KINGSTON, Tenn. (WATE)– At nearly 19 months sober, Alex Marshall, 33, is reaching out to his former community of Roane County to apologize and offer help.

He knows he had a lot to make amends for after nearly 15 years of working to get to this point in his life.

Alex Marshall’s mugshot

“Constantly in and out of jail, or in and out of the courthouse, in and out of; I went to prison and spent five years and eight months in prison,” Marshall said.

Marshall said his addiction to heroin led him to bad choices.

He did whatever he needed to, to support that addiction, even if that meant hurting those he didn’t know and those in his family.

“Sometimes loved ones, you know, enable you, cause they don’t do it out of hatred. They do it out of love because they just don’t know how to handle someone that’s struggling with addiction,” Marshall said.

As an addict, he took advantage of that love.

His mother, Paula Marshall, could attest to it.

“You know, he would come and ask for $10 and I would give him $20. And that way, financially I enabled him because I felt guilty,” Paula Marshall said.

She said it took her a while to realize she wasn’t to blame for the choices her son had made.

In fact, it wasn’t until she joined a group with National Alliance on Mental Illness before she realized it.

Paula said she did whatever she could to help her son, including allowing him to live with her, and force him through several stints of rehab.

“It was heart wrenching, cause I know him so well that I would know if he was high,” Paula said.

But, she knew no matter how hard she tried to get him into rehab, he needed to want to be there.

Throughout it all though, she never gave up on him, even when times got really hard.

“It’s a struggle to go in and see that it’s addiction that’s got your baby placed in a place like (prison),” she said.

Things got to the point where she had to take in her granddaughter, who is now 15 years old.

Eventually, even Alex knew he was getting out of control.

“I had overdosed twice before Christmas, and I started realizing at that point that I had a serious problem and that the heroin was going to kill me if I didn’t get some help,” Marshall said.

On top of that, he was about to lose his loved ones — his wife who had stuck by his side through it all.

They had even moved to North Carolina to get away from triggers and other people that made it easy to run back to drugs.

His wife was pregnant, and they already had another baby to take care of.

“I was at risk of losing my family, and everything, you know, like they were ready and prepared to leave. And so the gift of desperation forced me in that door,” Marshall said.

That door Marshall walked through was at Daymark Recovery in North Carolina.

“I had a lot of accountability. I was getting three drug tests a week. And I was trying real hard and meeting in person was great. But yeah, of course we got hit with the pandemic and nobody was meeting in person,” Marshall said.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Marshall had already created a big enough support group to stick through the recovery process.

He said when it comes to recovery, it’s not always what gets you to walk through the door, but what keeps you wanting to get better.

For him, that was the people that he met at Faith Bridge United Methodist Church.

“Just people showing me that they love me and that God loved me was really just the turning point,” Marshall said.

Marshall truly credits his wife, family and the support system he found through God and at Faith Bridge for his nearly 19 months of recovery.

Some time after joining the church, Faith Bridge started a recovery group called Celebrate Recovery.

Marshall said they started it with a student from Duke University, but kept the group going because it really was helping others, including himself.

Even through the pandemic, his support group was there every step of the way.

“They were literally coming up to my house and checking on me, you know, on an every-other-day basis; bringing us meals, you know, calling, offering to see if they could do anything to help,” Marshall said.

They also helped him get a job at the Blowing Rock Conference Center.

He said working there also changed his life for the better.

“Once you start getting into that life and realize that all the accomplishments that are out there, and all the opportunities that you can still, you know, succeed with, it definitely outweighs going back to using,” Marshall said.

Now, he wants to help his hometown get better too.

“I’ve been hearing and seeing on Facebook a lot of people I went to high school with, a lot my friends, as well as my oldest daughter’s mother has passed away recently from overdoses, in the past six months or a year,” Marshall said.

Marshall said his group already has several people joining from outside of North Carolina.

Alex Marshall wearing his ‘Celebrate Recovery’ group shirt.

He believes sharing his personal experiences and growth, instead of simply telling people “this is why drugs are bad,” can really help others want to start the recovery process.

“I want to be able to show the people, you know, that I grew up with and used with, that recovery is possible,” Marshall said.

Marshall is now in school, working his way to become a minister.

He know it’s possible to get someone’s life back together.

“There is help. You just got to be willing, be patient, and you know, pray for some help and ask for some help and you know, God will deliver that help to you,” Marshall.

Marshall said now he can make his family proud.

He can take care of his family.

That is something his mom knew was possible, and is amazed to see come true.

“To know that he’s going to be there, cause, like you know, when I’m not able to be there, is just so heart felt, because I’m satisfied to know that all three of his children are going to be taken care of,” Paula Marshall said.

She said rocking him as a baby, she never would’ve thought he would become an addict, but she also never would’ve thought he would become a minister.

However, she can’t be more proud of the latter, and can’t wait to see him doing his work.

“(I’m looking forward to) sitting at church and watching my baby preach. And to know that his kids are taken care of. And to know that, when I retire, I can go spend time with him and it’s quality time now. It’s not the time like it used to be,” Paula Marshall said.

Alex Marshall with his wife and two of his three children.

Alex Marshall said he is just a phone call away for those who need to reach out to him.

He said everyone is welcome to the Celebrate Recovery group at Faith Bridge.

They host Zoom meetings every Wednesday.

To join the group and reach out to Marshall, email, or call 828-295-8333.