Updated: Dec 10, 2020
My name is Matthew and I have been a resident on Enders Island for just over one year. My life before Enders Island was troublesome, to say the least. I was a deadbeat father who sacrificed a relationship with my own daughter and family in order to get high. When looking back on my past, some ask if I wish to shut the door on it and forget it. Some even ask what my greatest regret is; and to that I always say, “Not coming to Enders Island sooner.” But my real answer is simply, “No, I cannot shut the door on my past, nor do I wish to.”
My experience in life before the Island is best described as a façade fueled by false pretense. My strength to keep going in that life was exhausted from my constant need to escape my own feelings and insecurities. My hope that someday things would get better had deserted me.
I had a terrible fear of commitment, jumping from job to job as soon as any real responsibilities were given to me. When my family and friends needed me most, I would isolate and ignore them. Most important, when the reality of being a father to my beautiful little girl became too overwhelming, I fled then too.
When things got tough, I did what I knew best; I ran and hid from my feelings, using any substance I could find. It was the coping mechanism I grew up with, it worked for me, and it was fun for a while... until it was not. My family eventually stopped trusting me altogether, which was heartbreaking. When I lost that trust from my loved ones, I lost the trust within myself. Isolating myself from everyone who ever cared about and needed me, I felt completely alone in my addiction because that was what I thought I deserved.
I started that life when I was just 14 years old; it was all I ever knew. I truly did not know what it felt like to be able to look at myself in the mirror and love myself. On November 3rd, 2019, the day before coming to Enders Island, I remember just being sick and tired of being sick and tired. When my mother told me that I would be going to a sober living community the next morning, with almost a sigh of relief I just said, “OK.”
It was then and there where I started my first step in recovery; I was willing to come to terms with my
addiction and admit that I had lost control and needed help. I remember one of the first things Father Tom said to me after settling into my new room. He said, “I don’t care if I ask you to go out and count the blades of grass in the lawn, I want you to do it.” Thankfully, it never came to that, but it was about the willingness to do what is asked of me, something that is so important in getting better as a recovering addict. It was that tough love that really started the long journey of recovery.
But the tough love did not stop there. Being absolutely petrified of change, my new schedule and way
of life was almost crippling for me. This schedule included weekly spiritual direction meetings with Brother David Martins (who has become a dear friend). These sessions, along with regular AA meetings seven to eight times a week, were the biggest contributors to what I have accomplished. I also started praying every day and doing 12 Step work with a temporary sponsor.
Coming to Enders Island as an agnostic, I thought that getting on my knees every morning and every night was foolish. But it all came back to that willingness I needed to have, so I continued my weekly meetings and prayers and after a couple of months something in me started to change. Last February, my family and I went on a cruise and for the first time in my life I did not ruin a vacation or upset my
family all week.
But what was really inspiring about that cruise was a quote from Albert Einstein that I saw in the ship’s
library. Einstein said, “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I did not understand why, but that quote resonated and it has stuck with me throughout my stay on Enders Island.
In August, I came back to the Island from Selma, Alabama, where Father Tom and the Edmundite Missions gave me the privilege of helping poor and underprivileged kids in the Missions summer school program. I remember the second after he asked me to go, I was excited. Being in recovery for six months, I embraced change and was willing to try something I thought would never be possible in my lifetime.
Experiencing poverty at its worst and being able to help those in need led me to an appreciation of life
that I had never felt before. I felt as though I already learned so much about being a part of a community on Enders Island; but seeing the people of Selma come together to help others in need was inspiring. Looking back on that time, I can honestly say it changed how I view life and the how I approach every single day.
Standing in front of the Enders Island greater community truly humbles me. Fundraisers like “Holy
Smoke!” and the contributions from our donors make stories like mine possible. The miracles that happen on this Island start with everyone who supports the wonderful work that Father Tom leads. My family and I never thought the day would come where I would be in a place like I am right now, right here: in my second semester of college with straight A’s looking at four-year colleges like Holy Cross and Worcester Polytechnic Institute; being spiritually and physically present for my daughter who has turned into my best friend, and being able to look at myself in the mirror today and smile.
Because of your support, this Island has given me hope and friendships that I never knew could exist.
Through the ministry done here at Enders Island, my mother can stand here today crying happy tears, seeing her son finally grow up to be the man she knew I could be instead of the man she feared I would become.
Whenever someone asks me what Enders Island has done for me or has given me, the only word that comes to mind is “everything.” Father Tom and Enders Island have allowed me to take back my life and make the most of today; and today I choose to live my life as though everything is a miracle. Thank you for supporting the Island’s mission, because without this, I could not see the miracle in everything, and I surely would not be the miracle who writes to you today.
Matthew shared this story with friends of Enders Island at its annual fundraising dinner, “Holy Smoke! Reserva XII” in September, 2020.