New Martinsville Lawyer Committed to Helping Others with recovery
To H. John Rogers, a lawyer hailing from New Martisnville, the war on drugs is over, and drugs have won.
“I think the greatest quote of all is ‘the man takes the drink, the drink takes the drink and the drink takes the man,’ and the formula hasn’t changed,” he said of addiction, “The only thing that has changed is the drugs.”
Clean and sober since September 1982, Rogers initially began to struggle with alcohol abuse during his time as a Mountaineer, playing for West Virginia University’s athletic teams and catching beers after games, which he said later turned into a dependency. A few years later, he discovered the power of cocaine before finding heroin.
“During the Vietnam War, heroin was mailed back to the American Legion in Pine Grove because a guy was keeping it for his personal use, so good old boys were drinking coke. There was no need to drink on heroin … I did that and I could tell you’d sell your soul from it and got out,” Rogers said. “I would do cocaine when I was drunk because you’d all of the sudden feel stone cold sober.”
Rogers said the alcohol problem started with simple camaraderie.
“Fifty years and 50 pounds ago, I had the mile record at WVU,” Rogers said. “I remember after games we would have a beer and it progressed for 20 years. What finally made me quit was the blackouts.”
Rogers found sobriety through the 12-step program after 20 years of suffering addiction. During that time, he obtained his law degree from Harvard in 1966, and went through two divorces.
“Sometimes people would ask me if the wives made me drink,” Rogers joked. “They were good girls. They had nothing to do with it.”
Rogers said he found sobriety through “the grace of God and the fellowship of the 12-step program, which began with humble beginnings in a New Matamoras hotel, which involved getting clean with an old-fashioned concoction of Karo syrup and orange juice.
“All I knew of the 12-step was that it worked,” Rogers said. “During my addiction I had often thought of suicide, but never had the courage to do so. I had a friend who passed away in his house and he was so alone that the neighbors only knew when the stench started coming down the street and the newspapers piled up. That wasn’t going to be me.”
Following his road to recovery, Rogers met his current wife, Debbie, and had two children, Thomas, a Pittsburgh college student, and Madison, a 17-year-old Magnolia High School student.
Over the years, Rogers has mentored many defendants and friends on their roads to recovery, as well as family, including his own son. During high school, Thomas went on to struggle with a heroin addiction that began with painkillers, which he later overcame and now works at UPMC hospital.
Rogers also gave legal counsel to Patrick Tribett, a Wheeling resident arrested by Bellaire police in 2005 for huffing spray paint, leading to a viral mugshot showing gold paint on his face.
In 2012, Rogers and Tribett sued several companies –including Amazon, Getty Images, Hot Toys Ltd. of China and Cafe Press Corps — for allegedly profiting illegally from Tribett’s image without his consent.
Rogers said although mainly helping those struggling with addiction has not made him wealthy, he values the experiences he has received from helping someone find recovery.
“I get more out of than they do,” Rogers said. “Our purpose is to help others.”