Tag: Male

Follow Up: Matt Neal

Matt, 2017

Matt Neal is a survivor. This is his story.

JS: What specifically turned things around for you?

MN: In all seriousness, I firmly believe that all of the thoughts and prayers of my family and friends instilled in me a little faith.  I finally SET STILL, and I like to say I “WAS SET” STILL, long enough to allow the process to take hold.  I was released from jail in the summer of 2014 on the condition that I have an address, per my judge.  My caseworker at Prevention Point Philadelphia was able to do this by linking me to a safe haven, a shelter of sorts, with Project HOME called St. Colomba.  My health continued to deteriorate and I had two, one-month long stays in Kensington Hospital receiving IV antibiotic therapy for the sepsis in my system (MRSA) and chronic osteomyelitis in my left ankle.  Due to the severity of my addiction, I was still unable to stay clean.  Again, with urges from both Prevention Point and Project HOME I was encouraged to go to inpatient treatment.  This was long term, trauma focused, medication assisted treatment (MAT) at Kirkbride for 4 months. I was then admitted to Presbyterian Hospital for a month to have my left leg amputated below the knee.  All the while, behind the scenes Prevention Point was working to get my “111” status, a status deeming a person chronically homeless.  This status enabled me to be admitted into the Journey of Hope, Miracles in Progress program here in Philadelphia for long term treatment.  I participated in that program for  a year before receiving housing.  As far as treatment was concerned, when I received my housing I was and still am linked to outpatient care at Golman Clinic, MAT.  I must interject that throughout my active addiction and this early time in recovery I also received excellent care from doctors, nurses and case management staff at Philadelphia FIGHT.

Matt & Gato, Mc Phearson Square Library, 2012.

JS: Did anyone or any type of treatment help the most?

MN: One aspect of the treatment world that was practiced by nearly all, if not all of the clinicians that crossed my path is Harm Reduction. It was effective. It worked.  It saved my life.  For me to single out just one or two individuals that impacted my life would not give credit to ALL of the persons that were involved and still to this day are involved in recreating my life.  Further, I must add that the clinicians who cared, dare I say loved me enough, to tell me that I was, at one point, with a liver transplant looking at two years of life left while at the same time being compassionate enough to offer to tie my shoe (as my belly was distended to the point I had difficulty doing this for myself), left indelible imprints on me and the person I am and aspire to become.

JS: What kind of advice would you give to someone struggling?

MN: I would encourage them not to give up, continue to try, and keep knocking on the proverbial door. I would strongly encourage them to not be afraid or ashamed of who they are and where they are. I would do my best to show the person the way I was shown, that they MATTER!  I say the latter because getting me to the point where I was even willing to consider treatment, despite the atrociousness of my life, was a process.  I was ALLOWED to be me and was met where I was.  There was no need too great or too small that wasn’t addressed.

Matt looks at photos of himself from 2012 in the photographer’s studio, 2017.

JS: What do you hope to do in the future?

MN: Hmmmm, what do I want to do in the future??  Ideally, I would like to finish my education. I have 91 credit hours in total from both the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of North Carolina at Greensboro.  I do not see myself finishing my education in Music. At one point I was pursuing a Vocal Performance degree and was 2nd in the State and 3rd in the Region based on my year of study…  I see myself pursuing something in the field of Social Work, Psychology, or Sociology. My life experiences have helped refine this path.

I would also like to note that by no means am I the poster boy for success in the field of addiction.  There are many successes.


Stockbridge 022Bob, Kensington and Somerset, 2012.


131030- 010Jose, Kensington Avenue, 2013.

Pat & Rachel

Jeffrey_Stockbridge_Pat_and_RachelPat & Rachel, Front and N Lee Street, 2012.

Edited Audio Transcript:

JS: How long have you been married?

Pat: Eleven years

JS: Can you tell me a little bit about how you guys met? And just a recent history.

Pat: We met by a mutual friend. And uh, that was, that was like uh, there was a lot of drug use there, like with friends and stuff but uh, like it was weird because its was like me and her had the same group of friends but never knew each other for like a couple years and then we met and uh, but…

Rachel: I wasn’t into drugs at all. I hated it.

Pat: Yeah

Rachel: I couldn’t stand it. I liked the drinking and stuff and uh… he was dipping and dabbing. After I got really close with him, I got serious with him, I was a little bit curious. And I started then also and uh, I don’t know, we fell in love, we got married, our drug use had slowed down, we had um, children. And then um, I got sick and got put on pain killers. It all rolled out from there again. You know and our addiction started back up and, with the heroin till at one point where we couldn’t even take care of ourselves, losing houses, I was dancing at the time, trying to uh… get us from job to job, I was dancing trying to keep a roof over our heads, and then we couldn’t even do that. We had these children to take care of too, it got to the point where you know, we called uh, Children and Youth on ourselves and gave our kids over. You know, like still to this day like we don’t know where they are and it kills me as a mother but I felt I was doing the best thing I could do for them at that time, give them a better life. But um… We’re just, it was the most selfless thing I could do, people say it’s selfish, but I thought I was doing the best I could. But, you, you know, like I was telling him, you get so involved in here that like with the drugs it’s such a, it’s like a dark cloud over your head and you don’t know how to get out or how to climb out sometimes. It’s like you try and get half way and you get pulled back down. You know.

Pat: Nothing else mattered.

Rachel: Nothing. Our kids didn’t even matter… You know um, sure you think about it and then you really start thinking about it, but not to think about it, then you get high, cause you don’t want to think about that stuff, you don’t want to think about the things, you don’t want to deal with them. You know, why I think the way I think, I don’t know. I don’t even have an answer for that. You know, we moved down here to Kensington and it’s like we’re stuck. We don’t know where to turn to… We know how to eat cause there’s free meals everyday but like where do we start out from to keep moving up? You know, we know what to do, but to do it, do we do it? No. Why? I don’t know. I have no clue why.

Pat: Well, I thought about, you know I think sometimes to myself, like just cause we’re addicts and we’re on the street and stuff doesn’t mean that we don’t know what’s going on like in the world and like with the way the economy’s going and everything else and like your regular everyday people that work day-to-day and have jobs and all that kinda stuff, how many of them you see out here that have lost their jobs, now their homeless, they’re on the streets and drugs got them, but it’s like… I listen to a lot of these people that are sober now or people that have never experienced drug use and their lives are hell. And lot of times I think to myself like, do I want to get clean so I can just live in a sober reality world of living hell? Like, because of like of my past and everything it’s not like I’m gonna go right to the top of the ladder. So, sometimes it’s like, wow, like why do I want to do, why go through all that crap sober? That, that’s going on you know. There’s no jobs, there’s you know, it’s like I don’t, I don’t, I don’t want to do it sober. It’s just reality, I don’t, I’d rather to just… deal with it this way, you know…



IshmaelIshmael, Lehigh Viaduct, 2012.

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