All my life I felt trapped. I felt tied down and shackled. I always had this energy in me that wanted to be something great, but I couldn’t seem to get out of this vicious cycle. I severely lacked the understanding that most people had about life. I always struggled to identify with myself. I was bullied when I was a kid and became angry at the world. I was always in defense mode to protect myself. Why was I that guy who everyone said had so much potential but always screwed everything up? I was so lost that it became my identity. Things had to change.
After 16 years of active substance use, I was convinced that I had no idea who I was, nor did I know how to live my life. I was completely lost, confused, and afraid. The moment I was convinced of this, is the moment that my entire life changed. I was 28 years old and it felt like I was just born. I came out of this dark place and my journey had begun. I walked into a treatment center on December 14th 2012 and left everything I had ever known behind. I changed everything about myself and left nothing unturned. I was guided by great professionals and amazing people who showed me what it was like to be happy.
About a year and a half into my recovery journey, I woke up and said to myself… “This can’t be it, this can’t be all my life has come to”. I was going to school, working in the treatment industry and I just felt like there has to be something more. Don’t get me wrong, I was very grateful and happy. I was living a very good life compared to what I came from, but it didn’t matter. Something was missing! I felt like I couldn’t branch outside of my recovery bubble. I felt closed off from the rest of the world. So, I began searching for answers. What I found was beyond my wildest dreams.
I found the documentary “The Anonymous People” and everything changed. Without even knowing it I had aligned myself with recovery advocates and learned that there are millions of people coming out and talking about their recovery. That is when I realized that ANONYMITIY is gravely misunderstood in our communities and that I didn’t have to feel like I couldn’t talk about my recovery to everyone.
I refuse to be anonymous! Why remain anonymous when it seems to make more sense to put that dark part of my life behind me and simply move on. If my past is not supposed to define me, why would I want to stand as a representative of a group of people who are largely still in the shadows, still dealing with stigma surrounding the general view of “the addict”?
My recovery is defined how I want to define it. No one has a right to define my recovery. No one has a right to define my life. It took me a long time to get into recovery and I am sick of living my life based on what others think or see. I don’t want to live in a world where I am worried about other people’s judgements. I am done going through every day wondering if I am cool enough to be accepted. I lived like that for a long time and my recovery is the opposite of that. I learned to see me for me, I learned to love and accept myself. I found my identity. Recovery has been an amazing learning experience and it continues to be. I will never stop learning. I will never stop exploring and trying different things. I empower everyone to find your recovery, whatever that means to you... and go for it. I am free from those shackles today. I support all paths to recovery and will never tell someone what they are doing for their recovery is wrong. We can’t empower people by telling them where they are at in their life is wrong.
I have met some amazing people in my recovery. I have many mentors that educate me and share their experience with me. I am involved in the recovery movement. I would have never thought that I would be so passionate about something that it would empower me to get involved in a social movement. I care about what is going on in my community.
Being in recovery gave me a voice. We all have a voice and everything that we say matters. Nothing in life is perfect. I am not going to sit here and say my recovery has been easy or that I have no problems. Everyone goes through things in life but it is how we through them that changes in recovery. I don’t accept everything for the way it is because this world has a lot to improve on. I’m going to be bold, outspoken and question the status quo. I am going to take action, be a leader and bring new ides to the table. If you don’t then nothing changes.
There is something beautiful about coming from being sick and in a dark place to working hard toward change and persevering to come out on the other side better than when you started. I have seen complete transformations in myself and in many others. I have seen people who have no hope in their eyes change to having eyes full of hope and sharing it with others.
Today, I am happy with who I am and I am proud of who I am. I am not ashamed to say that my name is Matthew Cohen and I am a person in long term recovery from a substance use disorder.