Photo submitted by
Mary Beth Murtha
Tell us about your loved one.
Matthew was my son, my only child. He died when he was 27 years old of an overdose of alcohol/fentanyl. He was smart, personable, well spoken and good looking. He had an amazing sense of humor and as a good friend puts it a ""shit eating grin"". He and I were close as single Moms of only sons can be. We shared a love of reading and traded books back and forth frequently. We knew what kind of movies the other liked and traded Netflix recommendations. We also went to the movies together when we could.
Matt grew up for his first 9 years or so on Cape Cod in Massachusetts. He loved the beach and being outdoors. Much later when he lived in the western mountains of North Carolina he still loved being outside, hiking and climbing. My best memories are of times when we were both relaxed and enjoying each others company. I can pinpoint two vacations that are my best memories, one when he was around 14 to the hill country of Texas and another beach vacation to Cape Charles, VA with his then girlfriend Christina. I miss him more than I can explain. He will always be my boy."
Tell us about Matthew's struggle with addiction
Matthew's struggle with addiction began years ago. My awareness of it as an issue started when he was 16 but I know it began probably a year or so before that. It all started with alcohol. Unfortunately there is a lot of alcoholism in my family so it's not terribly surprising that this became something we had to cope with. Matthew was arrested for the first time about 12 years ago for pushing a grocery cart through the glass door of a local pharmacy because they would not sell him cigarettes. He was 16 and he was drunk. He was arrested that night. That was the first time but not the last. Several arrests between 16 and 18 followed while he was, going to an addiction counselor and making a hash of his high school record. Finally in 2004, his attorney told me that Matt would likely go to jail if I didn't offer the court a residential alternative. That's when I sent Matt to a small program for at risk youth in the mountains of western NC, called Cove Creek Farm. I am convinced that this decision gave me several more years with Matt. I believe that I would have lost him much earlier either to death or to state prison had I not done so. Matt stayed there for 2 years over a 3 year period. He did great while he was there and relapsed when he was out. In 2011 Matt moved to Greensboro, NC to do EMT training. It was then that the addiction really began to take over. More and more kinds of drugs, overdoses, bad choices, more arrests, treatment, relapse and ultimately his death on May 19, 2013.
What made Matthew smile?
Home cooked food always made him smile. He loved roast chicken, he loved calamari, and pasta and big breakfasts and bananas and pizza. He loved to eat. His family made him smile. He loved hanging out with his many cousins and talking with his aunts and uncles. I like to think I made him smile, even if it was accompanied by an eyeroll. (sometimes I could hear him thinking, 'I can't believe how lame she is'.)But I didn't care if I got to see that smile.
What do you miss most about Matthew?
I miss his smile, his hugs, his voice telling me he loves me. I miss his physical presence in my life. I don't miss the chaos of his addiction but that wasn't Matt, that was the disease. I miss my wonderful son and I always will.