From Addict To Poet and Treatment Center CEO
When Matthew Ganem was addicted to OxyContin, and later heroin, he never imagined that 14 years later he would be the CEO of Aftermath Addiction Treatment LLC.
“OxyContin became my everything: who I woke up to, who I chased after all day, who I obsessed over every waking minute to help me not to feel, to keep me numb,” Ganem said.
Back then, Ganem wasn’t sure he even wanted to be alive.
“I burned every bridge around me until I was alone on an island,” Ganem said. “I had no friends, my family was tired of me and wouldn’t answer my calls. I was suicidal, trying to OD every night so I could pass peacefully in my sleep. Every morning I’d wake up heartbroken that I had to face another day of lying, cheating and stealing just to get a fix.”
Ganem spent time moving in and out of jail, related to crimes he committed to fuel his addiction. Eventually, he realized that he wasn’t going to die, so he needed to get better.
“I hit rock bottom,” he says. “I was desperate to find a way out of my addiction and to give myself a shot to live a better life, rather than being a statistic. I was blessed that the path to recovery opened for me.”
Ganem got a spot at a detox center, and eventually made his way to a halfway house in Dorchester, Massachusetts. That’s where he discovered writing and poetry, which would help him sustain his recovery.
Ganem had enjoyed poetry as a kid, and in recovery he realized that writing could help him process the pai that contributed to his drug addiction.
“Inside that house I rediscovered a passion I had as a kid,” he said. “I started writing again when I was hit with the rush of guilt and shame, all the emotions I suppressed for the years of my drug use, the traumas I had never dealt with, the pain of where my addiction took me.”
Surrounded by 20 other men and immersed in social expectations around masculinity, Ganem used poetry as a way to process his emotions.
“I couldn’t go to the 6’5 guy that just did ten years and tell him I was having a tough day and wanted to talk about it,” Ganem said. And yet, he realized that dealing with his emotions was critical for his recovery.
“The tough guy illusion I had while getting high instantly disappeared when you removed the drugs from me. All that was left was a struggling, scared little boy trapped inside a young man’s body,” he said. “Writing was my escape. It helped ease the pressure and stress that constantly built. It became the biggest therapeutic tool that’s helped me to stay clean to this day.”
Ganem began performing his spoken word pieces at recovery events. In 2015 he was named the Massachusetts Recovery Advocate of the year. That opened the opportunity to share his story in schools and other social situations. Eventually, he began working in treatment centers, and helped run two recovery centers. Aftermath is his latest endeavor, undertaken with a team of people who are also in recovery. Today, he still shares his story to help other people believe that they, too, can get sober.
“I believe the root of recovery is based on connection. Creating that connection opens people up to explore some of the root issues of why they were using. Once you crack open that vault, you can start working on why alcohol or drugs are the temporary solution. You can start figuring out some long term effective methods to work on yourself that don’t involve getting high or drunk to deal with everything.”
When Ganem thinks about the past 14 years, he’s humbled by how recovery has transformed his life.
“It’s been a crazy journey from the depths of active addiction to where I’m at now,” he says. “I’m beyond grateful for the life I have today: that I get to wake up and try to inspire others to get on the path of recovery, and to do my part in helping them turn their life around.
Aftermath Addiction Treatment Center is a treatment center is located in Wakefield, Massachusetts. Find out more here.