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Photo courtesy of Kim Miller, director of development at Prestera Center James Coleman, 52, is four months into his recovery after abusing drugs for 37 years.

EDITOR'S NOTE: This is part of a periodic series of articles examining the lives of people who have battled with addiction to drugs.

HUNTINGTON - There is no age limit to recovery.

Just ask 52-year-old James Coleman.

"I've been an addict for 37 years," Coleman said. "I started with marijuana, drinking and benzos. I worked my way up to pain pills into heroin. Then that became my drug of choice. I've been on heroin for 18 years on and off. It's been a rough ride, but these last five years have been a blur. I can't remember a lot of it."

Coleman grew up in Logan County. He was 8 years old when Buffalo Creek flooded after the Pittston Coal Co.'s coal slurry impoundment dam burst.

"I watched people die," he said. "People on top of houses riding down the valley in the water. I lost my grandmother, two or three cousins. I saw some things an 8-year-old shouldn't see."

Coleman now knows he has post-traumatic stress disorder as a result of the disaster, but it went untreated for most of his life.

"When I talk to professionals about it, they think that is an underlying condition that started my problem," he said. "I've just learned over the last few months about it. I'm just now coming to grasp with it. It was that terrifying to me."

Coleman decided to get help after overdosing at his home.

"I went to St. Mary's hospital and they helped me get into a seven-day detox in Charleston," he said. "From there I came back to Huntington, and it seemed like the madness was hitting hard."

Coleman had thoughts of suicide.

"I wanted to get out of it permanently," he said. "Thank God for St. Mary's. They put me on the fourth floor and I stayed there for three weeks, then came straight to Prestera short term. They had really saved my life in more ways than one."

Prestera gave Coleman structure, teaching him how to eat, sleep and function in the right ways.

"I was out there; I'll put it that way," he said.

He graduated from the short-term program to the long-term men's program.

He's been at Prestera almost six months now.

"I really feel like they saved my life," he said. "I'm a little older, so it's different for me. I feel like this is my last chance and they gave me the tools I need to live my life and hopefully stay off drugs, be a member of society again. I lived so long under the radar, I didn't have an ID when I came here or a Social Security card."

Coleman said he's had more strangers help him in the past few months than he had ever had friends help him.

"In my moment of need the most, a complete stranger will step up and say, 'How can I help you, James?'" he said. "It'll make you cry. It does me all the time. It's really eye-opening what a stranger in this program will do. It's motivated me to be a better person and make it and show them what they really do."

He said Prestera has given him the tools to go and find his own way.

"There's hope," Coleman said. "Get into a program. Talk to someone. Read my words: There is hope."

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter and Facebook @TaylorStuckHD.

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