Matthew grew up in Oxnard, but went to high school in Ohio for a bit. “I went over there to get away and start fresh,” he said. “I was having problems—partying and stuff. I got homesick, and after I came home for a visit at Christmas and went back, I realized I was really missing home. I wasn’t doing that much better there.”
Matthew’s parents were in the process of separating at the time. “They went through a really long divorce, all throughout my whole time in high school,” he said. “My dad was also an addict.”
Matthew had stayed in school, but didn’t have enough credits to graduate when he should have, so he entered a military school program. “I lived on base,” he said. “I got all the credits and got a high school diploma."
After high school, Matthew started working. He had stints in retail and in the mechanical field. “I didn’t hold jobs too long,” he said. “I wanted to party and didn’t take work too seriously. I smoked weed a lot, and I drank all the time socially. Later on, I eventually started using cocaine and Xanax too. But I was able to stop everything, but alcohol—that was the thing that gripped me.”
When Matthew was 28, his sister got a job in Kansas, and he moved there with her to try for a fresh start. “I began drinking constantly—that’s when I realized it was a problem,” he said. “I kind of got away with drinking on the job. It was mechanical assembly—making tractors and mowers. I was working the whole time—paying all my bills, being functional—but I had a problem.”
After two years in Kansas, Matthew came back to enter a program. “I was looking at a short, three-month program. It was so expensive and not covered by insurance.”
But then Matthew started considering another program—one that was much longer and no cost. “I have a cousin in the program, and I was the one who actually dropped him off here,” he said. “It was probably eight months before I even thought about coming here too. I remember seeing the change in my cousin after. I saw it was working.”
Now, Matthew’s cousin is nearing graduation. “It’s nice to know he’s there,” he said. “He kind of showed me the ropes. When I first got here, I was just trusting—I knew I had to do something. I had gotten to a really low point before this. I prayed, saying ‘I’d do anything to not live like this anymore.’”
Matthew was raised Catholic and received all the sacraments, but never went to church regularly. “After that, I never pursued any kind of religion, but I prayed—not regularly, just the times I needed to. But I always kind of believed.”
At first, Matthew felt that the Mission was solely focused on helping those experiencing homelessness. “I felt like I wouldn’t belong here,” he said. “I just had to trust the process. I gave it a shot, and once I started going to classes, learning the word, reading the Bible and really learning what it has to offer and the way to live, it started to make sense.
“People here are very positive. They are here because they want what is best for you. They want to see you do better. I needed to stay, take what the Mission had to offer. It’s a positive place all around.”
Matthew has big plans for his physical, emotional and spiritual development. “I am going to continue to build my relationship with God,” he said. “I’m taking it really seriously. I also want a healthy lifestyle—fitness, eating right, attending church, volunteering regularly, surrounding myself with positive people. I’m thinking about going back to school—I didn’t take college seriously. Right now I’m trying to really focus on listening to the word and not get distracted.
“I feel closer to God. I believe more. I’ve been shown how good God is. With Him, I can do anything. Anything is possible.”