A mother who is recovering from heroin addiction shared harrowing photos of herself before she quit the drug. Her goal was to warn others about the dangers of drug addiction, but you should see how she looks now.
Melissa Lee Matos, of Parkersburg, West Virginia, said that she never intended to share the images on social media, but she felt compelled to do so since she had friends who she thought needed to see them. “It goes beyond what my words can accomplish,” Matos wrote in the 2017 post. “This is by far, the most raw thing I have shared with the world. Please read. Please share.”
Matos stated that she had been in recovery for over a year and a half, but her life prior to that was littered with overdose nights and spending every penny she had on drugs to get high. She frightened the world with photographs of herself in the grip of addiction, her face scabbed and her eyes rolling to the back of her head.
“This is what I looked like, daily, for years,” she wrote, alongside images of herself with a heavily scabbed face. “This is what my husband dealt with. This is what my little girls walked in on. This is what my family and friends saw, on the rare occasions I left the house. I was SICK. I was DYING. I was so far gone I thought I could NEVER recover. I was so lost I couldn’t imagine a life without using. I just wanted to die. I didn’t realize I was hardly alive.”
Before Matos got clean, the family house was in “shambles” and her two daughters “constantly missed school.” She would lock herself in the bathroom or her bedroom for hours while she used drugs. But that all changed when Matos realized she could lose both of her daughters, the two most important things in her life. It moved her to finally seek help for her drug addiction.
Matos overdosed in 2015, but paramedics saved her life. Her daughters had been playing directly outside her bedroom door when it happened. Her girls moved in with her parents once she was released from the hospital. But, the near-death incident didn’t scare Matos into sobriety. “It was one of the lowest moments of my life,” she said. “Still, I was so sick in my addiction, that didn’t stop me. I got home and shot up the same fentanyl that had just almost taken my life.”
Matos includes her phone number and email address near the conclusion of her viral post for others who need assistance. Thousands of people commented on her photos, many of whom praised her for having the bravery to speak out about addiction and her own battles with it. In a follow-up post, Matos expressed gratitude for the number of people who reached out and thanked her for sharing the photographs.
“If you are currently in active addiction, this is my plea to you. Look at these pictures. Images of a dead girl. A needle junkie with a habit so fierce she spent days and nights in a self-induced coma on her bathroom floor,” Matos wrote. “A girl who would spend every cent on dope and forget she had kids to feed and take care of. A girl who lost every single thing she ever had. A girl who was so sick she thought she would never ever find a way out, until she did,” she continued.
“I did this in the hopes of even getting one person to reach out, and the fact that hundreds of you have trusted me and my story enough to message me fills me with more hope and love than I can explain,” Matos wrote. “Thank you for letting me share my story. I love you all. We can do this together! Never lose hope!!”
While Melissa Lee Matos received many messages of support, she also received criticism for getting involved with drugs in the first place. She bravely responded to her critics, writing, “I’m sorry if my story offended you. Please forgive me for not responding to your ignorant messages and comments, but I am currently extremely preoccupied with spreading a message and helping those who have reached out.”
Matos has been sober since March 1, 2016, and she started sharing images of her past — and all the details that go with it — to help others get sober. She also volunteers for Alcoholics Anonymous and works with mothers who are addicts or in recovery. Matos now posts happy images of herself and her girls to demonstrate how far she and her family have come. “Share with me your darkness,” she told her Facebook followers, “And I will lead you toward the light.”