My name is Matthew. I am a crystal meth addict, and I am a miracle. I told myself that I was an addict a long time before I found the rooms, but I didn’t do anything about it until after I hit rock bottom.
I grew up in a loving family. I had lots of wants, but no needs. My father was a ‘’functioning alcoholic.” My older brother was an ass, as most older brothers are known to be. My mom is a saint and has dealt with me through thick and thin, as you will soon hear.
I had my first beer because the boy offering it to me was cute as hell, and I wanted to be closer to him while we were both in high school. I was desperately trying to figure out who I was at that time. I got a young lady pregnant (and now have a daughter who has given me two lovely granddaughters).
I really started to drink when I got to college. At the same time, I was given Adderall for my ADHD by my doctor. I fell in love with it, because I was able to work all night and go to classes during the day.
All this time while in college, I was still trying to figure out who I was. I would be straight while was at school in the Eastern Shore and gay when I was in D.C. What I would do is drive back to D.C. after my last class, party all night, and then drive back to the Eastern Shore for school. I did this pretty much every day.
When I graduated college, I got my first real job. I worked sixty plus hours a week and partied as much as I could. But now, I couldn’t get Adderall anymore. I discovered club drugs. All of my friends had been doing them while I still drank. I had my first pill at Nation. My first bump of crystal meth was at The Lizzard Lounge, and then I knew I was in serious trouble. Now, I would work all day, party all night, dancing with all my friends.
I would drive from my home in Baltimore, work in Alexandria, then drive to the clubs in D.C. and party until they kicked us out. I would take people back up to Baltimore for an after-hours they would never forget. Then, I would drive to work and do it all over again. I still don’t know if the people I drove up from D.C. ever found their way back home.
I thought I had everything under control. I would buy some meth to party with and a second stash to get me through the workday. This went on for a few years and worked great. Until it didn’t. I bounced around jobs for a while, always leaving a job when they started to see that I might have a problem.
I finally decided to work for myself and deal drugs. Then, a friend and I decided we would join forces and cook meth. This worked for us until we started getting sloppy and had some ‘’accidents.” We had more than one explosion. We burnt out the back of more than one rental van. I still can’t rent through Ryder to this day. We were very lucky that we didn’t kill ourselves or injure someone else. But hey, we knew what we were doing right?
Now let’s get to my bottom. One day, in June of 2011, I didn’t feel well and decided I needed to sleep it off. I went to my mom’s house and crashed on her couch. My mom took my daughter to school, and when she returned, she found me wandering around her house with my boxers around my ankles. She knew I had been doing some drugs, just not what kind and didn’t know what to expect. She took me to urgent care, and they suggested taking me directly to the emergency room.
In the emergency room, they discovered that the mitral valve in my heart was vegetative and throwing off clots to other parts of my body. I had had several small strokes and one large one. And then I had one while in one of the imaging machines. They made the decision to get me stabilized and wait for a surgeon to go in and fix all that was wrong with my heart.
At some point, my mom put her hand on my foot to say a prayer, and she realized that it was ice cold. She told the medical team, and they rushed me into emergency surgery to see if they could save my lower leg, or if they had to amputate it. They ended up removing a large piece of muscle out of my shin. It is quite a sight to see my shin now.
Now here comes the miracle.
I woke up to my brother on one side of the bed and my mom on the other. I remember my brother saying, “do you think he will remember any of this?” I replied, “remember what?” Then all hell broke loose, and an entire army of doctors and who knows who else surrounded me, started to ask questions, and poke and prod me everywhere.
They would give me popsicles to eat because they didn’t want me to drink water, as they weren’t sure I could keep it down. For some reason, I thought I was in a 7-11. I would argue with my mom to get me a slurpee from the machine. I was TOTALLY convinced we were in a 7-11. It is still a joke between us. To this day, I feel weird when I go into one.
One day, a very nice doctor came in and asked to speak to me alone, so my family went out into the hall. She told me that I was HIV positive. This news was not a real surprise, because I knew all about my risky behavior the past twelve plus years. She said that we could get my numbers to acceptable levels easily with some medication.
They eventually transferred me to an acute physical rehab hospital unit. I spent three plus hours a day doing physical and occupational therapy. I couldn’t walk, say what I wanted clearly, write, feed myself, go to the bathroom by myself, and a whole list of things. My future didn’t look good.
I would get frustrated while in therapy sessions because I couldn’t make my legs do what I knew they could. I told my physical therapist that of all things wrong with me, I wanted to be able to walk more than anything. I tell you what. She worked me like a dog to help me be able to walk again, and it worked. At this point, I started to realize that drugs weren’t for me anymore. I even wanted to taper down on the pain meds they were giving me, but my doctor explained to me how they are needed for me to be able to heal correctly.
OK. I get discharged. I’m walking with a walker. I figure that not doing drugs is easy, because I can’t drive anyway, and I’m at my mom’s house. The doctor told me that I could have up to two drinks a day, but no more because I am on blood thinners. I thought I could do that no problem. Until there was a problem. While out to lunch with my mom and a few of her friends, I had several pomegranate margaritas. I was a mess. That is when I realized I couldn’t handle my alcohol either.
I reached out to a friend I knew from my using days who I knew was in the program. He suggested that I take the metro into the city and meet him in DuPont, and we would go to a meeting together. I was excited. He showed me where the Triangle Club and the DuPont Circle Club was. He told me how often the meetings were and places nearby to eat. I was walking very slowly and with a cane. I walked up the stairs of the DCC on a Saturday night to my first meeting. My friend sat in the big leather chair, and I found a chair in the middle of the room. It was his anniversary meeting. I made my way into the city every day for a meeting for a very long time. I found a sponsor.
I stayed clean for just over six years. Then, the pandemic hit. I started to hear voices, and rather than reach out to my sponsor, my sober network, or my medical team, I decided to self-medicate. That worked until it didn’t. When it stopped working, I came clean to my mom and my sponsor and started meetings again. That was June 4th, 2020.
I love the cash and prizes that come with recovery. It takes work to get them, but it is well worth it. I have a job I love. I live with my mom and granddaughter, and I wouldn’t have it any other way. I go to meetings as often as possible. I just got back from a roundup. I go on vacation every year with people from the program and have a blast. My life now is awesome.
— Matthew S.