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Matt Peterson | Recovery 

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Don't Give Up

2020 has no doubt been one of the most trying years that many of us have ever experienced. Although it has been quite difficult to adjust to the endless changes that we have been commanded to conform to, there has been a lot of growth that has come out of this. For example, we are all now stronger having gone through this year. Mentally, we are now able to demand more of ourselves. We have been put into a situation where we have no choice but to fight and adapt. 

The largest obstacle that I have had to overcome is my public speaking business. It has been quite difficult to brand myself as a public speaker in the middle of a pandemic. Poor timing, but, I have had the time to work on this website. To build my Facebook page. To create business cards. To network and meet new people who can assist my growth in the future. 

There are plenty of positives that have come out of 2020. Sometimes, you just have to look for them. 

Think of some areas of growth that you have experienced this year. How have you become a better person... because you have.


- Matt P.

Check in with Your Loved Ones

Check in with your loved ones!

I read an article not too long ago with statistics regarding drug overdoses from 2019 as well as so far in 2020. The article stated that 74,000 Americans died in 2019 from drug overdoses. As of July 2020, overdoses have risen 13% compared to the first half of 2019. 

I wanted to share this information primarily because the media will not due to the election and COVID being the only "real" news to report. Just because the media is not reporting overdoses anymore does not mean that they are not happening! Not only are overdoses still happening, but we are still breaking records. 2018 had the highest overdose death rate, until 2019. As of July 2020, overdoses had increased by 13% so far compared to July of 2019. It appears that another new record will be set.

With opiates becoming stronger, combined with COVID, anxiety, the stress from the election and isolation due to curfews and shutdowns, it should not be a surprise to see the numbers continue to rise.

Now, more than ever, it is important to check in with your friends and family who are struggling with substance abuse. Do not get caught up with all of these regulations and guidelines surrounding COVID. Do not lose focus of what really matters this holiday season... your friends and family. 


- Matt P.

The State of Our Nation

Obviously, these are very stressful times that we are living in. I have never been one to be very much involved in politics, but I have not been able to help but follow this election. Not because I want one candidate to win over the other, but because of all of the hatred that has surrounded this election. I have witnessed life-long friendships end over a difference in opinion. I have seen family members begin to resent each other due to their political views. I am watching this country become divided in two.

My question is simple. WHY?

This is a question that I have continued to ask myself over and over again. Yet, I still have not been able to answer this question. Why is this election so important that families and friendships are being torn apart? What are you really going to lose, or gain, personally, from this election? One side is not going to fix your problems. The other side is not going to make you happy. You, and ONLY you, are in charge of your life and your happiness. A president is not going to have that big of an impact on your life. That is the great thing about our country. You have the freedom to be as happy or as miserable as you want to be. You also have the freedom to change what you want to change.

Never in my life have I seen adults act like children as much as I have over the past month or two. While the country is fighting each other over political views, children are still being kidnapped, sold, are starving and living on the streets. Men and women are being evicted from their homes and are relying on donations from complete strangers just so they can get something to eat. Mental health concerns and drug overdoses are both on a significant rise. Hunger still exists. Substance abuse still exists. Homelessness still exists. Business are shutting down in record number due to the lockdowns and guidelines in place to combat COVID. Suicide is on the rise. 

These are REAL problems and the president, no matter who it is, is not the one in charge of fixing it. You are. I am.

So, instead of fighting each other on political views, I want to encourage you to figure out what YOU can do to make the positive change in our country that you want to see. We need to grow up, come together and start spreading love, support and happiness to each other.

WAHT CAN YOU DO?


- Matt P.

Self-Care

It does not matter if you are in recovery or not. Practicing good self-care IS A MUST!!

This is something that I have struggled with since I have gotten clean. Since my recovery began, I have always tried to put others first and focus on being as productive as I can be. These are both great things for any person to make a priority. However, taking on too much can have a negative impact on your life regardless of how well you intentions are. 

For example, attempting to be as self-less as I can be has become a problem. I did my very best to put other's needs before my own for so long that I eventually became selfish and bitter. It is good practice to help people wherever you can, but it is only effective if you are taking care of yourself FIRST. I was not.

Secondly, I spent a lot of time making myself a better person. Not with self-care, but by attending college full time and working 2 or 3 jobs at the same time, on top of being a parent to 4 great kids and a husband. This is a lot! I ended up putting myself in a position where I have a very difficult time setting aside time for myself. If I am not doing school work, I am working. If I am not working one job, I am working a second. If I am not working a second job, I am working a third. If I am not working any of my jobs, I am focused on my kids. If I am not focused on my kids, I am trying to support my wife. If I am not supporting my wife, I am trying to figure out how to further advance my career. If I am doing none of the above, I am sleeping because I am exhausted. 

Now, let me be clear. I am in no way complaining about my life. My hardest day in recovery is still way better than my best day getting high. My point to this is simple. Make sure that you take time for you. What do YOU need? What do YOU want to do. Is your cup full? If not, please take the time that you need to fill it up. You are worth your happiness! But, YOU have to create it! A bonus to taking care of yourself better is that it will enable you to be a better parent, partner and employee. So make self-care a priority!!!

Some ways you can give yourself self-care is

- Going on a walk - Working out - Listening to relaxing music - Going to church - Reading a book - Meeting a friend for lunch 

- Yoga - Meditating - Cooking something delicious - Journaling - Going on a drive with the windows down - Praying 

- Watching sports with your friends - Sitting in a quiet room by yourself

The list goes on and on!

- Matt P.

Do Not Be Afraid To Work Your Recovery Program!

I had a great talk with one of my patients not long ago. She has been sober for over 2 years, but admitted that she has recently been having a lot of cravings to use her drug of choice. After some digging and soul searching, I was able to point out a couple of things. One, she had cut her 12-step meetings down from 5 per week to 1 per week. Two, although she has gone through all 12 steps of her program, she was AFRAID to sponsor women of her own, for she was AFRAID that she would fail them, or not be good enough. Simply put, she was not confident in herself. And three, she was AFRAID to share her story. Even at her home group where she knew nearly all of the others in attendance, she would not speak in public. 

After pointing out to her what I had gathered, we came up with a plan, together. She would increase her attendance of her 12-step meetings. She would contact her sponsor and "tell" on herself, admitting to her sponsor of her fear of speaking and sponsoring women of her own. She agreed to write don her entire story so that she could become more familiar and comfortable with it. Finally, she agreed to attend more discussion meetings, which would allow her to either read a couple of paragraphs, or simply chime in with a couple sentences to be a part of the discussion. 

My point to this story is simple. Fear can prevent you from a lot of things. This woman has been sober for over 2 years and her fear of public speaking and her fear of sponsoring women of her own has nearly brought her to relapsing. AFTER 2 YEARS! She was reaching the point where she would rather relapse so that she could start her program over rather than facing her fear. The good news is that she has made it through and she is still sober. She has increased her attendance and has strengthened her connection with her  sponsor.

Do not let fear stop you from obtaining your goals. Nearly every time, fear is a made up scenario in your own mind. It is not real. So keep pushing forward. Keep conquering your fear. Keep growing. Keep getting stronger!

- Matt P.

Loss of a Friend

5 years ago today marks the day that my life took a huge turn. This was the day that i lost my best friend. 

I spent most of my drug using career with Kyle. From pot and alcohol, to cocaine and Oxycontin and eventually to heroin and the needle. We shared all of it together. Eventually we lost contact with each other. Our substance use completely took over, leaving no room for friendships. 

Some time later, we would re-unite in a long term inpatient facility. I had no idea that he was there, but he had been expecting me. Once I completed my intake into the program, I heard a familiar voice. As I look up, there stands Kyle, just glaring at me. I remember quickly standing up and giving his a hug. It was the type of hug that was physically uncomfortable, but emotionally soothing. I was relieved that he was there, and still alive.

Both of us ended up relapsing after completing the inpatient program, losing touch with each other once again. After another year of shooting heroin into my body, I was lucky enough to get arrested and spent 3 months in jail. The day that i got arrested was the last time that i have used any illegal substances.

A year and a half into my recovery, life took an unexpected turn and i found myself without a home. Knowing that Kyle was sober again, I reached out to him for help. Kyle told me that he was living in a sober living house and that his roommate had recently moved out. So, at 18 months sober, I moved into sober living with my best friend.

We were sober together yet again. Then over then next couple of months, he began to become distant. He would stay out all night. He would break plans with me and other people. I began to catch him in lies. Then the night came. Kyle eventually told me that someone that he worked with gave him some pills to sell. Kyle, being an addict in recovery, took the pills himself rather that selling them. Just two days later, he was right back on heroin. The night that he told me this, he begged me for help. In the 15 or so years that i had known him, I had never seen him cry before. However, I had to work that particular evening, so I told him to head back to the sober living house until i got home from work. This was the last conversation that I had with my best friend. 

The owner of the sober living house, and myself, found Kyle 3 days later in the back of his van in a Wal-Mart parking lot. He was cold, with a needle laying right next to him. After the coroner was finished, I was accompanied by two police officers to his parents house. Once we were there, I could not even get the words out. His father eventually had to ask me, "He's not dead is he?"

"Yeah, bro" I replied. That was all i could get out before collapsing at his feet.

Finding Kyle and the look on his father's face when I had to tell him that I found his son are two images that will never leave my brain. I feel a lot of guilt for putting my best friend on hold. I do not know if he reached out to anyone else for help, but I know that he reached out to me, and I put him on hold instead of helping him. He was literally asking me to save his life, but I could not see that.

If you have a loved one who is in active addiction, I want to encourage you to be prepared for when they ask you for help. Drop everything and help them. Their life is worth it! The window of opportunity to get them help is extremely small, so take full advantage of it while you can.

Kyle was a great friend. He was a great artist and drummer. Hard-working, passionate and caring. Kyle was a son, brother and father. Kyle is one of the best people that I have ever known.   

- Matt P.

Overdose Awareness Day

August 31 is National Overdose Awareness Day, which is often a very difficult time for a lot of individuals. This day is intended to bring light to the fact the overdoses are still very real and provide information about the impact that they have on communities. However, for far too many people, this day is a day of mourning. 

On September 20, 2015, my best friend, Kyle, came to me for help. He had relapsed after being sober for nearly one year. He told me that someone that he worked with gave him some Percocet to sell. Instead, Kyle decided to take the pills himself. He took 21 pills in just over a day, and when they were gone, he set out on a mission to find heroin. That night that he told me what had happened, I had to work. I told him to go back to the sober living home that we were both living at and that I would help him get back into treatment the following day. That was the last conversation that I had with my best friend. I found him on September 23, 2015, dead of a heroin overdose in the back of his van in a Wal Mart parking lot.

I am one of many who take this day to mourn the losses of those fathers, mothers, sons, daughters, brothers and sisters. For they were all taken too early, leaving an irreplaceable void in the hearts of their loved ones. 

I wish I would have taken off of work that night. I could have gotten another job, but Kyle is unable to be replaced. 

Please, if you know someone who is struggling with substance use, check out my resources page and get them some help. Educate yourself on addiction. Join a group in your community. Do everything that you can.

- Matt P.

Broken Chains

So, I did a thing over the weekend. Over the past few months, I have had the idea of getting a tattoo of a broke chain around my arm. This past weekend, I finally got it. This tattoo has a lot of meaning and relevance to me and my life. I'm sure you can guess how.

Nearly 7 years ago, I began my journey in recovery. Prior to 11/12/2013, I had been sticking needles into my arm, multiple times per day, for years. That is something that I have chosen to leave in my past. This is exactly what my tattoo represents. The broken chains of my addiction. I chose to have he tattoo placed on my upper, left arm, which is where a tourniquet use to go. To me, this tattoo bring a sense of peace and strength.

I believe that everyone has some sort of addiction. Rather it be drugs, alcohol, video games, pornography, eating, gambling or excessive exercise. I want to challenge you to be completely honest with yourself and identify an addiction of your own. Do you want to break your chains?  If so, what are you going to do about it?!?!

- Matt P.

Insecurity

My pastor recently spoke on "The Disease of Insecurity". The story that he chose to share was about a man who was so insecure with himself, that he literally began to kill all others who he thought were better than him. Due to his extreme violence which stemmed from his insecurity, God plagued him with a disease that would slowly, and painfully, kill him 2 years later. This man, a king, was so evil that he was not mourned or given a burial.

I was able to relate to this message. Although I have never killed anyone, my insecurities caused me to give in to peer pressure which would jump start my career as a drug abuser. My insecurities have also caused me to cut people out of my life who I viewed as being superior to me. 

Insecurity simply means "I cant because..." or "I'm not, because..."

It was not until I was a couple of years into my recovery that I was able to shift my perspective from viewing others as being better than me, or superior to me, to seeing them as a person that I can learn from. Insecurities can have a severe negative impact on a person. However, insecurities can also show you areas of your life that you can improve and grow. Shift your perspective, and become a better version of YOU!

- Matt P.

Gratitude 

I found it difficult to sleep last night due to being full of gratitude. After meeting with my designer, I returned home to find my wife and 2-year-old daughter asleep. I could not help but take in that moment to the fullest. As I laid in bed, unable to calm my thoughts, I reflected back to a time when I did not have a family. I did not have a home or a bed. Last night, I counted the blessings that I have been given since my recovery began in 2013. 

Far too often do I seem to focus on what is not going right. What I want to change. What could be better. In reality, I should not even be alive to experience the beauty that life is. Every day is a blessing. Having a wife and children that I can share a home with is a blessing. Being employable is a blessing. Being able to shower is a blessing. Not being afraid of the police driving behind me is a blessing. I am lucky that God decided to spare me and use me as a tool to battle this disease.

I want to challenge you to think of some things that you may take for granted. 

- Matt P.

Monday, August 10, 2020 at 8:15 PM EST

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-Matt P.

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