“I caught myself stealing the rent and everything else. I was at work and I told my wife, ‘Hey, I think we need to talk.’”
I didn’t have a bad childhood. I wasn’t raised by my mom and dad. My biological mother was raised by the same people. It would be her aunt and uncle, which would make [them] my great aunt and great uncle. I lived with them since I was eighteen months old. My mom was a drug addict. They say it’s hereditary—I don’t know—but both my brothers are addicts. I just got in contact with my mom whenever I was about seven or eight. I thought she was my aunt; that’s what they always called her. Then when I was about eighteen I found out she was my real mom.
I had a good childhood, good growing up and everything. Then I started working with my brother in a welding and fabricating place and he’s like, “Hey, why don’t you try this?” And that’s when I took for the first time pain pills. Then I did hurt my back there—I broke my back—and ended up getting more pills. I ended up getting laid off there and I started at Altoona Pipe and Steel doing the same thing there. Somebody was like, “Hey, you want to try some of this?” So I started getting into cocaine, mushrooms and everything else—whatever I could get my hands on. Except for heroin—I don’t like needles.
During addiction you wake up, you think about it. You go through all day thinking where you’re going to get your next one. You go to bed at night thinking, “Man, who am I gonna call in the morning to get something?” [You] pretty much spend all your money on it. I would pay the bills enough to stay here and everything else pretty much went towards drugs. [I was] lying all the time about where the money was going [and] what I was doing with it. [I was] saying I was buying this, and not buying that, and actually going out and finding whatever. I lost two jobs here in town—one at a window factory and one at a hardware store—both over drugs. Calling off work all the time because [I] couldn’t find anything and ending up sick. Once you do find something you’re like, “Ahh,” and then you go the next day and it’s the same thing all over again.
Me and my wife were married for seven [or] eight years at the time, and I ended up leaving her for another girl [and] having a kid with her. She didn’t tell me it was my kid until five years later. I just found out two years ago that he was mine. Once I left Altoona Pipe—I left there because I was getting way too deep with cocaine and stuff like that—I left there and moved back up here. A few weeks later me and my wife ended up getting back together. We were living at the little mini-ghetto up here in town—the state housing. There’s too many things up there that you can get ahold of, so we found this place and moved down here. [We were] here probably four years until I actually said, “Hey, I have a problem. I need to do something.”
A little over two years ago I caught myself stealing the rent and everything else. I was at work and I told my wife, “Hey, I think we need to talk.” I came home and we talked about it. It was probably three weeks until I got into the program. We actually set aside money until I could get to the program so I could just get enough to keep me from getting sick and going through withdrawal and stuff.
I got into the Suboxone program and then other people found out about it. So then you have ten people coming up to you [saying], “Hey, do you have an extra one of those.” [And I would say,] “No, I don’t.” Every time I got it filled I would give it to my wife and she would hide them and I’d be like, “Just give me one a day,” or however many [I was prescribed]. I started out with three a day and now I’m down to one a day. I don’t even take it if I don’t have to. If I’m not feeling sick or anything I try not to take it.
I go to the outpatient program. I started out going once a week and then after eight or nine months they took me to once every two weeks. [I] just talk about how I’m doing, triggers, different things that I should be doing, people I should stay away from, get[ting] a hobby, and stuff like that. I dropped all my friends because most of them were addicts and even after I did get clean they’d still try calling up like, “Hey, do you know where there’s anything at?” And I’d be like, “No, I don’t know anybody anymore.” I try not to know anybody. I go to work, I come home, and that’s it.
Since then family life’s been better. I talk to the girl in Altoona still and communicate great with my son. I see him every other weekend or if I call her up and tell her I want to see him she [lets] me as long as it doesn’t affect his school. It’s been a lot better since. I have money to do things, fix stuff.
I went through probably four or five jobs back and forth. The job that I have now—I just got laid off because of lack of work—but I’ve been there almost four years. He’s had addicts come through there before and I actually went to my boss and told him, “Hey, I’m gonna be going through this program doing this.” He was going to fire me before that because I was actually borrowing money from him and borrowing money from people at work. Now I’m one of the top guys up there. There’s only eight employees and I’m third or fourth on the list.
We actually took my wife for surgery three-and-a-half years ago. We had the gown and booties and IV and everything in her and they were getting ready to wheel her back. The nurse went in to gather her clothes up out of the bathroom and she’s like, “You can’t get the surgery done.” And we were like, “Why not?” They’re like, “Because she’s pregnant.” They did tests again and she was pregnant so she never got the surgeries done.
That’s when my last son was born. Then we found out two years ago that he was on the autism spectrum and then we just found out a year ago that he’s high on the autism spectrum. The relationship between me and him is actually better since I’ve been off drugs than it was with my two daughters. My oldest daughter’s twelve and my youngest daughter’s nine and I wouldn’t do anything with them. I just [would say], “No, go away.” I’m just trying to make up for it now.
I started making autism bracelets and stuff like that and donating it to Autism Speaks. We do the autism walks and I make awareness ribbons and all that gets donated. I just find something to do with my time. Idle hands are the devil’s playground. My parents live probably four blocks away and they’re both elderly with a lot of health problems, so I go up and help them almost every day. I try not to go up too much now because my brother’s living there right now. I just try to stay away from him.
I’m hoping soon, by summer, to be off everything and start saving money and buy a nice house maybe out of this town—just find some secluded place where we’re by ourselves. As long as my kids make it okay and me and my wife stay together and work things out I’ll be on a good track.
Photographs taken at Matt’s old apartment in Patton, PA, where he was living with his wife and three children until he recently moved in May 2015.