‘There were times I questioned if I was good enough for all this. But I made it.’: Dad shares journey to overcome addiction with help from music

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“As far back as I can remember, my life was one of chaos. My mother struggled with severe alcoholism, and I did a lot of bouncing back and forth between her and my father. I never stayed at the same school for longer than a year, and I regularly witnessed very messy and ugly things. The type of things only severe substance abuse can bring out in a person. I have a lot of good memories with my mom. And my dad. I love both of them very much I’d like to make that very clear.

They did the best they could with the knowledge they had. They both tried to instill respect, responsibility, and work ethic into me and a young age. My dad had me working in the fields on our farm at 8 years old. I’m grateful for that because, at the time, I didn’t respond well to it, but now I carry a work ethic and drive that has taken me far. I have a lot of memories of my mom drunk and out of her mind. Staying at one of her friends house and waking up to her clutching onto me crying, while getting kicked out because she lost control.

This happened many, many times. Once we moved out into the middle of nowhere in Oklahoma with my step dad, only to watch both of them to descend into a meth fueled mania that led to us having to flee the state for our lives. That happens when you threaten paranoid meth dealers with the police. I lived in a constant state of anxiety, which would play out later in my adult years. Funny enough, all this felt normal to me. But, I looked at a lot of other kids with envy. Kids that got to stay at the same school. Kids that had both parents together and dads that patiently taught them how to kick a ball.

man on skateboard
Courtesy of Matt Keegan

I never got that. I was always told I had to grow up quick, and I never understood until now. I don’t know how I got into drugs, it just kinda happened. I had swore I would never do a single drug, smoke a single cigarette, drink a single drop of alcohol, until I did. The first time I drank, I puked everywhere. But I wanted more. I liked the feeling of looking messed up. I liked the attention it brought. Like it was socially acceptable to be high. Alcohol led to weed, weed led to different friends, and before I knew it, I was chugging bottles of Robitussin to trip my face off for a few days. Around this time, my mom and dad got back together, and we all lived in a nice big house and were a ‘family.’

Prescription Pills

Except this family was abusing prescription pills and allowing 40 or so kids to party in the upstairs part of the house. I dropped out of school in the 8th grade after a really bad acid trip left me unsure if I was even real or not. The doctor happily gave me Xanax. It was here I found my home. No more anxiety, I could just be myself. What is very ironic after that acid trip, the sort of drug I used would give me a panic attack. If I smoked weed, I would freak out.

All my friends would make fun of me and laugh, while my heart beat out of my chest and I was convinced I would die. But, xanax took all that away. So began my decade long benzo addiction. Doing cocaine with my friends? Gotta have Xanax. Smoking weed in the woods? Gotta have a Xanax. Staying at a friends house? What if we have a panic attack? Better bring the Xanax.

bunch of people at a party
Courtesy of Matt Keegan

Luckily, this was back in 2007-2010 when prescription pills were readily available. Soon I was sucked into a culture of doctors, pharmacies, pill bottles, and general insanity. My parents quit the pill habit, and I soon found I could agree to get them hundreds of pills and charge them a couple hundred extra and make some free myself. So began my adventures as a drug dealer.

If you weren’t around for this time, let me tell you, it was wild. Grown men and women walking around with pill crushers we bought from CVS with Percocet and Xanax residue in them. Pockets full of pills and pill bottles rattling. The feeling from Percocet mixed with Xanax mixed with cocaine mixed with acid was divine.

I had a counter for every high I created. Too drunk? Cocaine or adderall. We could play beer pong till 5 a.m. and never lose a game. Too skeeted from the blow or addies? Xanax and Percocet to come down. The upstairs of my house turned into an absolute den of carnage and destruction. Holes in every wall, the entire upstairs spray painted. People having sex in the other room. Staying up for days, hardly eating, and laughing the entire time.

I had an abundance of friends and the party never stopped. I was just getting into my 20s at the time. As wild as this sounds, this was all innocent compared to what came next. Nobody died, for the most part nobody robbed anybody, we all came to have a good time and we did. The parties went on at my house were stuff of legend. Total chaos. Fights would break out between the 60 or so people I had crammed into my house.

I remember someone parking their car in my front yard, asking to fight my dad, so my dad ran his plow truck into their car and pushed it out into the street. I can still hear the dudes girlfriend screaming bloody murder while she was still in the passenger seat, and it gives me a little laugh. Nobody died back then, nobody got seriously hurt, and again, we thought it was normal. This went on for a long time until the bank took back the house, and we all got kicked out.

The ‘Trailer Days’

So began the trailer days. By this time, I was completely gone, but I had a few passions that kept me grounded. I played death metal drums, and wrote a few rap songs people seemed to like. My trailer became a music haven, where drugs and noise mixed and we all felt like rock stars for a day. This is when the bad stuff came around. Pills began to become heavily regulated so we resorted to heroin and meth to fill our needs. Things began to change, people began to die.

man playing the drums
Courtesy of Matt Keegan

Fentanyl reared its ugly head, and death began to become routine. That’s when I began to lose people. Robbie, Katie, Luke. All people I called friends who died. Suboxone became a household name. A good way to keep from being sick when we ran out of heroine. Doctors practically gave it away as long as you had dirty pee. Somehow I escaped all this, and ended up selling drugs at music festivals. Clean drugs of course. I never messed with drugs that kill people. Or so I thought.

I posed as a hippy and dressed like Hunter S. Thompson, regular quoting Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas, all while eating heroic doses of acid, molly and ketamine. While having Xanax on deck of course. This led to me and my dealer going to Michigan to drop off cocaine and running smack dab into a swat team.

man at music festival
Courtesy of Matt Keegan

Prison, Withdrawal, and Rehab

The deal was a setup, and the charge carried a term of 2 to 20 years. I refused to cooperate, and for the first time in my life, I was in a jail cell. But, I was so blasted on Xanax and ketamine I didn’t even realize what was happening. Did you know they don’t give out Xanax in jail? Even with a prescription? I didn’t. So began my year in the Michigan Department of Corrections. We plead out to our charge and were offered boot camp, and since it was our first felony we were granted. But you still had to go to prison first. We went to Jackson, which is a large prison city in Michigan where you have to be processed. Picture Shawshank Redemption, only 4 stories tall of cells.

man being recorded in jail cell
Courtesy of Megan Odessa Media

They had ‘splash guards’ on the bottom cells in case anyone dived headfirst off the top row and splattered all over the inmates at the bottom. So I wanted to be a drug dealer? These were the consequences. I was transferred to the Robert Cotton facility, which was violent and had a bad rep. Did I mention for the first time in ten years I wasn’t taking Xanax? The entire time I was locked up I was going through Xanax withdrawal. Just imagine the strongest fear you have ever experienced, all day and night. It was like this for a long time, and I had to face every fear I hid from for so long. But I survived. I was transferred to boot camp, which was a wild experience in itself, and made it home.

During this time my mother also was sentenced to prison for manufacturing meth, and she was given 6 years. I supported her, and our relationship stayed over the phone for a long time. At this time, I also had a daughter, one I didn’t pay much attention to until after I got out. It wasn’t until I was sober that I realized how important it was for me to be a father to her. So I set out to create a relationship with her. I pretty much left her mother to figure it out, but I came back, set up child support, and had her on my weekends.

I had to figure out how to pay a phone bill, get a car, get and hold a job, sober, and stay consistent. It was here I found out my friend Richie Webber was hosting a recovery group and being active in the community. We used to snort percocet 30s off his laptop, and rap and talk about how one day we’ll both be famous. Now he’s running a recovery organization and he took me in with open arms.

recovery group standing together
Courtesy of Matt Keegan

However, although I decided to give up hard drugs, I knew how to manipulate doctors. So before I knew it, I was prescribed adderall, vicodin, gabapentin and I began taking large amounts of kratom I discovered online. So as quickly as I came in, I came right back out. Only this time I held a job, seriously began to rebuild my life, and was there for my daughter. I had a wonderful woman I made my fiancé, and everything seemed as if it was ok, but it was not. I soon lost myself entirely, and began cheating and completely destroyed my relationship and hurt someone I considered my best friend. Even years later, the damage done still remains.

That’s one thing I sincerely wish I could have done differently. I begged Richie to get me into rehab, which he did within a few days. So I ended up in Florida, at a beautiful treatment center in which I would experience one of the worst withdrawals of my life. And I kicked methadone. Kratom for me was violently addictive and I had to take it every 4 hours to not be sick. Couple this with everything else I was taking, and I didn’t sleep for a week.

The anxiety ate at me, and the guilt for what I did to my ex-fiancé lingered around like a weight tied to my neck. I hated myself. I hated how every time I built my life up, I tore it right back now. Almost 30 years old with next to nothing to my name, living in a halfway house, leaving my daughter back home. How could I ever come back from this?

Songs and Hope

I began working a 12-step program, and I found a fellowship of men who are still in my life today. I opened my mind, found touch with a higher power, and began writing rap songs. My songs went somewhat viral, and seemed to help and inspire a lot of people. I always believed I would have a platform which would help and inspire people, and somehow it was begging to happen. I even got invited to come on to America’s Got Talent but made the mistake of telling them I was once a drug dealer. I even got past the first two auditions!

man in front of America's Got Talent sign
Courtesy of Matt Keegan

My songs somehow reached my mothers prison, and I was invited to come there and perform and tell my story, which I did! 100% sober I may add. I was working in Delray Beach as a server, working my program and facing my demons. I was making more money than I ever had, selling wine bottles prices at 6 thousand dollars. Moving amongst people I had never experienced. Then Covid came, and I fled Florida to come live at my Grandmas.

I lost touch with my recovery community, my sponsors and eventually fell back into taking kratom. Then for some silly reason, I found a doctor who would prescribe Xanax for a $40 fee. No ID, no insurance, just cash and a short conversation. Almost feels as if this is all intentional doesn’t it? I don’t need a drug dealer, I can find a doctor. So began another descent into madness that landed me into rehab again. So began another round of the 12 step program.

Only this time I found a man as a sponsor who truly helped change my life. I got honest, and he held me accountable like no one ever had before. I needed whacked across the head, and he obliged. I owe him my life. It was during this time I began writing music, and taking it very seriously. Songs I wrote began to go seriously viral, getting close to half a million views.

man on stage singing
Courtesy of Matt Keegan

Not that any of that matters, but I couldn’t believe so many people related to what I wrote. Then my daughter’s mother died from an overdose. Her name was Kayla. I can’t say she and I liked each other very much at this time, but her death still affected me. She hadn’t seen our daughter in quite some time, as she was lost her in own sort of chaos. Like I was once.

My daughter and I grew close over this time, and I kept showing up for her and being the best father I could be. Thankfully Kayla’s mother had taken my daughter in and given her a loving home to grow up in. I wrote a song about Kayla’s passing, it went viral on Tiktok, and a woman named Megan reached out to me on my Facebook.

By now I created a few different social media accounts for my music and content I believe will inspire people. Megan was moved by the video she saw and told me she would love to help me produce a video for it. We began writing out the scenes together until we had a finished draft. She rented out an Airbnb for me and for the shoot, found actresses and extras and locations for the shoot, and set up a date.  I drove from Ohio, never doing anything like this before, and shot my first music video. When I got back, I went back to working as a server at Texas Roadhouse.

man on street shooting music video
Courtesy of Megan Odessa Media

I was a little stiff after not serving for a few years, so I messed a table up pretty bad, and come to find out the couple I served wrote out a passionate Facebook post that got over 100 thousand shares and that’s how I’m writing out this story for you now! The timing is not random, I believe it is God-given. Richie has remained a friend and a mentor throughout this time, and it was he who sent me this contact info for this page. Ironic, two dope fiends from Clyde, Ohio, somehow ended up becoming who we are now.

Today, I share my story to inspire and help others. I also help people find treatment resources in the state and out of state and give a lot of my time to mentoring others. I will move mountains for anyone willing to ask for it. I’ve spent this summer growing my relationship with my daughter who is now 9 years old, watching her personality blossom into an amazing little human.

man with daughter
Courtesy of Matt Keegan

The thing is, I get to do all these things, and I’m beyond grateful. I remember being dope sick, lying on a mattress on the floor in a filthy room with an overflowing ashtray, blankets stuffed in the windows, praying to God for better days. Those days came. But there was a lot of work involved. There were days I wanted to quit. Days I was so depressed I had to find a space to cry. Times I questioned if I was good enough for all this. Times I thought I’d be better dead. But through the grace of God, persistence, and hard work, I made it here. If you want a better life you better be prepared to bleed for it.”

dad and daughter in car
Courtesy of Matt Keegan

This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Matt Keegan of Bellevue, Ohio. You can follow his journey on TikTok, Facebook, and YouTube. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribeto our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos

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