FAIRBORN — Fairborn native Richard Matteoli said he would spend his days digging through dumpsters seeking pocket change and committing crimes throughout the community in order to fund his heroin addiction. These days, however, his day begins at 5:30 a.m. with a prayer, scripture reading and a conversation with his wife.
Five hundred twenty nine days into his recovery, he started making his rounds to the Fairborn Fire Department, which revived him with Narcan in 2014 after overdosing, to say “thank you.”
“This isn’t just me — there are a lot of people in recovery, making a difference, taking their life back, their kids,” Matteoli said. “You guys don’t get to see this side of it a lot, and I don’t know if I have the words to thank you enough. My son thanks you, my mother … she said ‘tell them I said thanks for giving my boy back.’ ”
“I was a lost cause,” he added. “My life was going to end because of heroin, that’s how bad it was. Now I am grateful for everyone here for giving me a second chance. I love every one of you.”
While growing up in Fairborn, Matteoli participated in athletic and academic extracurricular activities. He later attended The Ohio State University, where he served as a tutor and said he had “big plans for his life” — until he started drinking, which eventually sparked a five-year heroin addiction. He said by the end of his drug dependency, the six-foot-two-inch man was down to 120 pounds with all of his actions driven by obtaining his next high.
He had overdosed between four and seven times. Each time he was revived, his first thought was “am I going to jail?” Followed by “where’s my next high?”
“My mind was completely driven by heroin. All the people I impacted — I completely abandoned my children and chose drugs over them,” Matteoli said. “That left an affect on them but it wasn’t their fault, they didn’t do anything, but they had to live with why their dad chose drugs over them … My mother got some serious health problems because of my addiction. She had a couple minor heart attacks, blood pressure was really bad. The stress, anxiety, how many nights she lost sleep over wondering if I was going to be dead.”
“I was so naive to think I was only harming myself,” Matteoli added.
It took his mother involving the police to finally stop the downward spiral. He said while he was jailed, he initially wanted to beat his face against the wall so he could be hospitalized in order to continue the chase for his next high. Then he realized that it was over and truly allowed recovery to become what drives him. Matteoli has not used drugs since Jan. 29, 2016.
“As many people as I impacted when I was using, I believe I’m impacting just as many now that I’m in recovery,” Matteoli said. “None of that would be possible without you guys, without your compassion, without your empathy, without bringing me back to life when I didn’t care about my own life.”
Within his first year of recovery, Matteoli said he attended 700 Alcoholics Anonymous and Narcotic Anonymous meetings and transformed from an atheist into a member of Lighthouse Baptist Church in Xenia, where he just offered a spoken message within the last few weeks.
He now sponsors 12 men, who he spends an hour with each week and is working toward a career in the recovery field. He reminds individuals currently walking the swamps of addiction that “recovery works.”
“No matter what path you take — whether it’s the path where you’re out there homeless and strung out, on drugs or in jail — that path is hard. So is the recovery path because a lot of the time, you don’t have anything material-wise and you’re making up for a lot of guilt and shame you’ve caused. Most people don’t want anything to do with you — that path is hard too,” Matteoli said. “But do you want a life of consequences or a life of blessings? From my experience, recovery is worth it.”
Contact Whitney Vickers at 937-502-4532. To find her on Twitter, search for @FDHWhitney.