- by Anne Finlay-Stewart, Editor

"Stop trying to do things and do them... you were put here to save lives..." Not the usual new year's eve greetings from a father to his son. But Matt McCoy and his father are not exactly Ward Cleaver and the Beaver either.

Matt's story includes childhood abuse, depression, addiction and prison. But it is the story that made him the man he is today – over ten years clean off heroin, fully employed, husband, father – and more passionately concerned about his fellow travellers than almost anyone I've had the honour to meet.

His father's words completed a chain for Matt that started with a message from his daughter's Owen Sound school just two weeks before Christmas. A former student, whose brother was still attending, had died of an opiate overdose. The school was open and honest, and was providing grief counsellors.
"But where are the drug counsellors?" asked Matt. "If this kid was using, five other kids are too."
A father of two, Matt was clearly feeling this loss as if it were his own.
"You can be sure that there were presents already under the tree for that boy and he is never coming home to open them. Nobody should be burying their child." One of the promises he and his wife have made to themselves is that they will attend every funeral of a person who dies from an overdose in our community. "No one should feel they are alone."

So Matt's started in the easiest way we have today – he created a Facebook page. It's called The Addicts Attic Outreach because he knows from experience, "the scariest place for an addict to be is in his own head." He wants to be sure that if someone needs to talk - an addict, recovering or still using, or someone who cares about them, they will not be alone.

Matt's read just about everything that's in print on the subject of addiction and rehabilitation, but he's not selling any program or regimen. A self-described "bad Catholic", he says "if something works for you, use it. You shouldn't have to accept anyone else's belief system." While people are using, they need safety and life-saving treatments. When they're ready to stop, or stop again, they need support right then and there.

But Matt recognizes that we are facing a full-blown opioid epidemic in every community across this continent, and that we need to get to people before they fall into it. Mental illness, childhood abuse and poverty are all factors that need to be addressed if we are going to slow down this train, and in the meantime if he can stop one person from taking that first hit, anything he can do will have been worth it.

Failure rates of addicts who try to stop using are agonizingly high. People like Matt who can speak articulately from the other side of opiate addiction are few and far between. He's willing to share his whole story to help break down the stigma and to counter the misconception that junkies live in dark alleys and are "not my kid – he knows better." He wants to save lives.

We at the OwenSoundHub are ready to help any way we can. If you want to be part of Matt's work, or have resources or advice, or just need to talk to someone who has been there, check out Addicts Attic Outreach on Facebook, message him privately or send him an email.




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