Kirk’s Journey From Malt Liquor to a Loving Place

Meet Vernon Kirkland. But you can call him Kirk, everyone else at the Eagle’s Nest Ministry on Edgewood Avenue in downtown Atlanta does. On any given day, say about dark-thirty in the morning, you can find him running around the kitchen, helping to serve dozens of homeless who come by for a hot breakfast.

He is, says Larry Arnold, the long-time pastor of Eagle’s Nest, a magical and positive force for the organization’s outreach programs in the area as well as an inspiration to so many who struggle with addiction on the streets of downtown Atlanta.

That’s because Kirk hasn’t always been this steady. For most of his life, in fact, he’s struggled with alcoholism. Take your pick, choose your flavor, it was all the same for Kirk; whisky, bourbon, scotch, malt liquor (the plague of downtown Atlanta’s Sweet Auburn district, he and Larry Arnold say.)

And it’s been a long ride. As a tot, Kirk says, he would wander the aftermath of his mother’s liquor-drenched parties, sipping the remains of the diluted and strange-smelling drinks. By elementary school, he had developed a taste and not long after, found himself regularly fighting through hangovers.

Thus followed the nightmarish course of his life; moving from city to city, from job to job, on the streets, his only companion the one that was killing him.

And then, in the depths of his hopelessness, he stumbled upon Larry Arnold, a man who cared enough to give Kirk a reason to quit and a reason to live.

“I knew he could do it,” Larry will tell you, looking over at Kirk busting his butt -- and feeling oh so good about it -- for the sake of others.

And indeed – although he says the temptation will always be there -- he has done it. Sobriety is home.

Have a look and please do let us know what you think or if you too have a story to tell.


Vernon "Kirk" Kirkland, 48, continues to work at Eagle's Nest Community Church - a Downtown Atlanta ministry that serves the homeless.

Part Four: Redemption and Temptation

Just joining us? This is part four of a five part series. Start from the beginning.

Kyle Boyer

Kyle is now only a little more than four and a half months clean.

His last relapse came during the Thanksgiving break of 2010.

John, his father, had just had shoulder surgery. He’d been diligent in having his prescribed Vicodin on his person at all times, just to help ease the temptation.

Kyle once stumbled across it when his dad left them on the counter.

“I just grabbed the bottle and tossed it at him, like, ‘Really?’”

The second time he wasn’t thinking as clearly.

“I went into his briefcase to get an adapter and they were there,” Kyle said. “It surprised me and I just poured some in my hand and took them without even thinking about it. I immediately told my parents and I felt so rotten with shame and guilt.”

Kyle knows that he is a different young man now that he has a relationship with Jesus. But Jesus never promised Kyle he wouldn’t be tempted.

“Some days are easier than others,” he said. “A friend in recovery compared what we are training for to a pro fighter. The boxer trains for a specific day to fight. We train for sobriety and to stay clean and we don’t know when we’ll step into the ring and have to fight the temptation. When I start thinking about drugs, I try to stay occupied. When I’m bored, it’s the worst.”

On March 4, Kyle received his 90-day chip at Celebrate Recovery, a Christian-based 12-step program that meets at Vineyard Church in Kennesaw on Friday night.

Each week, a group ranging from 30 to 60 addicts, gather for dinner, a lesson, some praise music, then small group discussions. The leader is Mark Collini, Chris’s dad.

Being at Vineyard Church every time the doors open is one of the ways Kyle keeps from being bored. He’s there on Sundays, Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Thursdays and Fridays. He does youth group and drama as well as the recovery class there.

The other thing keeping Kyle’s hands from being idle is his art. Since he was first on house arrest, Kyle has been using spray paint to craft dozens of pieces of art on poster board, masonite, glass and hardwood. He’s participated in several local art shows and has sold several pieces though his website,

One of those paintings hangs in Stedman’s office.

“He gives us part of the proceeds for our non-profit Reconnecting Families program,” she said. “We obviously didn’t ask for that, but it’s a nice thing for him to do.”

The rest of the money is for a mission trip he plans to take after graduating this spring.


Like thousands of other recovering addicts, every morning, Kyle has to make a decision not to use drugs.

“It can be frustrating at school, because in many ways, it’s Temptation Island for me,” he said. “There are so many people that are stoned every morning. That used to be me.”

And at night, his rest is often robbed by dreams of relapsing.

“I’ve been having a lot of ‘using’ dreams lately,” Kyle said. “It puts me on edge. The worry comes and goes, but there’s a part of me that is always afraid I’ll relapse. I know the guilt and the shame I’ll have, and the hurt that I’ll cause others.

“But I also know I’m not alone in this battle. I’m not the same person I once was. I wouldn’t have the power and strength to do this alone. And I don’t have to do it alone.”

Bill Sanders has written and reported stories out of metro-Atlanta for 15 years.
Multimedia credits: Clay Duda