Support system helps Hughes return - WOWK 13 Charleston, Huntington WV News, Weather, Sports

Support system helps Hughes return

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© Chris Gosses Photography © Chris Gosses Photography
© Chris Gosses Photography @ Bridge Day 2012 © Chris Gosses Photography @ Bridge Day 2012

For WOWK-TV StormTracker13 Meteorologist Bryan Hughes, making the call for severe weather coverage is easy. But making the call for help to overcome his addiction to alcohol was hard, even though he knew it was necessary. "I made the call for help, and everyone answered," he said from Hemet Valley Recovery Center in Southern California Dec. 19, days before his return to the WOWK airwaves. "I mean, that's literally what happened; everyone answered."

Hughes has been off the air and in the center for more than a month. He's also been more than 40 days sober. "It's an amazing feeling, because for the past 17 years, I haven't been this sober," he said. "A lot of this has been hiding; deep-rooted family issues, stuff I couldn't control. "Alcoholism is genetic in my family, and addiction is genetic, and the deep-rooted emotional and physical abuse that I received from my mother many years ago, I've carried that over into my adulthood and some of that resurfaced in the past year, and that's what enhanced my drinking."

The Texas native said he knew about a month ago he had reached a point at which he knew he needed help. Hughes wanted to share the story of his problem and recovery because he knows many others could use the help of a support system similar to one he sought. "Once I raised the white flag, that's all it took," he said.

Hughes said the early morning work schedule that puts him in kitchens and bedrooms throughout West Virginia as viewers prepare for the day is a schedule that helped him hide his alcohol addiction. "Everybody, even my friends who would drink right alongside me, they knew that it wasn't necessarily a problem, but they knew it was an issue," he said. "And they knew that I had a problem with moderation; they knew that I needed to slow it down. "They knew I needed to put a bridle on this and grab the reins and change the course somewhat, but everyone around me had an excuse for me." Hughes said when his work day ended at 1 p.m., he was able to hide his excessive drinking in plain sight."I wasn't hiding it, but everyone knew I was going to have a cocktail at 1 in the afternoon," he said. "But you know, by 3 or 4 o'clock in the afternoon, if I started to call a couple of my friends, they would have to gauge how drunk I might have been."

Hughes said 26 million people in America are recovering from addiction right now, which doesn't count the many people in the throes of addiction who aren't seeking treatment or have recovered. "When you look at the disease and how it's affecting people across the country, it affects all kinds," he said. "I'm sitting out here going to AA meetings with a two-time World Series pitcher; it goes across all socio-economic status, and it crosses all paths."Lawyers, doctors, politicians, to the homeless man, to the housewife, to the grandmothers — and I'm sitting in here with grandmothers and granddaughters. It's everybody."

Hughes said Hemet Valley is one of the top places to go for detox and to work through recovery in the country. The center also offers additional help once a person leaves — an important component to recovery. "I have just started my long-term recovery, because it doesn't end after 30 days," he said. "It's just a life-long process of recovery."

Hughes said he learned even after going to rehabilitation, the relapse rate is between 80 and 90 percent, and despite a few earlier attempts to stop drinking on his own, he's now committed to be among the 10 and 20 percent who succeed. "The great part is that once you've been here, you now have a toolbox — a set of tools that will help you," he said. "You know the things that you need to do and you have these tools that will help you get through life from now on so you can make it."

One of the strongest supporters he counts in his system is West Virginia Media CEO Bray Cary. "Bray Cary, for one thing, was a CEO who gave me tough love in the beginning, and my first two days here, I hated him with a passion," Hughes said. "And then in the end, he became a godsend. "I've talked to him and my grandmother more than anybody throughout this journey."

Hughes said the only difference friends and viewers will see is a much healthier StormTracker13 meteorologist. "I'm still going to laugh, I'm still going to have fun, but I'm going to be a healthier person," he said. "Am I still a person that is capable of making mistakes? Yes. But the thing that happened while I was going through rehabilitation is I was able to take a lot of weight and lift it off my shoulders."

Hughes said he's raised the expectations he puts on himself, but he's leaving room for some minor mistakes. "I'm never going to be perfect, but I'll still make mistakes," he said. "I hope to never mess up a forecast, but that's inevitable."