail in Transylvania County
Eric Edwards can cite the date his life turned toward addiction: Feb. 19, 2012 – the day his son Dylan died after fighting leukemia most of his life. Dylan was 5.
“The little guy went through hell,” Edwards says. “The chemo, the radiation. All he knew was hospitals.” Dylan had been diagnosed at 7 months, after Edwards and his wife noticed that he was bruising easily. “He was just 5 years old and facing more surgery. He was not responding to treatments,” Edwards says. “They wanted to do another round of chemo. We decided enough was enough. They only gave him 50-50 chance. We decided to stop treatment. We tried to let him enjoy being a little boy.”
But that release brought debilitating guilt.
“We initially thought we were doing a right thing,” Edwards says. But his son’s death sent Edwards into a tailspin. “I was killing myself. I was an equal opportunity abuser. Cocaine, meth, crack, pills. Whatever I could get my hands on. I ran through all my savings, my retirement funds. I got evicted. I OD’d twice. I had suicidal thoughts. I didn’t know what to do. I didn’t ask for help. I pushed everybody away.”
Salvation came from within. “I was sitting in my living room one night, drinking. And I decided that I had had enough. I got a phone book, called the crisis hotline. A guy came out and stayed with me until morning.”
That morning brought him a new life. “They took me to a detox facility in Asheville. I was there for seven days.” Once he was stable, he was sent to The Turning Point, in Moultrie, Ga., which offers detoxification and rehabilitation.
“I was there for 43 days. When it was completed I was homeless. In Brevard they told me about The Haven.” That was two days before Christmas 2015.
“I didn’t know anyone here.” But he found a niche. He began working with special-needs adults. “I fell in love with it. Worked in all the group homes, I was there for almost two years.” The executive director offered him a job as shelter manager at The Haven.
“I became an activist. I began to pay it forward.”
A new start thanks to Habitat
On a Monday morning in July, 2017, Transylvania Habitat for Humanity broke ground on its 63rd home in Transylvania County and 36th home in the City of Brevard. This home was constructed thanks in part to the State Employees Credit Union Foundation’s Mountains-to-the-Sea Challenge – a $10 million commitment to build or rehab a Habitat for Humanity home in each of North Carolina’s 100 counties. Once the homeowner assumes a zero-percent-interest mortgage from SECU, the money is returned to the Habitat affiliate so that another home can be built.
Eric Edwards will be the new owner of the house on Palmer Street.
It’s a solid symbol of his newfound strength. “I had a tattoo done on my wrist, of a nail going through a tooth,” Edwards says. “‘Fight tooth and nail,’ with my sobriety date underneath. It’s a reminder to me every day. God chose another path that I didn’t understand at the time. Being able to share my story, to pay it forward. It’s worth the struggle. It’s what my passion is now.”
By Bill DuPre, Habitat for Humanity of North Carolina