044 - Matthew Seaman
Updated: Jul 13, 2021
“Can you be you?” Matthew Seaman joins us from St. Johns Recovery Place to talk about moving as a teenager and the impact that his new friends had on his substance abuse. He talks about coming out as gay in the 80’s, being misunderstood and bullied (including being stabbed!), and going to treatment 14(!) times. His story of hitting rock bottom, pleading to his higher power and finding spirituality led to being given opportunities that he never thought were available. Enjoy.
The Illuminate Recovery Podcast is about Mental Health, Mental Illness, and Addiction Recovery. Shining light on ways to cope, manage, and inspire. Beyond the self care we discuss, you may need the help of a licensed professional. Curt Neider and Shelley Mangum are a part of Illuminate Billing Advocates (illuminatebilling.com). They are committed to helping better the industry and adding value to the lives of listeners by sharing tools, insights, and success stories of those who are working on their mental health.
Transcripts (no grammar): can you be you matthew seaman joins us from st john's recovery place to talk about moving as a teenager and the impact that his new friends had on his substance abuse he talks about coming out as gay in the 80s including being stabbed and going to treatment 14 times his story of hitting rock bottom pleading to his higher power and finding spirituality led to being given opportunities that he never thought were available enjoy welcome to the illuminate recovery podcast we shed light on mental health issues mental illness and addiction recovery ways to cope manage and inspire beyond self-care we will discuss you may need the help of a licensed professional my name is kurt neider i'm a husband father entrepreneur a handyman and a student of life i avoid conflict i deflect with humor and i'm fascinated by the human experience and i'm shelley mangum i am a clinical mental health counselor and my favorite role of all times is grandma i am a seeker of truth and i feel like life should be approached with tremendous curiosity i ask the dumb questions i fill in the gaps the illuminate recovery podcast is brought to you by illuminate billing advocates make billing and collections simple with leader in substance abuse and mental health billing services verification and analysis of benefits pre-authorizations utilization management accurate claim submission and management denial and appeal management and industry leading reporting improve your practice's cash flow and your ability to help your clients with eliminate billing advocates today kurt and i have just this immense privilege to talk with matthew seaman matthew he's in jacksonville florida today we were talking about the weather a little bit earlier but he is the director of business development and community relations at john st john's recovery place he is a native of san diego california where he began a 25 year career in mortgage banking he worked for you know institutions like merrill lynch charles schwab and the bank of america so really big names that i'm familiar with after overcoming his struggle with drug and alcohol in 2015 he chose a new path a new career in recovery and began working in the field of addiction treatment he's dedicated himself to helping others suffering from substance abuse and mental illness matthew's story has been shared on television radio and in treatment facilities throughout northeast florida and as evidenced by what we've just shared he is incredibly involved in the local recovery community matthew i'm super thrilled to have you on today thank you thank you for having me um it always seems to be a good place to start is to get a little bit of history of you know how you ended up in treatment recovery um and and you know and i'll ask the question is this what you dreamt about being when you were a little boy [Laughter] not exactly no it wasn't um you know do i if i could just jump right in if you'd like yeah um yeah you know as a kid i grew up in a i won't do the whole story because i'm in my 50s and that would take the whole hour but um you know as a kid growing up in san diego um i lived in a smaller like suburb of san diego where we i mean this school was kindergarten through eighth grade you know so we i just we all knew each other it was a very small town and um you know i think at 12 or 13 we we had to move and we moved down to pacific beach in san diego which was just a huge culture shock for me and it was right when i was realizing that i was a little different than the other boys um and so between you know going from that to this huge multi-story middle school and not knowing anybody and realizing that i was gay it was just a really really tough tough pre you know early teens and um was introduced to crystal meth at age 15 and uh that was the beginning of a decade of struggling with crystal methamphetamines and then you know left san diego to get away from meth because i was sure that san diego and meth were the problem and came to jacksonville florida and within four hours i was drinking whiskey and chasing it with milk and that went on for another 20 years of just a debilitating addiction even though i worked at you know places that you mentioned earlier you know it i guess that would be considered a functioning alcoholic there were days when i you know i'm on the phone with missy elliot's mom telling her where to invest uh her money while i'm running to the bathroom to throw up with the hangover so it was just it was it was almost like a dual existence you know um and so yeah from 15 to 45 i struggled a lot so there was a huge part of my life where um i didn't have any dreams let alone being here today so wow so matthew let me let me step back just a little bit this is a you know question that when i'm when i've talked with um you know people in in the gay community people that are active active living lifestyles of you know gay lifestyles that the question comes up and this is controversial you know is it were you born that way or did the environment nurture you that way and obviously it's a little both maybe but but what what did that look like for you i'm super curious because it sounded like at a very young age you recognized um in yourself you recognize that yeah i mean obviously i can't speak for all members of the lgbtqia i guess we're the alphabet mafia now we've taken over every letter but i i can speak for myself i remember i remember specifically one time i must have been i don't know seven or eight it was it was in the 70s and i have a sister who's three years younger than me and she had got i don't know how old you guys are but she got one of those barbie heads it's just the head and it had the hair in the face and like a little tray where you could put the little barbie makeup and i remember christmas she got that and you know i had gotten like these huge styrofoam like gliders and things like that i guess that the normal boys were playing with and uh all i wanted to do was put makeup on that barbie head you know and so i didn't know that i was gay per se i just know that i wasn't interested in what the other guys were doing so and it was a very loving home and i you know i mean my mom was a stay-at-home mom so i remember she would call us out of school so we could stay home and play with her you know or it was a rainy day and we would just hang out so me and my mom and my sister spent a lot of time together but i don't think that hanging around with my mom and my sister made me gay or anything like that you know i didn't know there was anything wrong with me well there probably wasn't anything wrong with you steal it right well right but i just remember getting caught with like my sister was putting breads in my hair one time and we were in my mom and dad's bathroom and we got caught and it was like this big thing you know and it was like what is that and you know and i'll just i'll just make a comment too that there are plenty of straight men that have done all of those things that you're talking about right i mean i have a very a very heterosexual son who you know we called him camarina when he was little because he liked to work pintu's and he liked he just loved that kind of stuff and even you know and and and so that you know putting barrettes in your hair and liking makeup doesn't necessarily put you in that category you know that's kind of part of the stigma is that if you're gay that you must like those kinds of things but there is there is um kind of the maybe those thoughts and those feelings that you're different than everybody else and that you enjoy different things and and that i don't know where that goes what was that like for you yes yes well again and and this i guess it's sort of apropos it's pride month and we're talking about this topic um you know like i said it was such a growing up like pre-teen in that small town we all just knew each other i mean it wasn't like i felt awkward or anything around you know i had lots of friends we was like a very very tight-knit community you know we had my best friend had cerebral palsy that lives next door and had crutches that went all the way you know that went all the way up his arms and we didn't think you know he was my best friend jason hartley i'll tell you his name i still remember and we played with star wars figures together out in his backyard and you know we had um all sorts of different people in our little community and everybody was treated the same and nobody felt awkward which was why i think that when we did move and and you know a sort of a cookie-cutter statement to call it culture shock but you know as i was realizing that it was more than just wanting to play with barbie heads and as i was trying to make entirely new friends and as i was going through all that my mom and dad were going through a moment if you will i mean they've been i just got off the phone with my mom they've been together 50 plus years you know so they got through it whatever it was but there was just a lot of stuff going on at home and then when you introduced substances at 15 um and me hanging out with what i thought were the cool kids but the one group that would accept me they just happened to be doing meth and going to the clubs at night you know and so i do think that and this may be off topic but i do think that people in the lgbt community and again i'm generalizing um do have another layer of struggle when it comes to addiction and things like that just like earlier you were talking about before we started you would mention that you you felt uh a connection with working with women and trauma you know i do think that those of us in the lgbt community who struggle with substances do have an additional sort of layer to that that story if you will you know um it's hard enough being bullied and beaten i mentioned to you earlier i was i was a victim of a hate crime and stabbed several times i have a scar on my face that i have to look out every morning in the mirror you know um that adds another layer to that yeah well it definitely does at what age did that happen to you the stabbing part or the bullying the bullying started uh i would assume the bullying thing is like a 40-year thing like i'm sure that still happens in some circumstances you know i mean the knife attack but it wasn't a pair of those or a set of what what are scissors are they set a pair of scissors um those scissors like your teachers used to have do i don't know if you remember those way back in the day um that's what i was stabbed with i was 32 i think when that happened but again the bullying and stuff and with the last name like seaman you know when you're gay and you're in high school and all of a sudden there's or junior high and there's a sex ed class and everybody you go from being called sigma the sea monster to well you can only imagine um so the bullying started early but it was continuous you know i've had people throw stuff out of their car at me when i'm walking down the street i'm not one of those people who's i guess fortunate to be able to sort of pass you know my hands tend to be a little more animated my voice is not as uh disguised i mean i can use my very white voice if i choose to but um i don't you know that only works on the phone really so yeah i digress no but i think you're talking about when you're an early teenager which i think is kind of a confusing and a challenging time for everybody right no matter you know what orientation or however i'll screw up all of the terms around that so i apologize in advance but to layer on finding out that some of the things you're dealing with might be a little bit different than what everybody else is dealing with layers on challenge which which drives secrecy right it drives that kind of like hide or i'm different or shame or whatever whether it's healthy or unhealthy you know i mean i think it tends to be unhealthy and in that era especially you know so much stigma around it that that makes it easier it easier easier to chase substance right makes the kind of benefit of hiding more valuable to the individual right so there was a little uh little thing called aids that happened right at the same time and i don't know if anybody remembers the early to mid 80s but um yeah gay was not a label that people were like striving for per se um it certainly wasn't cool you know so all of that was happening simultaneously with me coming out literally coming out at 15 in 1985 when the hiv epidemic was really just exploding i remember that diver was greg louganis when he had cut his head on the diving board during the olympics or something like that and it was like all over the news so i'm like oh my god you know so yeah it was a lot and especially as a teenager then there's like assumptions right like oh i'm gay so i'm gonna have aids right or like you know like things that preconceived notions that people had at the time that were just wrong right but add fear and you know all of this other kind of trepidation as a teenager that you're trying to figure out how to deal with that you're not getting guided through at home i would assume you know not if there's a not if there's a barrette tragedy in the bathroom right so [Music] with this the new group in san diego obviously there's an introduction to substances there but you know is it was the lifestyle part of that was that part accepted and welcomed you know with a new group of friends or was that an ongoing kind of issue there as you dove into substances the new group of friends that happened when i was introduced to substances was a i guess what we would call back then sort of and we would travel between san diego and los angeles and it was the club kid era if you will and so yes i guess what you call goth now or whatever um but it was it was mostly gay folks going to clubs you know dying our hair and the earrings and the drugs and all of that stuff i mean i think i was maybe 16 or 17 dancing in clubs you know in front of a mirror on ecstasy and doing whippets and too young to even be there um but feeling like i was the only place that i belonged to at the same time it's um it's i mean it it's interesting to dive into this kind of level because you know there's a lot of misconceptions and and a lot of people that don't understand what that looks like and and even like kurt said and i feel the same way as like i'm careful how i say it because i don't want to offend somebody i would never intend to offend somebody but i don't always have the proper language that's that makes people feel at home and comfortable right and and i think that's just the nature of of of uh diversity of diversity is because you risk that in in any in lots of different areas but you have quite a fascinating story um maybe i don't know i'm kind of curious about this stabbing and i don't know how much you want to talk about it but at 30 years old that was a hate crime it sounded like that was a deliberate hate crime can you talk about that so there's there's a there's a path to that story um i have an ex-wife and an ex-husband just to throw in some more splashes of color in there because when you're on math you know anything can happen really um but i had been married to a woman for seven this is we i'm gonna put everything in a nutshell just so we can get through it in an hour but um i had divorced my wife and moved into an apartment by myself um off the math just drinking now and smoking weed and a little coke here and there but living by myself really for the first time in ever and um uh there was this one girl who was a friend of mine who had come over to my house and she had a really abusive uh boyfriend and i guess he had her and they had gotten in an argument or something like that and she came over to my apartment and there was a knock at the door and she was convinced that it was him and so i told her to lock herself in my bedroom and i would just say that she wasn't there and as i opened the door he just started slashing so um he left me in on the doorstep bleeding and then went downstairs went out to my car carved the word into the trunk of my car that you could see from probably a helicopter really carved it with the same thing you just stabbed me with and then was arrested she came out of my room and found me bleeding on the doorstep and basically just covered me in bath towels and took me to the emergency room where i spent i think six or seven hours being stitched back together by the time we got to the hospital the bath towels were just i mean you could wring them out um and then he bonded out the guy that stabbed me bonded out and went to michigan or menace one of those m states and um when they there was something about extraditing him back to florida and all of this stuff i really don't remember um i do remember the detective saying there's really no point in extraditing him because he really has nothing and um pursuing this would be pointless you know you're okay he's not in florida and it he specifically said it would be like squeezing blood from a turnip i don't know what context he was using that but the detective said that to me as i was like sitting there stitched up with like bandages all over my face and everything and i'm like could you not think of a different well that's crazy too because that whole mentality of this guy is i mean he's he's he's harmed somebody how is that not something just because he harms somebody that he needs to be put in jail to be to protect other people i mean that seems like a silly like that thought it does but you know what yeah go ahead but at the time i'll be honest with you everything in my life was so full of chaos and so full of insanity and so just just it was it really i mean looking back now it's still if i if we really go into depth about it i'll probably get emotional but i'm trying so i'm trying not to um because it wasn't until later on actually in sobriety when i looked back and realized the underlying trauma that that kind of here i go okay so we're gonna have to move on um that's that's okay because we can move on and you know part of me as a therapist goes no tears are good but that's not what we're doing here today so i thought i had compartmentalized it for a very very long time you know it was just another day it happened i survived we're done and it wasn't until years later that i realized that it still affected me deeply of course and i drove well and i drove around for three years with a car with that had the word carved into the trunk of it [Music] that had to bring its own trauma in and of itself like it was like you know just putting one on top of another and see i'm laughing so i don't cry yeah isn't that how so many of us deal with trauma i guess yeah that's why it lingers well in the trauma is a perfect example of how you know how complex substance abuse is that you know that's a symptom of a whole lot deeper issues and concerns and and you're very good at explaining just how many opportunities that you had to bring on trauma whether they were little t's or big t traumas they're there right our bodies don't forget that stuff it when we get triggered it comes up and and even though we might deal with it there's lots of layers to it so it can come up years later and it was sort of a culminating event of all of that stuff that had been going on for so many years you know the bullying and the name calling and the all of that stuff sort of just came to a head that guess that that day it's like now i've actually been physically hurt yeah which i don't know sometimes sometimes that you know the physical hurt is sometimes more manageable than all of the hurtful words and i don't know i'm not saying that that's how it is but those hurtful words come all the time and it's so demeaning and so painful that at least you had something to show you know you've got scars this really happened yeah yeah and you know it's another thing i mean we talked about this a little bit earlier too doing what i do today and and speaking with clients and family members and things like that it's it's yet another experience that i can relate to a client we call them clients at st john's recovery place but it's just another thing it might i hate to say it like that but it's another thing in my toolbox you know of of of ways to connect with people and help them through their own traumas and their own struggles and their own addictions there's other i mean i work for st john's recovery place but i'm also you know i went to treatment 14 times before i got sober that's not counting psych wards in jail and you know locked out like all of that stuff this is just 14 detox and residential levels of care treatment facilities before i got sober and it took years and so i still go back to those places where i was a patient and they call on me when they do have somebody who's maybe a member of the lgbt community who's struggling or wants to ama or has trauma like mine you know so that's part of the reason that i share that stuff is because it's it's an effective way to connect with people who are going through the same thing i'm not we're the we're the sum of our experiences right so i think i think calling it your you know toolbox dissociates it a little bit right because it's really just you right it's it's who you've become and all of that adds up i mean it's no different than somebody who doesn't deal with those issues and just deals with substance abuse we ask them all the time and nobody ever says they would trade it away right nobody everybody always says i wouldn't want everybody else to go have to go through it but it's made me who i'm today and i don't want to i wouldn't want to change that right absolutely so what does 14 attempts at treatment look like like how over what period of time how you know what was what was it that what was different the last time you know that kind of thing what was that process like for you trying to trying to start recovery that range the time period was probably between 2004 and 2015. um towards the latter when i started to get into the teens i guess at that point i was um i was drawing the disease model on the dry erase board for the therapist you know because i knew it by heart you know the circle with the different you know you guys probably know what i'm talking about i mean i was basically leading groups um and i will say that it was almost counterproductive at that point not counterproductive but just it i was going to treatment there was i wasn't learning anything new really i mean i'm just being honest um because i was great in treatment i was always the the peer advocate or the mayor or whatever that particular treatment center called the person that was doing really well it was when i left the bubble that i struggled um so yeah it was it was a lot of i had a really good cigna policy so they were happy to have me i usually got the full length of stay like i said it was sort of a star student if you will when i was in treatment not really good at the follow through with the aftercare you know never took the suggestion for maybe a silver living or recovery residence didn't really i might have done the iop a few times the outpatient you know for a little bit but i had to get back to work really you know i was i was busy um so i'll say i'll fast forward to the last time when i was again so i was with that ex-husband from 2004 to 2014 13 2003 to 2000 so it was 10 years um and again living on my own and had a little apartment and got out of treatment the time before last and basically went to my job that i had been at for 17 years at that point through my badge like i just gotten out of treatment like the saturday before went into work monday i threw my badge at my supervisor and i won't tell you what i said to her um cashed out my 401k that i had been saving that entire time i think it was almost 70 000 um went home told dex husband i'm done i can't do this anymore and went and paid a full year in advance for um an apartment and just sat in that apartment and just drank and smoked pot for over a year and um it got to the point where my car had blown up i lost my job i had gotten a job as a debt collector lost that job was getting evicted no money left it was bad and had gout in both feet from drinking so much so i couldn't even walk so i was peeing in an empty spaghetti sauce bottle i had a cooler full of beer a trash can a carton of cigarettes and i was just chain smoking and drinking in this apartment there was nicotine dripping down the walls because there was no like it was bad and um i found myself on my hands and knees begging god to just kill me or cure me because i couldn't do it anymore and i was stuck on the floor for about three or four hours and finally a friend came and took me to a detox and i never drank or did anything again from that day it was august 23rd 2015. what do you think made the difference what shifted because i mean you'd been through a lot of treatments why was this one so different this one was different because well i think and when i say god i'm not talking about necessarily a biblical one i'm talking about a something spiritual happened on that day because first of all i had never said that out loud i mean i remember in being in tears and saying this is where i get emotional too because that day was just a pivotal moment obviously um i i was either gonna die or get better that day do you know what i mean it was it was one or the other there was no i couldn't do that purgatory that i've been doing for three decades anymore it was just it was i was either going to take my own life or i was going to get better and um i went into detox i stayed there for a while i don't even remember how many days and when i was leaving they said you should do a sober living i said well i've got two trash bags full of clothes and no home to go to and mom's not answering the phone anymore and i have no friends so why not and they put me in a faith-based men's sober living program as a 45 year old gay alcoholic which was perfect so it was me and a bunch of 20 something opiate addicts in this house in jacksonville beach and um i remember being on the top bunk they put the old guy on the top bunk and i was just i was just completely willing to do whatever it took i will say there were four of us in that room there was two sets of bunk beds and i'm the only one that's still alive uh i've lost so many friends but the guys that are still around from that time are still like brothers to me so it was a beautiful thing i stayed in that sober living for 18 months and did things i swore i would never do but i was just so willing to do whatever i was on food stamps i was doing all kinds of like community service because it was faith-based so we just went out and fed prostitutes and drug addicts on the street and we you know we did 12-step meetings and we ate expired food that the grocery store would donate to us like you know old frozen meat and stuff so like i think the six months i was the first six months i was sober i was eating like expired frozen filet mignon and like salads that were really wilted but you know i didn't have anything and i know i'm laughing because at the time it was torture but now looking back i'm like it's exactly what i needed can you articulate what that i mean because i can i can say i can sit here and go you know you had to surrender everything you had to surrender it all right because you had a very affluent life you were very capable and you made good money and and here you are eating expired food and and on the mercy of what anybody will give you at what feels like you know a place that that often we go i don't want ever i know i ever want to be that person right i don't want to ever take from the community i don't want to ever you know need somebody else but my disease had progressed to the point that i was no longer able to be a functioning i couldn't function anymore that ability to function and go to work and and make a salary and pretend like it was okay that was gone that was long gone after that that 14 or 15 months of sitting in that apartment and just deteriorating there was no longer an ability to uh fake it anymore like the i i that that eating that expired food was yes it was the most humbling thing ever but there were all of these beautiful moments i was exactly i remember i was exactly 60 days sober and again i don't want to get gaudy god but um exactly 60 days sober living and sleeping on the top bunk and it was 5 23 i remember and it was on a sunday the one day we don't have to get up and have our beds made so you could bounce a quarter off of it by 7 a.m and be you know reading the bible at 7 30 or whatever and uh i kept hearing this voice say go to the beach go to the beach go to the beach and it was i could hear it almost like i can hear you guys and i want to be very clear i was not i was still in the headspace that i would never connect with anything like a higher power because of the fact that i was gay and because of the fact you know so many reasons why even if i were to knock on that door and even though i knocked on that door on august 23rd and i felt like he answered that i felt like that was as much as i was gonna get you know like the rest was up to me but it's 60 days sober and i'm saying i don't want to go to the beach it's first of all it's dark outside it's pouring down rain i don't have to get up today i was like having a conversation with this voice that was telling me to go to the beach and finally i gave in because it wasn't gonna stop and i walked we were about four blocks from the ocean put on my flip-flops in my my basketball shorts that i was sleeping in and threw on a t-shirt and walked down to the ocean and sat on a wet sand dune and watched the sunrise that morning this is some one of those moments where i just again don't have the vocabulary to articulate what this moment meant but something happened on that beach while i was in tears on that wet sand dune watching that sunrise oh god why does this happen um and i just want to show you real quick i know that the listeners can't see this but it's the background that sunrise is the background on my phone to this day i took a picture of it um and i met whoever answered the door on the 23rd of august i met that being whatever that spiritual thing that morning and since that day and this is coming off of three decades of feeling disconnected and not a part of and hopeless and alone that from that day forward i never felt alone again i have every single day i wake up with the sense that something or someone has my back and it makes the impossible possible on a daily basis what an incredible experience and and i'm sure that i mean these are pivotal moments in your life it's got to send a message of it's not my time to die and there's a reason why i need to be here and and then gives you that purpose to live every day but i'm careful not how i share that because i don't want everyone to expect to have that experience either so i don't i you know i remember at first i was telling everybody not that it made any sense and surely as much trouble as i'm having now describing what that was like you can imagine the day it happened i was just an absolute basket case in a positive spiritual way it was just it was a mess but i don't you know i don't i can only speak for myself i feel extremely fortunate that that happened so early in my recovery before i had started working any steps or i'm a product of aaa myself um so it was it was very early from what i from the stories that i've heard from other people for that to be happening but i'm just if if i had to make a list of all the things that i'm most grateful for that that day on my hands and knees begging god to kill me and then 60 days later that day at the beach sitting in the rain watching the sunrise are probably two of the they are the two top moments in my life my entire life so question you said a friend came and took you to detox that day did you call them or did they show up i called her okay for the fourth time that's the fourth time she took me to detox the only friend i had left oh wow and and then my next question is um what role does spirituality play for you now because i'm hearing you you know kind of give this this idea that that really wasn't your world that really had nothing to do with you and here you end up in a in a faith-based program and you've had these really really personal experiences spiritual experiences what does that look like today so today is equally i wouldn't say it's as powerful but it's it's it's still just as real i mean in that moment i would say probably the first definitely the first year of sobriety but the first couple years i was being hit with these what what i call god shots so often that they would i would almost they were almost not debilitating but they would they would really kind of knock me off my feet do you know so now they're not they're not as impactful i guess but i still have them regularly in fact i had one yesterday there was a a young man probably a year and a half ago that i knew he was a friend of a friend of a friend who ran a sober living never been introduced to this kid and i i i showed up at this barbecue place that he was working at and he was strung out on crystal mountain i think that missile first started at st john's recovery place i don't even think i was there three months yet and i called the ceo and i i said can i can i get a scholarship for this kid she's like well who is he how do you know him and i'm like i don't even know him but i just feel like i don't know there was god said do this fast forward i walk while i walk up to him and i'm like hey i'd like to offer you a scholarship treatment would you go and he's like you know he thought i was this creepy guy like why are you coming to my work you just pulled me off the chicken station at the barbecue joint like who are you and um fast forward he i got him into treatment and he just graduated graduated from a theological school or he went to after he left treatment he went into this long term and became this long-term like missionary kind of school and i just uh talked got a message from his mom yesterday and he's got like a year and a half sober and it's doing really well that was a huge god shot like that's one of the moments that i'm like okay see i listened to that voice there's nothing in me that would have normally done something i don't i don't normally just walk into a sunny's barbecue and pull some guy out of the kitchen and say hey do you want to go to treatment i mean that it was just the weirdest moment ever but i listened to the voice um i will also say that you know after that moment happened on the beach i was a little more open i was still sort of discovering like who what this god thing was going to look like for me to go back to your question shall we and so i went to church for the first time and it was such a weird thing because i told myself that i would never go because first of all they don't even want me there um so why would i go someplace where i'm not welcome and i went to church and it was funny because i was walking up to the to the front of the church and there was a group of us guys from the silver living and it was such a different experience because i was walking into that building to see if anybody in there knew the god that i had already met on the beach rather than going in there to be introduced to some somebody that they you know i it was just a it had flipped the script on the whole picture for me like i was excited to go in there and see if anybody knew what i was talking about that it had happened to me to see if the one i met on the beach was the same one they're talking about which which was different you know all of a sudden i wasn't just this gay guy who was going into a church to be preached at or fixed or converted or anything like that i was going in there empowered with a with an experience that was as real to me as you and kurt are both of you um so yeah it was it was it allowed me to sort of explore that i did keep going to church for a long time and got to know all the pastors and got baptized and all of that that lasted about a year um then there was you know a few uh sundays where they decided to really go after transgender folks which sort of ended my relationship with that particular church but it certainly didn't affect my relationship with my higher power if you will well which is amazing is that distinction of spirituality and that personal experience and religion which is often i think it gets you know religion gets a bad rap you know but spirituality is something very different and people often cut themselves off from spirituality not understanding that they're not the same they're not they're just not right because some spirituality is something that's incredibly personal and and between you and your higher power listen like i said earlier my god i feel like he he it it always has my back and it's funny it's hilarious it loves to mess with me you know it loves to challenge me but it always shows up when i need it you know it has given me a like i said earlier a sense of really being willing to take on things that i normally wouldn't and try things that i wouldn't normally do and really just guide me to make better decisions on a daily basis and treat people better and just um be more open-minded like i said earlier i was i'm a product of the 12 step of aaa you know so in the beginning you know i i was convinced that that was the only way that people were going to find recovery and i do believe that my higher powers played a role in sort of opening my mind and to the you know different pathways to recovery and what it you know that my experience isn't the only one and that everybody's is valuable and special and magical and hopeful and all of that i'd love to hear you talk about i mean you only give us little tidbits of this incredible life that you've had and all of the experiences that bring you to this very rich place that you're at right now um and so this next question is more of a you know you've got all of this stuff you're helping people you're working at at st john's recovery place what's in the future for you i don't know i really don't to be honest with you i that they have allowed me just to to expound a little bit on how important st john's has been for me just because i've been there almost two and a half years now which is you know half my recovery journey really um they have been just so when the day they hired me i had never done any kind of like business development or marketing or anything you know i had always had ex i mean i had worked at other treatment centers on an outpatient basis doing operations in administration and things like that certainly didn't think i'd have come this i mean not even five years ago i was still probably eating expired food you know so it's weird to have my own place and a new buick that doesn't have the word fad carved into the trunk and i've got a refrigerator full of fresh food and and my bills are paid and like you know it's so all of that is is beautiful but when i got hired michelle is the ceo at st john's recovery place michelle smith and when i went in for my interview i'm like i've never done anything like this you know i i really i mean i'm in recovery and i've that and she's like just can you just go out and be you i said yeah but i mean i don't know what that's gonna like what that even means but sure and fast forward i can't believe she gave me that opportunity you know i was i was looking the other day and it'll be it was just two years in march and i think i've helped probably almost 350 clients get into treatment just at our center and i probably spend as much time getting people into other facilities as i do ours so that's how do you even i don't know i'm just being me so i don't know what the future holds some days i feel like i'm 51 and really just the next decade is all about maybe making a little bit of money so that i can have some golden years um part the other part of me i mean i've got my i literally am trying to get my certification as a certified addiction counselor but then what would i what am i going to become when i do that i don't know i remember i became a notary very early on and that was like the biggest deal ever i'm like i just went from homeless and like hung over to having a document that's signed by the secretary of state for fl in florida so every day is something new i can't believe i've come this far if you ask me what i'm going to be doing in five years i would be perfectly content doing exactly what i'm doing now to be honest with you um i i feel completely fulfilled right now and and i i've never felt like i've had so much of a purpose in my life um if something new came along i feel confident that i'd be brave enough to to take it on um so i don't know we'll have to check back in in a little bit yeah definitely and i love that i don't think you have to know but i think that it kind of gives other people courage i mean i'm you know i'm right up there with you as far as age goes and i'm still i still want to know what i'm going to be when i grow up right i'm not done exploring i'm not done being curious about life and and figuring out what what's next right and so i love that you you know you leave yourself open like that and are still you're still trying to figure it out and for right now this is exactly where you need to be i'm actually looking at buying a house first of all when you when you don't expect to be alive you know everything else is sort of icing i guess but i never thought like i was literally on realtor.com the other day shopping for houses down in palm coast and i'm like this is is this gonna be me i mean i'll be like 55 and a first-time homebuyer that's pretty awesome and palm coast which i am very familiar with i visit there yearly is a wonderful wonderful place it's the only place that i drive through that i feel like something happens in my gut that's like because i never i'm always like looking for where i want to end up i don't think jacksonville's going to be the end-all be-all for matthew there's no gay people here and the ones that are hot masses and they won't go to treatment as much as i beg them no i'm kidding i digress every time i go through palm coast i get i get this little feeling like oh this is the place you need to live matthew so interesting tidbit about palm coast and i know i'm getting off on a little tangent but all of the neighborhoods are all the streets are named radical yeah alphabetical and so if you go into an area like like i have kids out there so you know they live in the f area and then they used to live in the z area and then they you know and it's like it's really really unique but it's this really fantastic little community that's that's stellar it's very stellar my goal is to live in the c-section but i think the big thing is to live on the intercoastal canal so you can have you know you can have water except when the hurricanes come and then it's not so great that's just florida though right it is anyway i'll have to visit you when i come out that would be super fun it would be um matthew thanks so much for for sharing your story and and sharing your inspiration and you know what drives you today and what a turnaround what you know what an incredible story and and what you have to offer other people to get them into recovery and to help other people is phenomenal so thank you thank you thank you for having me it's been an absolute pleasure all right i'm turning off the recording i think that was a good ending i'll just wait to see if kurt's going to pop in with something too i know we kind of talked over him the whole time sorry you guys are doing great i'm happy to be third in the beginning shelley's like i'll just mute myself kurt and you can talk and then it was like he couldn't get a word in edgewise the way it goes i try and i try and pay attention to what he's doing but but i never i'm quite sure so you know i have to jump in with my questions we need we need like a hand raised thing like that it makes a noise when you hand raise but that's why i said if you mute and unmute then i know you're ready to say something and i'll and i'll step back i'm fine to not talk but i'm still not a very good listener i muted once or twice along the way and and forgot the rest of the time so i have the same problem i muted because i was getting feedback and then i'm like wait and then i and i went oh wait i muted one time and it didn't record so i'm like don't mute shelley i don't know what that's going to do but i think we're okay well thanks again yeah thanks for being on we'll get it i'll get it kind of cleaned up a little bit and then um get it posted i usually tag people on linkedin pretty quickly because that's kind of a quick way to get it out yeah okay which i haven't actually even checked are you on linkedin i haven't even looked for you there yet yeah i'll connect on that real quick because that's usually a fast way to get it out so excellent well i mean we only touched on a little bits of pieces matthew i expect you have a ton more more wisdom to share so we'll have to we'll have to have you back on again i would love that thank you guys