BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. (WBOY) — A Bridgeport native’s past addiction is shaping his passion for the future. C.W. Dent, a Peer Recovery Support Specialist at the Community Care of West Virginia, is doing his part by spreading addiction awareness.

Dent was a Bridgeport High School star athlete who went on to play college baseball on a scholarship. His emotional health in college led him to 19 years of active addiction. He will celebrate three-and-a-half years of being substance free on April 1 and wants to use his story to help the youth.

Since August of 2022, C.W. Dent has shared his story with more than 3,000 students at six different schools in the Barbour, Harrison and Marion County school systems. West Virginia currently leads the nation in drug-related overdose deaths and has proven to have only gotten worse over the last decade.

As of March 31, the peer recovery support specialist had three more schools to visit and share his story with. However, he would love to continue visiting more schools throughout the state. He believes that a good way to change what is going on at the heart of the opioid and drug epidemic is to talk about it and show kids how addiction impacted his life, and how it can be turned around.

Dent coaching SHHS baseball (Courtesy: C.W. Dent)

When going to college, Dent was going to be a teacher and coach. However, his addiction took over for those 19 years. But it has finally come to be a full-circle moment. He is now coaching baseball at South Harrison High School. He said, “I’m not a teacher but I’m teaching them something completely different than what a teacher would be able to teach them. You know, like it’s – I have an education that nobody would want to pay for.” Dent truly believes that he was meant to go through those hard times to be able to help with the ongoing epidemic today.

Being an athlete and a good kid while he was in school helps Dent relate to students. When doing these speeches at the schools, his favorite part is when the kids come up to him and share directly. He said, “the amount of kids who came up and were just talking about everything that they’ve been through and their childhood, trauma-wise and parents not around and just thinking their parents, you know, didn’t love them. And it wasn’t – I think they needed to hear it so that they could see like, addiction can take anybody, you know? It doesn’t matter who you are.”

After overdosing, Dent’s perspective began to change when thinking about the fact that his kids almost lost their dad. He mentioned that he had to take the “self” out of self and start thinking about other people, and that is when everything changed. That was the last time he got high.

An important thing that he mentioned was that addiction is a “family disease.” He explained that your moral code does not go away, the addiction just pushes it further down. This means that addictive behavior is at the forefront of the mind, which leaves addicts chasing their next high. The family disease part comes into play because his daughter never got to have a “real dad,” considering that Dent’s sobriety began when his daughter was 19 almost 20. He missed a lot of things in his children’s lives that the addiction took from him.

Dent hopes that his story will inspire and show other addicts that recovery is possible. He also wants to bring the kids hope and understanding of the ins and outs of what drug addiction truly is.

When it comes to active addicts who may be thinking about rehab, Dent said “make that choice.” He thinks that addicts are scared to admit to themselves that they’ve been defeated. But really, it is never too late to start recovery. It is only ever too late when you are gone and can no longer make that choice anymore.

One thing Dent realized in his recovery process was not to put expectations on things including people and things in the future, this can lead to failure. “If somebody’s lost out there right now, and you think you can’t do it, I promise you can. Make the phone call. Text me, call me, I can get anyone into any rehab facility in West Virginia right now if they want it, but they’ve got to want it.”

If interested in having C.W. Dent speak at your school, you can reach him by calling the Community Care of West Virginia, or his work phone at (304) 561-5319. If anyone needs help or resources, Dent would love for you to reach out to him or the Community Care. To read Dent’s story, you can find more information at this link.