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Even in business attire, tattoos creep up his neck and into view over his collared shirt. More tattoos spill out past the cuff of his sleeves. He relishes the spotlight and knows everyone in Denver’s recovery community. Ever since he started his recovery journey from a wild and dangerous addiction he has been an integral part of the recovery community.  He describes his young adult life by saying, “I was living the life of a rockstar without the star part, I was just rockin’.” Long before he started rocking, even before he could walk, he was off the beaten path. This is the story of Wesley Hooks.

An Unusual Childhood

Born in Grand County to a rodeo lifer and a budding musician, Wesley had an unusual childhood that included some Christian homeschooling. With his dad’s encouragement, Wes got into rodeos himself, but by the time he was 14, he realized that he was doing it more for his dad than himself, so he ended his tenure as a bareback bronc rider.

But the wild cowboy nature was still in him. As a teenager, his parents separated and spent a lot of time on the road pursuing their professional passions. The first time that Wes got drunk, he was 16 years old. He was at a friend’s house party in Kremmling, CO “I drove home [drunk] that night in a whiteout blizzard, and I remember just loving it…I felt like a badass.” He was hooked. With his parents out of town often, he had a whole ranch at which to throw parties. He got the reputation for being known as “Wildman” and had a tight-knit group of friends with whom to drink and do cocaine.

The First Rollover

He made it through high school and went to Fort Collins for college. He even made it through one semester before getting his first DUI. “I had established the reputation as being the most responsible drunk driver” so he drove the car back from a party in City Park. Everyone else walked home, but one friend jumped in with him. As they raced through the trees in the park, his friend challenged him to do a 180 and Wes complied without hesitation. As the car rolled over, Wes remembers grass poking through the broken glass every time the car flipped. The car landed on its side, and both occupants could extract themselves. After hurriedly cleaning the car of empty bottles, they went back home. Wes later called in the accident. When the police came to arrest him in front of his drunk friends, he again remembers feeling really badass. That was the first of 11 rollover accidents that Wesley survived. It wouldn’t be his last DUI either.

In the Grips of Addiction

After the car accident, he moved to the mountains where he got a job pouring concrete floors, a fast-paced job that he excelled at with the help of methamphetamines. He even got to the point where he was managing a crew of workers, but his meth habit was getting more severe too. During this time, he didn’t talk to his family for over a year. His mom remembers him calling only once to wish her a happy Mother’s Day.

Two of his supervisors who had grown fond of him and increasingly concerned took it upon themselves to scare him away from meth. They kicked down the door to his meth house and took him to live with them. They told him horror stories about how devastating meth could be. Wes remembers, “they didn’t scare me sober, they scared me away from methamphetamines” –and back to alcohol.

On Wesley’s 21st birthday, his mom called and suggested that he go help his brother in California. Although Wesley didn’t recognize it at the time, his mom was trying to get him away from the scene and the people he was drinking with.

He moved to Idyllwild, CA and got a job with his cousin. He wanted to get his life back on track and thought that moving away from the “bad people in my life” would help him,

 “but wherever you go, there you are.” 

It didn’t take long for him to find a group that was a carbon copy of the one he had just escaped. “I partied hard, somehow I never got arrested in California.” Before long his cousin fired him and he needed to find another place to live.

Wes was too ashamed to call his mom after letting her down repeatedly, so he called his dad and then moved out to Montrose, Colorado, to work for his dad. After starting a forest fire in Creede, Colorado, his dad sent him back to Fort Collins to deal with outstanding criminal charges that he ran away from back when he flipped his friend’s car in college.

Upon returning to Fort Collins, Wes didn’t go straight to the police, he instead brought the police to him. While driving drunk in a friend’s car, he decided to do a burnout without realizing that he was directly in front of a cop car. The stunt brought attention to his outstanding warrant and landed him in jail for 3 months.

Rock Bottom

When Wesley got out of jail, he got himself back on track, but not for long. He got a job and after a month already got a raise, so he decided to celebrate. After a night out of drinking he got behind the wheel again. This time he rammed into a stopped car, fracturing his jaw and the orbital bone on his face. “I sat in jail for a long time then…that was my true rock bottom.” While his face healed from the accident, his mind replayed something his ex-girlfriend said to him several years back, “you were meant to do so much more with your life.”

His cellmate was stipulated to go to the Stout Street Foundation, a 2-year addiction recovery program. While the cellmate was enraged, Wes saw an opportunity and jumped on it. He applied and was accepted to Stout Street. He was convinced that doing this program would be his reset button. For the first time in his life, Wesley saw clearly how destructive his life had become, both to himself and others. He wrote it all down in an insightful letter to his loved ones from the Larimer County Detention Center shortly before he started to rebuild his life.

His family wasn’t as convinced that this would be a turning point for Wes. His grandmother called him, “the silver-tongued devil” and he does have a way with words. In the grips of addiction, he used this gift to manipulate the people around him and even trick himself. He remembers waking up one morning as a 20-year-old and saying to himself out loud, “someday I’ll go to rehab, just not today.” He knew that his prophecy had come true and it was time to rebuild trust with himself and his family.

A Fork in the Road

Wesley used his gift as an orator to convince the judge that he was ready for Stout Street and was approved. At first, he was just going through the motions, but a few months in he woke up one day with severe abdominal pain. Once at the hospital, Wes refused to take the opioid painkillers to manage the pain. The CEO of the Stout Street Foundation called him and told him to take the medication in this case, so he complied with his nurse. As soon as the drugs kicked in, his pain shifted to reveal that his appendix was near bursting. Wes was rushed into surgery, and his appendix was successfully removed.

Wesley recalls that moment as a fork in the road on his recovery journey. The sobering reality hit him. Had he not been in a treatment program, he would have drunk away the pain. His appendix would have burst and probably killed him. He started taking his recovery more seriously. He started working in outreach for Stout Street as his unpaid resident job. After excelling in his outreach efforts he was hired before completing his two-year residency, making him the only resident on the payroll.

Full Circle- the Recovery Crew in Business Together

Wesley is still working in outreach, a job for which he is well suited. He stayed at Stout Street for several years after his residency ended. He also worked at Quiet River Addiction Center, did marketing for Universal Health Systems and landed with us at Sandstone Care for over a year. Now he has just started at The Foundry, a treatment program founded and heavily staffed by his recovery friends. While at Stout Street, they all dreamed of running their own program some day and now it has become a reality.

While using, Wesley always felt like a badass, when in fact he was just being a dumbass. Now that he is sober, he actually is a badass. He participates in challenging races like the Spartan and Tough Mudder, climbs mountains, organizes events and is an award winning marketer. He gets calls from across the country asking for treatment recommendations. He uses his affable demeanor to bring people together and draws on his wild life experience to connect with recovering addicts in a way that only a fellow addict can.

As destructive and selfish as Wesley was while he used, he is even more caring and connected to people now that he is sober. We at Sandstone Care wish him all the best as he continues to help people out of the self-destructive spiral of addiction.

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