Matthew’s experience with church has been complicated. His parents raised him and his sister and brother as Jehovah’s Witnesses, but at 15, Matthew found himself removed from the religion. “I was excommunicated from the church for some premarital activities,” he said. “I immediately fell into drugs and alcohol, and women outside of the church. Things got progressively worse.”
Matthew was an ocean lifeguard, worked as an EMT and was a reserve firefighter at just 19. “But because of my drinking, I got several DUIs and went to jail,” he said. “I lost all those good jobs I had at such a young age.”
He got sober for a while, and was hired with Harbor Patrol in Ventura County, but his drinking ended up getting in the way of that job too. “I was coming in smelling like alcohol, or hungover from the night before. They couldn’t let me drive the boats. They had to let me go. And that was a big blow for me.”
Matthew fell into meth, and picked up 10 felony charges. He did four terms in state prison and had several arrests in between. He’s tried getting help at many facilities. “I kind of have a PhD in programs,” Matthew said. “I’ve been to the Santa Barbara Rescue Mission, (a program) in Port Hueneme, and pretty much all the sober living (facilities) in Ventura County.”
Something about the mission was different, he said. “I had some exposure to God and Jesus as a kid, and somehow or another, I was able to plug some of that in here. I’ve been here all of 2019. It took me three tries to get it right here.”
Matthew left the mission twice before. After an altercation, he walked out and went straight to the liquor store. The last time he left, he was found by the authorities unconscious in a park. He had alcohol poisoning. “I was there for seven days and was in bad shape for three weeks. I just couldn’t do it anymore. I called the chaplain from the ICU. They did an emergency intake for me on a Friday night. I’m so thankful for the mission. I’ve made some incredible headway since then.
“After having such a close call, I had some things to reflect on. I found some religious books, and I haven’t stopped. The last few months I’ve been in the bible quite a bit; reading any books I could find about the Lord would calm me down and keep me grounded. It’s been so powerful to learn about him. It’s eye-opening. I knew this place was where I was supposed to be. I knew I needed to sit tight and really listen. After the six-month mark, I had a full change of heart.”
Matthew’s father in particular has been relieved to see such a change. Matthew’s family has experienced tremendous loss. His brother died from AIDs, which he contracted from sharing needles. His mother died by suicide. “I went to prison after both their deaths,” Jared said. “I’ve really drug my dad through the dirt for the last 30 years. He’s tough though. He’s remarried, and I have a lot of support from them. My sister is a nurse and lives in Lake Tahoe with her husband and her two little boys. They are grateful for where I am now. I’m doing extremely well. It’s been life-saving to say the least.”