Matt Cohen: I Had to Be Willing to Do Whatever it Takes

addiction recovery

For a long time I was not able to be honest with myself. I didn’t even really know who I was.

Even before substance abuse I experienced issues in my life. I never felt right or like I belonged anywhere. I always felt like the world was against me and that I wasn’t wanted. Growing up, I was a small kid. I was bullied by my peers and became a very angry person. I remember just hating the world and throughout the years the hatred got stronger.

As I grew and got older I turned the tables. I became the bully. I used all the hate that had built up inside and turned it on everyone around me. Of course, anger is just a cover up for pain. I had a lot of that.

I remember always hearing things like,

Can’t you do anything right?
Take responsibility for yourself!
Why do you act like that?
Why are  you so angry?
Don’t you think about anyone but yourself?

I just wanted to escape

Once I had that first high I felt untouchable. Invisible. I gained the ability to do anything without having to think or care about consequence or the negative impact my actions had on others. I became completely  wrapped up in my own self image and how I wanted people to see me. In that, I lost the ability to see who I really was.

I was lost inside myself.

But why? Why was I that guy who had so much potential but always screwed everything up?

My anger, confusion and inability to make sense of my life led me further down the path of addiction. There didn’t seem to be an end to this cycle of destruction repeating itself again and again. And then something different happened.

I woke up in a jail not knowing how I had got there. It was my 4th time being arrested. I felt a strong feeling come over my body. It was the feeling of shame, guilt, fear, anger, and hate. I was so angry, —but I was also tired. I was tired of repeating the same rollercoaster of events that always led me to the same results.

I was tired of who I had become.
I was done.
I gave up.

I cant explain why and how, but for some reason I got this feeling in me, this moment of clarity that changed my entire perception of things. You can call it what you want, but I call it divine intervention. It took me 16 years, and at 28 years old I realized I had to change. If I didn’t change I would probably  not live too much longer or I would end up in jail permanently.

For the first time in my life I didn’t have any answers. I realized I was sick, —mentally and physical sick. I walked out of jail and called my mom. I put my pride, my ego and even my anger down. I uttered the words, “I need help.”

I had surrendered…

She guided me to Highwatch Recovery in Kent, Connecticut. I’m sure it is no coincidence that I had my first drink in Kent, Connecticut 16 years prior. At that time I had no idea alcoholism was a disease.

I remember the ride to treatment. It seemed surreal, like it wasn’t really happening to me. I didn’t say much to my mother and I barely expressed any feelings when she dropped me off.

Before I walked in the doors it was clear to me that this was it. My moment was right now. I had to agree to let it all out here and hold nothing back. If I wanted to live a good life I was going to have to do the things I feared. I was going to have to walk through the shame and tell these people everything I didn’t want people to know about me so that I can come out on the other side a new man. If I really wanted to change I had to be vulnerable.

This was the hardest thing I’ve ever done.

I walked through the doors after I promised myself I would do everything I needed to do to change my life.

And so my journey in recovery began

While in treatment, I realized I couldn’t only change what I wanted to change, —I had to change everything. I had to be willing to do whatever it takes. The second day in treatment I stepped through the fear and raised my hand at my first meeting. I briefly told everyone in the room what had led me to this point and I didn’t hold anything back. For the first time in my life I felt relief. After the meeting I was approached by other men who identified with the things I shared.

I was not alone.

What I came to believe is that all the steps I took after leaving that jail cell were steps I took directly next to God. My entire life God has been there and all I had to do was put myself in His hand so He could guide me on a righteous path.

My disease blinded me from that truth.

I have a disease. It’s not a moral failing. It’s not a choice. I drank one day because I needed something to take away the feeling I didn’t want to feel. Who knew that 16 years away from that day I would want to feel all the feelings I used to not want to feel and rejuvenate the life that once died inside of me.

I can now say that I am a recovered alcoholic.

By recovered I mean I am free from the thought and obsession that alcohol will solve my problems. I don’t think about taking a drink anymore. The problem wasn’t my parents or the environment they built to protect me. The problem was within me.

What I now know is that we are all children of God and we all have a right to be here. Everyone deserves to be loved, no matter what.

During treatment I was shown love.
This love gave me hope.
The hope gave me that little bit of willingness to make my beginning.
The willingness helped me ask God for forgiveness.
Then I started to believe.
Belief… over time turned in to faith.

Today I am happy in a way I have never been. Even on my worst day I am still happy because I’ve learned how to live my life. I don’t need to have all the answers today because I know that God will take care of me. I connect with people on an entirely different level. There is no more hate and anger in my heart. I love everyone.

My hope for you, whoever is reading this right now, is that you would find and walk in the freedom I have found.
No matter where you are right now, no matter what you’ve done with your life…if you’re feeling lost, let today be your first step in the direction of recovery.

About Matthew Cohen

Clinical Outreach CoordinatorLife of Purpose Chapter Lead for Young People in Recovery - Delray Beach Supporter of I Am Not Anonymous Matthew is very passionate about addiction recovery as well as advocacy for the recovery community. A supporter of the I Am Not Anonymous movement and the belief that we should never be ashamed of our story, Matthew is always sharing, inspiring and gaining insights from those around him. Friend him on Facebook.


  1. Judi DiDomenico

    Mathew that was beautiful so proud of you and happy for your recovery

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Than you Judi. Happy New Year.

  2. Gale Weissman Abrams

    Mathew that was eloquently written from you heart and soul. I’m so proud of who you have become. May the New Year continue to bring you peace, joy, health and happiness; and may you continue to spread the word of the miracles that happen in recovery!

  3. Matthew Cohen

    Thank you. I could not have done it without my family and all this that support my mother and father.

  4. Denise

    So proud to be able to call you a friend for the past 15 years! And even more proud of you and all you have overcome and especially where your going!

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Thank you for reading denise. You are a big part of my life. I could not have done all of this without your support and love. You have been there from the beginning. They were not all bad times but the progression of this disease took its toll. You were there for me when I couldnt even be there for myself and for that I am truly grateful. You have done more for me then you probably know about.

  5. Lorraine

    Matt I am so choked up now. You have certainly turned your life around. It certainly wasn’t an easy road for you to take. You accomplished many wonderful things. You should be so proud of yourself. Wishing you a lifetime of good health and happiness. Love, Lorraine

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Thank you. You are right… it was not easy. I’m lucky my mother has all the friends that she does to supprt her. I am very grateful for all of you.

  6. Lisa renner

    Matt nicely done….God is good
    And once again his grace and your willingness has made it possible for lives to be saved….thanks buddy for staying on his team and being my friend. Lisa

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Thank you lisa for being an amazing support and guiding me through my recovery. You empowered me by taking me under your wing and giving me a job in my first few months of recovery. You are an amazing friend and support.

  7. Caryl Cohen

    Matt – I am so grateful for the various ways you embrace recovery and my heart is overflowing with pride and love! In choosing recovery, you have chosen LIFE! xoxo mom

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Thank you mom. You are the angel that God put in my life from birth. You never gave up on me. You are a strong women and I have learned so much from you. I did it the hard way but I finally understand what you meant when you told me I have to take responsibility for myself and stop blaming everyone for my mistakes. You guided me to be the man I am today.

  8. Alan Beck

    Matt, thank you for sharing your experience strength and above all, Hope…

    Alan Beck

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Thank you for reading Alan. I’m proud to call you a great friend.

  9. katie

    Wonderful words to an amazing journey… God has plans for us, sometimes we are unsure why things happen the way they do BUT, the answers soon reveal themselves . Never underestimate the power of LOVE.

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Thank you for reading. With God comes love. It is truly amazing.

  10. Danielle Buda

    I have chills still after reading your story of courage and your willingness to change. I also went to High Watch 9+ months ago and it was on the Hill of Hope andin the chapel where my moment of clarity came over me. I had been to 4 other 30 day programs but spending 2 months at High Watch Recovery Center restored my soul to sanity. I had to do the work but their AA philospy and treatment delivery by far surpassed all the other treatment centers. Fellow to fellow your message inspired me to continue with forward momentum this life saving and life changing journey. You are a power of example to everyone in our recover community.
    Wishing you continued blessings in your sober life,

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Thank you! High Watch is amazing. Recovery really works for those who take the time and do the work. I’m so happy to hear how you are doing.

  11. Bruce Ahrons

    Matt, somehow I can’t help but think there is a reason beyond my control that God put you in my life. Your story is one of total inspiration.

    1. Matthew Cohen

      Thank you Bruce. You’re a pleasure to have at Life Steps. I’m glad you’re on our team.

  12. Lori Kramer-Feingold

    Matthew, I am so grateful to have met you & so proud for you. Your passion and commitment is the evident wind beneath your wings. I watch you and listen to you with complete abandon, knowing the pain you have felt and the despair of days gone by; I too have been there and now fly free. You are my new hero, my dear, and I wish to walk this path of recovery with you knowing that what we cannot do alone, we CAN do together. Grateful for our new friendship….keep up your passion, commitment and avocation for the unification of our (once anonymous and secret) society. YOU ROCK!!!!!

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