FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — While a lifetime of bad decisions and mistakes can lead some down a path to self-destruction, Bill Dickey found himself crawling right back up that road late in life.

FAIRMONT, W.Va. (AP) — While a lifetime of bad decisions and mistakes can lead some down a path to self-destruction, Bill Dickey found himself crawling right back up that road late in life.
Dickey's bad decisions would eventually lead to his own arrest and imprisonment, and maybe it was because his past life was so rough, but he remembers his arrest as the best possible outcome.
"Being in jail was probably the best thing that ever happened to me," Dickey said. "You'd think being married would be the best day, graduating college two times would be. Mine was going to prison, and forcing me to look at myself for the first time. I had to take responsibility for the decisions I was making."
Though his past was rife with the results and consequences of all these bad decisions, being imprisoned would overall help Dickey put a stop to this behavior, and the self-hatred it made him feel.
That's because they don't give you access to pills, opiates and other drugs in prison, which had been a few of Dickey's biggest vices since he was in high school.
"Thank God I ended up in jail," Dickey said. "That was like a long-term rehab for me. I started going to 12-step programs, they made you do that."
Dickey was in prison from 2005 to 2007. Now at the age of 54, Dickey has been sober for more than 10 years and uses his experience from overcoming his addictions to help others do the same, guiding 12-step recovery programs in Fairmont, including at the Day Report at the Courthouse Annex. He provides desperate individuals with the support that he himself once received to get out of his situation.
"One of the things I teach guys today is that your best thinking got you there, your best thinking can't get you out of it," Dickey said. "You have to get help from another source."
Dickey explained that addictions like these don't come overnight, and in his case, develop because of personal and mental issues that manifest in childhood.
Speaking of his own experience, Dickey said he was introduced to drugs like alcohol in his childhood. Leading up to this introduction, his home life did not provide him with a healthy developmental environment, to say the least.
"We learn most from the same-sex parent," Dickey said. "How to be a man, how to treat women, that aspect I never had that. My father never had a job for very long because of his alcoholism. So i grew up in fear — scared to death of people."
Dickey said he never felt any sign of affection in this household, and his mental state would never be reassured in any kind of loving way.
"I didn't have anybody to bounce off of, I didn't have any support whatsoever as far as teaching me things," Dickey said.
As he grew up and into high school, Dickey's teen years would see this lack of support grow into self-destructive behavior in the name of mental relief, which would come in the form of drugs.
"I was kind of lost and didn't have the ability to overcome that," Dickey said. "When I did drugs or if I drank I felt normal, like I fit in somewhere."
Dickey explained that he would still get by in high school and even college and grad school while using, and even employed his same methods in the military to continue his lifestyle.
"I would party on the weekends, I would do that for years," Dickey, who said he served in the military from 1986-1988, said.
Though he was already exhibiting some self-destructive behavior through drugs and alcohol, it wasn't until he was forcibly introduced to opiates that he began their consumption.
"I was in a car wreck, which messed my back up and shoulders up and for the first time in my life I took pain pills," Dickey said. "I didn't even really know what they were. I'd heard of them but I didn't realize the addictive quality they had. Before too long I was doing a script a week."
But from just looking at Dickey and the place he was in life at this point, no one would ever think to detect his reliance on these substances, nor the less-than legal methods of obtaining them.
"I had already had my Master's degree in rehab counseling and teaching degree from Fairmont State," Dickey said. "I was kind of the odd person out as far as addictions go. Even when I was in prison they would say 'What are you doing here?'"
Once he was hooked on prescribed opiates, Dickey found no trouble in keeping them supplied for consumption, which he said is one of the biggest problems in the modern drug climate. He cited a loophole which individuals can exploit in cash clinics as one of the biggest problems.
"It was so easy," Dickey said. "There was a time you could send paperwork down to Florida, and they would send you your pills. I would contact three or four of those different companies and give them the same paperwork... and all three would send me pills."
Dickey would be arrested in 2005 for the distribution of opiates, as he would use a cut of his own supply to make money to buy more.
The programs Dickey went through in prison would be the ones to help him recognize and reverse some of his biggest personality defects, which he admitted were his cockiness and frustration.
"I had to become the best version of myself," Dickey said. "That meant I had to learn about what was causing me to make bad decisions."
The recovery road was difficult for Dickey, especially when it came to opening up and recognizing his own faults. But this would also play into his reintroduction to the working world, and he now runs a private practice and has a contracting job with the state Department of Corrections.
In addition to finding his calling through his rehabilitation, Dickey was also able to care for his father-in-law and mother in his and his wife's home in recent years, which would not have been possible in his previous state.
"My father-in-law got ill and we moved him in downstairs and we took care of him until he passed," Dickey said. "My mother had a stroke right after that and we had to move her in. If I was still out there doing the things I did I wouldn't be able to help them and take care of them."
Coming back from his life of addiction and abuse has made Dickey concerned for others who are currently or potentially heading for a worse fate than his own. His main goal now is preventing drug and opioid-related deaths, by working with individuals in rehab programs and relaying his story.
Moreover, he wants to be the support for the ones who need it, just as he received support in his time of crisis.
"I'm using my teaching degree, I'm using my counseling degree for good," Dickey said. "Most people who are addicts have similar faults and similar defects and come out of similar situations, so if I can help people identify those and turn all the negativity into positivity, that's what my goals are today."
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Information from: Times West Virginian, http://www.timeswv.com