MATTHEW W - HERMISTON, OR 

 

Hello, my name is Matthew and I am 33 years old.  I was born in Healdton, Oklahoma, but spent most of my life in Eastern Oregon and Washington.  I went to Richland High School, living with my Mom and stepfather and spending my summers in Hermiston with my Dad, stepmother and grandparents.  I have a twin brother, a younger brother with special needs due to autism and an older brother who passed away.  I have numerous stepsiblings, but most importantly I have a beautiful daughter of my own.  As a teenager I drank at parties and smoked weed, but was able to pass the classes that I needed until the last semester of my senior year when I tried some crank for the first time.  Little did I know just how bad a mistake that was going to be.  I started to stay up all night doing tons of homework, but wasn’t able to retain any of it.  I failed my final exam for government class and was unable to attend the graduation ceremony with my peers.  It was a big let down for my whole family.  After that I moved to Hermiston with my Dad and stepmother.  Though I did get my high school diploma there, I started using Meth and Cocaine and ended up loosing a couple of good jobs because of it.

In 1995 I joined the National Guard and headed to Fort Leonardwood, MO for basic training and AIT, under the impression that I was leaving my drug addictions behind for good.  I actually had a wonderful time in training and I was sold on soldiering.   I was honored to receive a letter of recommendation from a full Colonel for my job as squad leader during my five weeks of AIT.  However, after training I was back to Hermiston and turned into a full-time junkie.  It eventually got so bad that I was living in my car, hiding from the National Guard and my parents.  Eventually, my grandfather caught up with me and I agreed to go home with him.  I then decided to return to what I knew best and that was soldiering.  In January 1996, I enlisted in the Army and went to Fort Sill, OK for retraining.  After training I received my orders to report to the Republic of South Korea.

 
I was doing good for the first few months until I received a Red Cross message about my grandfather being diagnosed with cancer and he was given only a few weeks to survive.  I immediately returned home and was so filled with heartache that I drank the entire time.  There was a bit of confusion with my Army unit about my leave and I had to return to Seoul where I was notified that Grandpa had passed away.  I blamed the Army for not being at his funeral and I spent the next six months in blackout drunk mode.  I quickly became the worst soldier in the company.  Eventually, I rotated stateside and continued getting high.  I hated my life and the Army.  I went AWOL for 29 days and when I turned myself in I got sent back to my unit.  In October 1997, they had enough and I was on my way back to Hermiston to live with my grandmother.  I got a job building manufactured homes and I managed to keep it for almost a year until one day, while coming down off Meth, I threatened to beat up my boss and I was fired.  I was finally able to admit to myself that I was powerless over my addiction, but didn’t care that I couldn’t quit because I was still having fun getting high.
 
During this time my girlfriend Sarah revealed to me that she was pregnant and we were married on December 4, 1998. We spent Christmas in the tri-cities in Washington with my mom and my oldest brother Phoenix.  We had a wonderful time.  Little did we know that it would be the last time we would ever see him.  On June 9, 1999, I was awakened by my father pounding on the side of my house.  The news he delivered would end up haunting me for nine years.  My bother was found dying in his bed by his roommate and by the time he was taken to the hospital it was too late.  The pain I felt was indescribable and I turned to the only remedy I knew. . . methamphetamines.  In the ensuing months Sarah tried to comfort me, tried to take away my grief, but her concern and love only pushed me away.  On July 15th we were blessed with a baby girl, Lillian Irene Weatherford.  However, around the same time we were hit with anolther loss when my grandma Shirley died.  The grief really piled on me and my addiction to Meth was now a raging wildfire in my existence.
 
Understandably my marriage was on the rocks and it was all because of my addiction.  I was lying to everyone and Sarah finally had enough. By fall of 2000 she and Lilly moved to Oklahoma with her parents.  Her leaving was so painful that I begged her to let me join them and she relented.  I got a job and on Christmas Eve we moved into our own trailer in Marble City.  Soon I realized that my neighbors were on drugs and I was quick to indulge, only to discover that all the problems we left behind showed up in Oklahoma.  I quit my job, left Sarah and Lilly and caught a bus back to Oregon.  I was soon caught cooking Meth and while awaiting a grand jury indictment, Sarah and Lily came back to me.  It only took a week and they were gone again and I was back to cooking Meth to support my daily addiction.
 
In 2001 I made a trip to Idaho with a friend to sell Meth.  On the drive back to Hermiston a routine traffic stop turned into a major drug bust and we were arrested and charged with drug trafficking.  Though I was still in jail and looking at some serious time, Sarah and I were able to reconcile.  Vowing to myself to do whatever it took to be a good husband and father, I picked up a Bible and started reading.  I read it from cover to cover in my jail cell and at night I would even read it out loud for the entire dorm.  Every one quickly accepted it as our nightly routine.  In January I was up for trial and as I walked into the courtroom I saw Sarah and my baby girl in the front row.  It almost floored me to see them after so many months away.  I renewed my vow to God right then to do whatever it would take to keep my family together.  However, after a two-day trial I was found guilty and the judge ordered a pre-sentence investigation and I returned to jail that night not knowing what to expect.  Two months later I received the shocking news that I was sentenced to four and half years, which would include a 6-month boot camp.  I began to attend as many church services as I could and it was then that I felt the presence of the Holy Spirit for the first time.  I gave it my all and soon enough my time was up and I was headed back to Sarah and Lily, knowing if I was to violate parole I still had three and half years hanging over me. My first test in my newfound faith went terrible when nine days later I was busted with a Meth lab, which resulted in two pending cases in Oregon.  It wasn’t long before I was in violation of my parole in Idaho…. so I went on the run.  Obviously, this put a whole new strain on our marriage because I was only available to my wife and daughter when it was convenient for me.  I managed to elude the authorities for almost a year until I was caught in another lab.  I faced three manufacturing Meth charges in Umatilla County and a parole violation from Idaho.  I was sent to the Oregon Dept of Corrections for 26 months and it was during this term that my wife asked for a divorce.  This news caused me to become uninterested in fixing myself and I completely closed my ears to anything concerning God.  Instead, I was lifting weights and motivating myself to get bigger and stronger so I could seek revenge on all my enemies.  In January of 2005 I was transferred over to Idaho where I discovered that the boot camp program was switched over to a Drug and Alcohol program.  I was given an opportunity for early release if I completed the program.  The program motto was “We are our brother’s keeper.”  It was all about accountability and we were expected to write each other up when you saw someone breaking a rule.  That was not acceptable to me.  The first time I was written up I assaulted the guy in the bathroom and left him bleeding on the floor.  At least thirty people went straight to the officer to report it.  I was sent to the hole and now was facing doing the remaining 3½ years of my sentence.  While in solitary a remarkable thing happened to me.  The guy I assaulted asked the program director to give me another chance.  Given this new lease on life I quickly embraced the program and in June of 2005 I was released.  Unfortunately, the Idaho Dept of Corrections didn’t trust me so I was released to the custody of a halfway house.  A roommate helped me get a plumbing apprenticeship and for the next three months life was good.  In September I could leave so I decided to move to California where my mother was living.
 
I got a plumbing job and started going to Celebrate Recovery.  I joined a small group and was feeling alive for the first time in years.  I had a new girlfriend and in January she told me she was going to have my baby.  However, I discovered I was not the only potential father and I was devastated.  This was just another traumatic episode and to handle the pain I began to drink.  I revealed my problem to a small group brother and soon we were secretly drinking together.  At one of my meetings I met a Meth dealer and slowly I became an every day user again.  Soon after I was busted and within five days, I was in jail, I lost my job and my apartment.  When I was released I headed back to Oregon, a broken man on the run.  I went back to Hermiston and started to deal Meth.  My life was out of control more than ever and in November I was nearly killed in an automobile accident.  We landed underwater in a canal and I thought I was going to die.  However, my scariest near-death experience did little to change me. After I was back on my feet I returned to my own devices.  While out scouting for some copper wire to steal I got into a high speed chase with a property owner and barely got away.  Several hours later I was pulled over because the taillights had gone out.  I considered driving off, but they already had my driver’s license so I decided not to do anything rash and submitted to the authorities.  My parole violation sent me back to Idaho to face my final 2 ½ years of prison.  It was a nice surprise for me that due to an overcrowding my sentence was reduced and I would only have to serve seven months.  This time I sought no spiritual help and only thought of drugs and crime.  It wasn’t long until I was back on the scene when disaster struck.  I was severely burned in a Meth cooking fire and the local hospital advised me that I needed to go see a specialist in Portland.  The bandages weren’t even off when I began cooking Meth again.  While my friends and I were gone from the house all of our belongings were taken and dumped into an irrigation canal.  Now finally homeless and without resources, I called my parents to ask them for a tent.   They came and picked us up and my girlfriend and I stayed at the house while we detoxed and got jobs at a local onion processing plant.  By the end of August we were cured of our addictions, thanked my parents and moved into a fifth wheel trailer.  We maintained our jobs and stayed off drugs for about a month then the vicious cycle started all over again.  I know it hurt my family when I didn’t show for Thanksgiving, but I felt powerless to control my actions.
 
Things changed when I was arrested for an inactive lab in the trunk.  I was so strung out at the time that going to jail probably saved my life.  Realistically, I was looking at a sentence of up to 48 months; so I took the reduced 3 years of probation, which I can now tell you was a blessing in disguise.  In August I was indicted on some very serious theft charges so rather than risk losing in trial and face 71 months I pled out once again.  This time I received 3 separate probation cases for 2 years each, 80 thousand dollars of restitution, and over 200 hours of community service.  Though I had not found the Lord quite yet, I believed he was working on my heart.  I was released from jail and headed to Missouri to stay with a friend.  His apartment was across the street from a Bible college.  Many times I found myself staring out the window at all the people coming and going. I would wonder, “Why do they look so happy all the time?”  It was during this time that I would often cry out loud, “I HATE MY LIFE” until I became totally despondent.  I finally landed a job at a small restaurant where several of the employees were Christians and often would talk to me about Jesus and what He did for us.  
 
Looking back I know God was targeting me and He knew I was ready to make some major changes in my life.  I had finally found my spiritual “Rock Bottom” and my soul was completely empty of life.  Due to my friend’s job loss we headed back to Oregon.  At first I was angry and bitter because I had a warrant in Oregon waiting for me, but I was glad to see my family.  When I was finally arrested I made friends with a man named Ben who had recently accepted the Lord into his heart.  We began to discuss scripture and I renewed my commitment to Jesus right there.  I now had a spiritual sense of peace in my life that I never had before.  I knew that if I was going to keep this feeling I would need to go somewhere to fine tune my new found life in Christ.  I was released in August and I surprised my family and my Probation Officer when I asked for their help to find me a faith-based discipleship program.  I was directed towards Freedom House Ministries and my family and I quickly set up an interview.  The interview went really well and on the drive back to Hermiston we all agreed what a perfect fit this program would be for me.  The next day I arranged to enroll as a student.  Since joining the program I have started discovering Biblical ways to deal with my challenges in life.  Some of them are dealing with grief, forgiveness of others, and of myself, anger and a lack of self worth.  My one year commitment to Freedom House is going to make a huge difference for the rest of my life.  I consider it the smartest choice I have ever made.  One major success since I have been here is that I now have a relationship with Jesus Christ that I never even knew was possible.  I look forward to Freedom House helping to restore structure and a lack of discipline in my life. I would like to thank Pastor Jim and all the staff for making this ministry possible.  I also want to thank all the people who sow into our ministry because without your support my coming to Freedom House would not be possible.  Thank You and God bless you!

 

                                                                                                                                                                 Matthew W