My name is Matt and I started my journey to recovery in the late Summer / early Fall of 2016. My wife could likely give you the exact dates, but I am not so good with those, so I will do my best and keep it as close as possible.
My addictions are tobacco and alcohol, and my drug use history involves marijuana and occasional abuse of prescription and over the counter medications. As a 12-year-old, I tried cigarettes for the first time simply because everyone else was, so why not? I knew better, but I decided to ignore the warnings because I simply didn’t care. I drank alcohol for the first time in my early years at probably 8 or 9 years old. It was given to me by my father just to taste. I think it was probably brandy or something like that. I remember it vividly because it was in a coffee cup, we were in his apartment in Nashville, TN, and I was not at all impressed with the taste. I’m not telling you this because I blame my father for my alcohol abuse. I do not at all. If that is what you are hearing, you are not listening. I blame myself because I made my own choices every time I made them.
Later in life as I grew up, there were opportunities to drink alcohol inside and outside of my home, and I rarely, if ever, turned down the chance. As a young teenager, there were parties at my house that my family would host and there would be beer and hard liquor there. As for tobacco, my friends and I would steal our cigarettes from our parents, or we would go to the corner store and purchase them saying they were for our parents, and then hide out in the woods, or at the train tracks and smoke every chance we had. My dad and a few of my grandparents had always smoked, my friends smoked, their parents and relatives smoked, so I was just simply around it at every turn, so why shouldn’t I also?
As an older teenager, I was at parties or my friend’s house almost all the time. I was rarely ever home, and when I was, we just brought the alcohol, drugs, and tobacco there. Everyone was involved, so it never seemed out of place. There were times that I would go months straight not being sober, and then months straight of not using anything at all, not even tobacco. I’ve always been a bit of an extremist with my use or lack of use, so I’m sure I have really confused many people in my life.
Fast forward to my late teenage years, and I met my wife in the Summer of 1997. We met at work in a café in Deep Creek Lake. She worked making food and I worked as a second part-time job washing dishes. I loathed that job, but I stayed there long enough to meet her and then I got out. She and I met through my cousin, who was her best friend (still not sure how we hadn’t met before that), and my cousin introduced us to each other. We went to one party at the same house one evening and then pretty quickly liked each other, but realized that wasn’t the scene we really wanted to continue in. I mean, I really liked this girl and I didn’t want to do anything to mess it up.
She and I got to know each other better and we shared many stories about how we both had attended Christian school as children, but were then transferred to public school at middle school age. We had a lot of things in common, including our times of being not so wise (mine was admittedly much longer and much more extreme), and because of our common stories and lives, we grew even closer. At that point in my life I was ready for something different than I had always been, and I was sure we were going to begin a life together that would exclude that lifestyle. It wasn’t too long after we began dating that we were engaged and then married. We had only known each other for 11 months on our wedding day.
Soon after we were married, I began to run away from everything again and switched right back into the lifestyle I had lived prior to meeting her. I completely broke her heart and nearly lost my marriage as a result. I did nothing but push her and all of my responsibilities (except for my job) to the side like they were not important to me at all. Throughout all of this I remained physically faithful to my wedding vows, but not at all faithful in any other way.
After several years of running from my marriage, I yet again made another turn toward trying to apply myself back to my responsibilities and my marriage. This came soon after learning that we were expecting our first children. I have to add in right here that I never fully cleaned up my life at nearly any point, and when I did it was very short-lived. Even after our first children were born, I still thought I could have my family and my irresponsible fun at the same time. Looking back, I cannot understand at times why I am still married to her, or how I managed to keep her, except to say that she remained hopeful that God would someday get ahold of me and I would allow Him to make me into the man He created me to be.
Writing this story is very difficult because of the things I would like to forget that I have done to hurt my wife and my family, the things I have done to not follow God’s best for me, and just the overall disappointment I have created about myself within myself.
Skipping forward a few years in life, and through some hardships we faced within our marriage, we made a major life decision to move away from the church we had been members of for nearly ten years, and started attending and joined another. It wasn’t long after that we decided we needed to be able to enjoy some time together away and we included some wine or other alcohol in our getaways to relax. We didn’t see that as wrong, and in a normal and reasonable way for some, it isn’t wrong or harmful, but it was the beginning of a problem that would take years for me to realize. I was still incapable of just having a drink.
We continued to occasionally drink on the weekends at home together. Never at bars or publicly unless it were a drink at dinner on a date, because neither of us really liked that scene. Over years of doing this, I began to develop a habit of not only drinking to relax on the weekends, but also as a way to escape, so to speak, every trouble or stress in life that I faced. I made some attempts at dealing with things, but I also ultimately drank to drown them out. I also went back and forth with using tobacco, and she would sometimes find out, and other times not. But nonetheless, I was again using, abusing, and hiding addictions. “How did I get back here again?” I would always ask myself, but never really finding an answer to that question. My best answer was that I am weak and there isn’t really much I can do about it, so often I would not try. I hated it, but not enough to really do anything about it.
Without getting into too much detail, as a couple, we continued to have ups and downs, but some of our hardest downs were beginning to come through personal conflict with close friends. One problem in particular seemed hopeless and as a result, I drank more to deal with it. I really began to feel completely hopeless in creating or controlling any good in my life. We also were starting to have financial and other normal life difficulties that were surmounting, and as a result…you guessed it…I drank even more to deal with it. At this point, drinking for me was becoming nearly a daily routine, and within a short period of time, it became just that…daily.
I would excuse my drinking with every sort of reasoning I could find. I was relaxing. I could stop any time. If my life wasn’t so stressful. But the reality that has taken me seven months of sobriety to discover was that I was addicted to alcohol and could no longer control it. I had become addicted as a direct result of my abuse of it and lack of attempts to deal with life’s problems in a healthy manner. I blame no one but myself for every drink and every result.
In the late Fall / early Summer of 2016, I had to be hospitalized and given fluids from dehydration and was becoming very unhealthy, very quickly. I was drinking at times of the day that were completely inappropriate and at times, I even drove while intoxicated. Luckily, I never hurt anyone or myself, and was never pulled over or arrested, although rightly, I should have been many times. I am just as guilty as anyone who has ever been issued a DUI, but I just simply had not been caught. I deserved it as much as anyone. After several hospitalizations and a short-lived two-month attempt at sobriety, I had finally reached the end of myself and scheduled myself to check into a rehabilitation center for alcohol abuse. I had tried just going to a weekly Celebrate Recovery meeting and abstaining from alcohol, but it did not last and I had relapsed and very rapidly spiraled out of control. I spent the week before going into rehab at my father’s house, away from my wife and kids at the advice of a good friend who is now my sponsor. I wasn’t on my best behavior there either, as I decided to start smoking again, drank alcohol, and tried to sneak alcohol again, but wound up passed out and hurt in the woods half way between his house and the liquor store, all of which I was trying again to hide.
I was so full of shame at this point, I just couldn’t believe I had become this desperately lost in my addiction and abuse. I’m not one to show my feelings much, but at this time I really had contemplated suicide more than once. At one point, I called a suicide hotline, not really intending to kill myself, but hoping someone would talk me down from those kinds of thoughts. I hung up before anyone answered and then didn’t answer their return calls out of embarrassment.
In mid-November, my dad drove me to a rehabilitation center called Cove Forge in Williamsburg, Pennsylvania. I spent the next 22 days of a 30-day program there, and had to leave early due to health insurance issues, but left with a full satisfactory completion and new ambition to change my life for good. It doesn’t work for everyone, but it had really impacted me and started me on a mission to better myself and live the rest of my life sober and helping the next suffering person to achieve and maintain sobriety.
The day I arrived home from treatment, I went to my first outside AA meeting at the Liberty Club in Oakland, MD. AA was not at all something I wanted to do, but in treatment, my mind and attitude about it was completely changed. I now couldn’t imagine not being there. I also continued to attend Celebrate Recovery at Faith Evangelical Free Church every Friday, attended weekly NA meetings, and at this point changed churches again. I was told that the only thing I needed to change was everything. So, I have changed everything that I possibly can and still continue to have a willingness to change when I identify or am shown areas in my life that need improvement.
Today, I am 7 months sober. I still attend daily AA, NA, and Celebrate Recovery meetings, chair AA and NA meetings at the Liberty Club, play in the Celebrate Recovery music team, attend local drug and alcohol abuse prevention community events, am volunteering to join the local Action Team through the Garrett County Health Department on drug and alcohol abuse prevention in Garrett County, I have reached out to help fellow suffering alcoholics and drug addicts who have been referred to me for help, and am starting into the path of starting and leading the second Celebrate Recovery weekly meeting in Garrett County.
I must attribute all of these things that are good in my life first to God who gives me life and breath, my family who has never completely given up on me, although they had every reason to, to my family at Celebrate Recovery, to my family at the Liberty Club in Oakland, to my friends who have continued to support me, to my step study brothers, to my sponsor, to my treatment center at Cove Forge, to my brothers and sisters in Christ, and to everyone else around me who continues to encourage me.
It is my personal goal to help to remove some of the stigma that comes from being open about our addictions and struggles. I want to be of use to the next suffering person. I want to be an example of all of the good that can happen when we become honest with ourselves, and honest with the ones we love. No longer do I want to run and hide from life, but I want to learn to face life on God’s terms and trust Him with all of it, that He will make all things right, if I simply let Him. Until then, I will live the best I know how just for today.
Thank-you for listening to my story, and may God bless you and help you in your own path to discover His intended joy for your life.
Shared on June 11, 2017