Corey McCarthy spent seven years, three months, and 10 days in New York State prison. He had lived a life full of addiction and violence. Going to prison was a wake-up call for Corey. He now runs a business that restores historic churches and homes. Corey spends his time turning often neglected buildings into something beautiful.
His business resembles his own personal transformation. Just as Corey turns something overlooked into something beautiful, he also turned his own life around. Corey used to be an addict. Today, his life has hope and meaning.
From a Horrible Event to a Life of Abuse
Addiction comes to people in many ways. For Corey, a horrible event as a child changed his life forever. When Corey was seven years old, he and his family went to a minor league baseball game. Corey went to the bathroom by himself while his older brother ordered nachos. Corey noticed a strange man sitting in the bathroom when he entered a nearby stall. The man made Corey feel nervous, but Corey didn’t think more of it. Seconds later, the man kicked the stall door open and violently assaulted Corey. Corey doesn’t remember much else. His family will never forget Corey running back to the stands with blood and choke marks around his neck. “In some ways, I think everybody in my family went through a traumatic experience that day,” Corey recalls.
This violent attack took away Corey’s childhood. He remembers getting dressed each morning and putting on a shirt and tie every day. He hoped that if he looked nicer, nothing bad would happen to him. He also remembers always wanting to be close to his mom after the attack. In addition to changing the way that Corey behaved as a child, the attack changed Corey’s future.
Corey spent a lot of time feeling angry. As the years went by, Corey began to disobey his parents and hang out with the wrong crowd. As Corey puts it, “I was kind of the wrong people.” Eventually, Corey’s misbehavior led him to try drugs and alcohol. By his teen years, he was thrown out of his private school for doing drugs.
Corey’s life began to get worse and became out of control after his teen years. Many of his actions came from a feeling of being worthless. “I thought I was worthless, so I acted in a worthless way,” he said. Corey hurt those who loved him. When Corey was 19, his girlfriend was pregnant with his baby. However, Corey’s life was filled with violence, drugs, and alcohol. He wasn’t ready to be a father.
One night, Corey went to a high school hockey game to hang out with his friends. When the teams on the field got into a fight, the fans started to argue. Corey got into a fight with fans from the other team. The incident landed Corey in a coma, and seven days later, he woke up in a hospital. He had to have brain surgery and his head had been stapled 66 times. He also had seven fractures on his face and skull. His bad behavior almost cost him his life.
Corey’s accident didn’t stop him from being violent and using drugs and alcohol. When he was 22 years old, Corey was selling drugs all the time and stealing from others. Then one day, it took a turn for the worse. Corey got into an argument with another drug dealer, and it turned into a physical fight. Corey thought the man was about to shoot him, so Corey reached for his own gun first and shot the man.
Serving the Time
Corey’s time in prison was his rock bottom. But it was also a turning point for his life. He still used drugs from prison whenever he could get his hands on them. The drugs and bad behavior helped him accept life in prison, but they also made him continue to forget the people in his life who loved him most. He remembers days when he would forget to call his daughter because he was high. “I would choose to ease my shame or ease my pain rather than show up and be a dad,” Corey remembers.
As the years went by though, something began to change in Corey. Life in prison gave Corey a lot of time to think. Without much to do, he began to put his energy into things like reading and yoga. He developed a life of healthy habits and discipline. As he began to come clean and build habits, Corey realized that he had the power to change his life.
When Corey was finally released from prison, he was ready to fully change his life. The moment he left prison felt like a new chapter of his life. “It was like a huge weight had been [lifted], like I could finally fill my lungs all the way up… It was just like being able to finally breathe,” he said.
Breaking the Cycle
Corey went to his first Alcoholics Anonymous meeting on the very same day that he left prison. He also checked into a halfway house instead of moving into his own home. He realized that day that his life would need to look a lot different. Corey decided that he would change going forward.
Just as prison became a place for Corey to focus on discipline, the halfway house helped him set healthy habits and decide how he would live the rest of his life. Corey woke up at 5 am every morning to run to a nearby park and exercise. He did yoga most days. He read every single day. For Corey, discipline helped turn his life around. “I used to say discipline is my discipline,” he said.
Corey’s new lifestyle worked. He came clean and stopped using drugs and alcohol. He beat his addiction. He came back to people in his life such as his daughter who had recently turned 11 years old. Corey also saw the importance of surrounding himself with a community like Alcoholics Anonymous. He saw that it was hard to get over addiction alone. Instead, he needed the help and love of others who knew it was hard to recover. Corey describes Alcoholics Anonymous as “looking for a power greater than you.” For Corey, admitting that he needed help saved his life.
A New Chapter
Corey’s new disciplined and sober lifestyle helped him build a successful home restoration business in Buffalo, NY called McCarthy I.E. The I.E. in his business name stands for Integrity and Efficiency. Corey promises to have both with each project that he completes. His team has renovated many historic homes and churches, restoring them to their former glory.
Corey loves to restore what is old. He finds beauty in the grittiness of the old and the grace of the new. He believes they form something beautiful. When speaking of his own personal transformation, Corey credits 50% to grit and 50% to grace. From his hard work building a better life to the gentle rebuilding of his relationship with his daughter, Corey has learned a lot.
His business is 100% referral based. This reflects how much Corey has depended on those around him to achieve success, both in his personal and professional life. He also has a reputation for being aware of little details. Customers like how McCarthy I.E. pays attention to the little details. Just as changing his life required a slow and steady change in behavior and habits, Corey believes remodeling a house requires similar attention to details. As Corey says, there can only be progress if you want to improve your life.
Corey has also spent a lot of his time giving back to others. He volunteers in prisons and is on the board of Peaceprints of Western New York, which helps individuals who have recently left jail. The organization helps them reenter society. Corey believes that helping others is a way to pay forward the help he received to get better. He also believes that it improves society as a whole. “When we are able to get clean, the true beings that we are come out,” he said. “And usually a lot of addicts have a lot of compassion and want to do a lot of good for the world.”
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