Ministry replaces drug abuse in life of Plaquemine native

Staff Report

Roderick Tate says it’s never too late to turn toward a better direction in life, and he has his own experiences as proof.

The former Plaquemine High student had already fallen into a life of crime by the time he was supposed to receive his diploma in May 1987.

Roderick Tate, seen with Iberville Parish Sheriff Brett Stassi, has moved past drug addiction and now works in San with others to break the habit.

Last week, he sat in the office of Sheriff Brett Stassi, where he talked about his new purpose in life.

He served time in Angola State Penitentiary, along state prisons in Huntsville, Texas, and Parchman, Miss.

“I actually got my GED in prison in 1993,” Tate said.

Tate, 53, now works at a faith-based facility in San Antonio, where he helps in the rehabilitation of people – particularly the younger abusers – whose lives have been derailed by drug addiction.

It's a long way from the addiction that controlled much of his life for 33 years.

“I tell many people that the biggest fight we battle is between our ears. It took a long time for my life to spiral the way it did, and it took a long time for me to come out of it,” he said. “I convinced myself I was at the bottom of the totem pole … the system was against me, and everyone was against me.”

Tate traces his drug abuse to an involvement with pills (speed) when he was 14 and attending Plaquemine Junior High.

It marked his first of many criminal issues related to a life of using and selling drugs.

“It led into a culture,” he said. "It got to a point that I accepted whatever the life gave me. I lived in it and expected to die in it. Fortunately, God stepped in and changed things up.”

He was released from prison, but it did not solve the main problem.

Tate had freedom, but he was not cured from addiction.

The prison sentence wasn’t the problem.

“I fell into the addiction, and it had me so stagnated that I wouldn’t accumulate new charges other than maybe public drunkenness,” Tate said. “The drugs phase you out to where you’re not as aggressive, and a younger crowd took my place.”

The younger generation brought him down further. It led to him being phased out by drug dealers.

“It's not only the drugs, but the people that take something out of you,” Tate said. “I knew it was time to move forward, and that was when the bottom fell out.”

His criminal record blocked him from chemical plant jobs or other stable employment. It forced Tate to settle for short-term work.

“That was basically drug money,” he said. “Everything I did, like washing cars in front of my house, was a means to provide drugs … I lived from drug to drug.”

Tate said he needed to change.

His grandkids provided the catalyst.

“I was never there for my kids,” he said. “Drugs took that away, and it made me a horrible father, but I want to be the best granddad in the world.”

He said he had to do it for himself, after letting down his mother, children and others.

Tate sought help for his addiction and stayed away from Plaquemine more than a year.

He came back after the death of his uncle, former Iberville Parish Sheriff’s Deputy Alex Germany.

The battle to stave off action was not easy, Tate said.

“I tell people today that what you want the most is what wins. If you’re desire to be clean outweighs your desire to do drugs, that’s what’s going to win,” he said.

The ministry work in San Antonio has helped Tate stay strong.

It’s a combination of experiences from the past and the sense of hope his faith has provide.

“Most so-called Christians won’t go out to those areas,” he said. “If you ever see a man strung out on drugs, could you imagine how God can turn them around?”

Tate admits he did not expect a life after addiction.

He also doubts he could survive amid the current drug scene and merely the effort to stay well on the streets.

“If you look at the dynamics, COVID and fentanyl, I probably wouldn’t be here …  it’s a whole different monster right now,” Tate said. “I’ve been a part of the problem for so long. Now I want to be a part of the solution.”

Tate worries about the situation in Plaquemine. The proliferation of illegal drugs within neighborhoods, along with proximity to Baton Rouge and New Orleans, have made it easy for addicts to keep their habit going.

“Ninety-five percent of the people who return to Plaquemine may wind up back on drugs,” Tate said. “San Antonio has a lot of structure through work-release an do the programs for communities and families.”

Tate said he does not want to see people in Plaquemine fall into the same trap as him.

In fact, he was in Plaquemine to pick up a few people for treatment in San Antonio.

“I don’t want people to walk the same direction I walked. But also, the Bible said he who is forgiven is grateful,” he said. “I remember the nights out on the streets alone crying out to God to take this life away … all the money was gone; all the drugs were gone.”

He believes the days of neighbors looking out for each other has sparked a lot of the drug trafficking and abuse.

Stassi said it was a sign that Tate had seen the light.

“What makes a difference is that he didn’t do this to stay out of prison. When he decided enough was enough, he quit,” he said.

The culture must change with parents, as well, Stassi said.

“What I remembered when I was in school that if you got in trouble with the principal or teachers, you got in trouble with parents,” he said. “Parents should be able to tell when something isn’t right… when it’s 107 degrees with a heat index and your kids walk out with a hood on, that should say something.”

Without a community coming together, Tate said many more youth could fall into the trap that took 33 years from his life.

Tate said he wants to see the word “neighbor” restored to the word “neighborhood.”

“People don’t talk to each other anymore,” he said.  “As Christians, we profess a lot of things with our mouths, but our actions have to lineup with it.”