By Tori Hook, Staff Writer
“I’ve been everywhere in life,” said junior Tyler Meynardie. He twiddled his thumbs for a few moments before confessing, “I don’t know where to start.”
Meynardie, a 24-year-old non-traditional student, has had anything but a traditional life. He grew up relatively quietly with his mother in Bayou La Batre, Alabama, the shrimping town from Forrest Gump. Meynardie lovingly described his mother as having “such a strong faith. I just kind of lived my faith through her.” But both Meynardie’s life and faith were rocked when he came home on Nov. 10, 2004, at age 13, to find that his mother had passed away. The doctors suspected an aneurysm, but “there wasn’t really anything to be done.” Meynardie shook his head and reminisced sadly, “That’s a day you never forget. It leads you down a dark path.”
After living with an aunt and uncle for a few years, Meynardie moved in with his father at age 16 and quickly became an alcoholic. “I drank every single day,” he admitted frankly. “I’d party Friday through Sunday, but Monday through Thursday I was still drinking five or six beers a day.” Chuckling slightly, Meynardie confessed, “There were mornings in high school that I would show up to school, open my car door, and beer bottles would fall out.”
Apart from high school coursework and his alcohol addiction, Meynardie also worked fifty to sixty hours a week at a family seafood company. “I don’t know how I made it through high school,” he shrugged. “I don’t know how I graduated.”
After Meynardie graduated from high school, he briefly attended Shelton State Community College, which was “nothing but drinking.” He came home the summer after his first year of college to work for a company helping to clean up the BP oil spill. “That was when I started going to church again.” He joined an adult Bible study group, where he experienced the joy of Christian friendship for the first time. “The more serious I got about church, the more alcohol went away,” he explained. “There was just one of those moments at church that I just laid [alcohol] on the altar and couldn’t deal with it anymore.”
While Meynardie obviously credits Jesus with breaking the chains of alcoholism in his life, he also noted the importance of supportive friends. “Jesus helped me, but it was a lot through relationships and friends,” Meynardie confided.
During this period of transformation, Meynardie heard the call to become a pastor, spending his time digging into more of the “meat of the Scriptures.” He stayed far away from alcohol, even turning down wedding invitations if alcohol was being served.
“I had to be honest,” Meynardie shrugged. “I thought I’d fall back into alcoholism if I even got near it.” Meynardie’s biggest hurdle in overcoming alcoholism came in October 2011 when his father passed away after getting electrocuted on the job site. Meynardie laughed as he told about the doctors and nurses mistaking him for the family’s pastor. “I had my Bible there and everything. They didn’t even think I was a part of the family.”
Meynardie worried that his father’s death would send him down the same path that his mother’s death had, almost seven years earlier. “Because my mother’s death had kind of put me on a path that led to alcoholism, I thought my dad’s death was going to send me back down the path again. At that point in my life,” Meynardie explained, “I had to decide if I was going to go back to my old ways.”
Meynardie successfully remained sober and remains so today. On the recommendation of Dr. Roy Lauter, who taught in the Education department at Asbury for 31 years, Meynardie enrolled at Asbury and started studying to become a pastor. Though his journey hasn’t been an easy one, he is thankful for the people along the way who have showed him God’s grace and supported him in overcoming addiction, including professors and friends at Asbury. To those who struggle with addiction themselves, Meynardie says, “Surround yourself with people that are going to remove you from those situations and keep you accountable. You know,” he grinned, “friends really are some of God’s best gifts to us.”