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

By TAYLOR STUCK

The Herald-Dispatch

HUNTINGTON - Wes Alexander's story begins where most people think it would end - with a terrible accident.

"I guess the real problem for me began up in Morgantown, at (West Virginia University)," Alexander said. "I got black-out drunk and I had an accident. I walked off of a rooftop. I broke my hip and separated my shoulder. My left lung deflated, and I fractured my skull in seven places. I didn't get sober for another six years."

The Barboursville native, now 30, said the doctors told him his brain wouldn't correctly heal if he didn't stop drinking. That was in 2006.

"It seems as though having such a horrific accident would have been a good red flag for something to change," he said. "But of course me, I wanted everything to change except my consumption of alcohol. So I decided to stay away from rooftops."

Alexander said he started experimenting with alcohol before high school. His problem didn't start until he went to college.

"I went to a top-ranked university in my area of study - and that was WVU because they were top ranked in partying," he said. "That was my whole motive in going to college. It was remarkable that I actually got out of there with a degree. But all through it, I made a complete jerk of myself and didn't build any good relationships ... It was a lot of havoc."

Alexander said drinking was an easy way out.

"It was the easy solution to all situations and all conflicts," he said. "It was just the go-to constant during any activity, no matter what I was doing I was always very adamant that alcohol had to be a part of the equation. Otherwise, I was extremely disinterested. I guess I could call it a learned behavior. It had been engrained in my deeper existence that I always had to have a drink."

His problem came to a head in 2012. He said his life got out of control and his mental health was not good. Then, instead of telling him he had a drinking problem, someone asked him if he thought he had a drinking problem.

"There were so many consequences coming together at the time, it was just glaring in my face and I had to admit that I had a drinking problem and I needed help," Alexander said.

The biggest factor in Alexander's recovery was accepting the help of God in his life.

"I've gotten to a point where I can accept certain ideas," he said. "It was completely opposite back in the day, but I've accepted that I belong to God. My spiritual life has been enriched through a life of sobriety."

Alexander said his life today is beyond anything he could have ever imagined for himself.

He went back to college and graduated in 2015 with a master's degree in business administration, making it through the college experience without a drink.

He has the rewarding job of working with the recovery community as program director of Within Reach West Virginia, an alcohol and drug addiction recovery center in Huntington.

Perhaps the best part of his sobriety, he said, is his newfound ability to enjoy the simple things in life.

"It's these things that I get to do because I maintain the discipline of my spiritual life," Alexander said. "Through maintaining those disciplines, I get to be present for my family and friends, and all other areas. That's really great."

He said he gained a new outlook on life through God.

"I get to be a part of my family's life now," he said. "I'm not a scary person, or someone you shy away from. I can hold a conversation now with any person without having to take a few drinks beforehand to build up my courage. Being on the other side of the drink is an outstanding thing. Now I realize I can function without having that constant go-to solution of alcohol always being involved."

Alexander said his advice for others is if you think your drinking is abnormal, it probably is.

"Seek out the help that is available out there in the community, because there are a lot of resources," he said. "Marshall University itself has quite a few outlets as far as help with substance use disorder. I've spoken with a few different people in the Student Development Center and the rec center. There are a few people involved with the university that can lead a person to where they can find the best help that they can get."

Follow reporter Taylor Stuck on Twitter @TaylorStuckHD.

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