Who he's supposed to be

Family gave man reason to end drug and alcohol use

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Meet Matt Beckett.

It's August 2002. Classmates from the 1992 Moffat County High School graduating class are at the O.P. Bar and Grill. They're celebrating their 10-year reunion. They talk about things that have happened in the past decade.

Citing time constraints, the chairwoman of the local chapter of the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition has resigned.

Misty Schulze, who in addition to leading the Grand Futures board is director of the Northwest Colorado Dental Coalition, informed board members last week that she is stepping down, effective at the end of this month.

"I just felt it was kind of my time to step away from it," Schulze said.

The prevention coalition educates the public in Moffat, Grand and Routt counties about the dangers of drug and alcohol use.

Schulze has served on the board for more than 10 years. She resigned from Grand Futures because her job with the dental coalition requires all of her professional attention.

"I really just think it would be a disservice to Grand Futures because I wouldn't have the time the position requires," she said.

One of Schulze last efforts with Grand Futures was helping organize last week's town hall meeting concerning underage drinking. Although the forum wasn't well-attended, Schulze said it was worthwhile.

It helps Grand Futures show the public that someone is willing to "step up and help solve the problem," she said.

Schulze said she has adjusted well to her job at the dental coalition.

"I love this new job," she said. "I've been pleased with my choice. I think this was a healthy change."

Another change is coming Grand Futures' way. The organization has been interviewing candidates to lead its Moffat County operation.

Former director Cindy Biskup moved to Mesquite, Nev., recently, after more than 9 years with the organization.

Grand Futures has advertised the position three times.

Schulze said eight or nine candidates have been interviewed and board members could make a decision on Biskup's replacement by the end of the week.

Grown-up things -- college, marriage, kids, work and starting businesses.

All the while, Beckett is outside hiding in a bush.

He's ducking police officers, who sweep the bar for underage drinkers. He's avoiding police because he's drunk, therefore in violation of a restraining order.

The court order states he can't see his wife and that he's to have only limited contact with his son.

It clearly states: No drinking.

To avoid a return trip to jail, he slipped out of the bar and behind the bush.

Questions ran through his mind. The most important one -- how did things get like this?

He asked, how is it that I can't see my wife? How is that I can see my son only with court-ordered supervision?

How did everything go so wrong? Why did it go wrong?

The plain-as-day answer was this: drugs and alcohol.

Those were the catalysts Beckett said were spiraling him to a place he didn't want to be. They were shaping him into someone he wasn't.

Recovering alcoholics have a phrase for Beckett's epiphany. They call it a moment of clarity -- Beckett's second in a few days.

Reliving it

That was the last night Beckett -- a Craig resident, member of the Grand Futures Prevention Coalition board and owner of Sign Source Professional Signs and Lettering -- ever drank.

He's been sober for four years. It's been several more since he used methamphetamine.

If stories of drugs and alcohol hurting the lives of addicts are important in educating the public, then it's equally vital to give them a personal account of what could happen and how difficult the road back is, Beckett said.

Meet Matt Beckett. His life is that story.

During last week's town hall meeting concerning underage drinking, Beckett participated in a panel that spoke with community members about the effects substance abuse can have on children.

Beckett was the lone voice of first-hand experience. He said he took his first drink at 14 or 15 years old. It eventually led him to try illegal drugs.

It eventually led him to meth.

He shares his story of dependency and recovery with high school students twice a year.

"I tell them all that it sneaks up on you real fast," he said. "It leaves you dead or in jail, one of the two."

He said telling his story is a way of helping other people, and himself.

"If it does some good, if it helps someone else, it doesn't bother me. I go there for them and for me. I tell them so I have to relive it. I need to keep it in my mind."

A long way down

Reunion night was Beckett's second wake-up call. A few days earlier -- when he was arrested and jailed for domestic violence -- was his first.

He said he came home drunk and rowdy late that night. His wife, Stephanie, tried to settle him down. It didn't work. They got into an argument. He pinned her down. Yelled at her.

She called the police.

Beckett waited on the curb for them to arrive.

Meet Matt Beckett, the person he really wasn't.

"That was the absolute lowest point of my entire life," he said. "That was the bar I thought I could never cross. ... I knew what I did, and it was going to end with me going to jail."

A couple of nights later, he found himself at the reunion. Drunk again.

"Everybody was talking about all these things," Beckett said. "I was like, 'Oh, yeah, I just got out of jail because I'm a drunk.'

"I remember just sitting there going, 'What the hell are you doing?'"

How did he get here, lost in life? The answer isn't simple or easy, he said.

Addiction never is.

"I was probably one of the first of the new alcoholics," he said. "I didn't drink every day, but once I started, I didn't stop. I didn't like the taste (of alcohol). If I drank, it was with a purpose -- to get drunk."

Today, years removed from his drug and alcohol habit, Beckett has a wide-angle perspective. He said if he didn't change, the view would be much more depressing.

"Either I'd be looking at it behind bars or I wouldn't be looking at it at all," he said.

"I had to make a really easy choice -- lose all my friends and family or say no. That was my entire motivation."

The beginning and end

It wasn't easy, shaking booze and drugs. The two habits didn't start, or end, at the same time.

Beckett said drinking opened the door for his drug use. It's harder to say no when your inhibitions are lowered, he said.

He was drunk when he first tried cocaine, acid, Ecstasy.

"I tried everything under the sun," he said. "The only thing I never tried was anything with a needle."

Nothing sunk its teeth into him like meth.

For a while, he was a recreational user. He balanced his drug use with work and school. The juggling act didn't last.

He started using more.

Once, he said meth kept him awake for a week straight. He developed "tweaker" habits. Hallucinated sometimes. He lost weight and jobs.

"It grabbed me hard," he said. "The scary thing is I don't know when it went from recreational use to addiction."

He says quitting meth is an uphill battle. The odds are against the user. The potency of the drug has increased since he used, making it more difficult to shake loose, Beckett said.

But, though getting clean is hard, it's not impossible.

Addicts need to find a reason, something to hold onto, to beat meth, Beckett said. It's the same when fighting alcohol.

"You have to find something that's worth it to you," he said. "Something has to be more important than what you're doing. Everybody has to find their own reason."

His recipe for getting clean was found inside himself.

"A lot of it was ego," Beckett said. "I couldn't fail, couldn't allow something to be stronger than I was."

At bars and restaurants, he uses little tricks, little slights of hand to pacify the mind, in curbing temptation. They help keep him sober, he said. One slip up and all the hard work from the past several years would be wasted.

"When I go to a restaurant, the first thing I do is go to the bar and get a Coke," Beckett said. "As long as I don't have that first one, I'll get by.

"If I had a drink today ... I would lose everything."

Then and now

Meet Matt Beckett now.

He's 32 years old. He's a father -- Hunter is 5 years old, and Holden is 2. He's a husband; he and his wife reconciled after he got sober. He's a business owner -- he started Sign Source a year ago.

He's a younger brother.

"Whatever triggered that wake-up call, it (spurred) a complete turnaround," boasts his older sister, Misty Schulze. "It was sheer will power on his part.

"He just blossomed into this totally different person. He's never gone back on his word. I've never known him to slip up since."

Schulze said her younger brother has been a positive influence on the high school students to whom he speaks.

"He can talk to them in such an easy, open-minded way," she said.

Life is good now, a far cry from the drunken, stoned-out days of years ago, Beckett said.

"I thought I'd be dead by 26," he said. "I couldn't be happier than I am now. I have it pretty good. I love my wife and I love my kids."

Beckett said he doesn't regret the past, he embraces it. Things fell the way they did.

He survived. Now, he tries to convince others to follow the same path.

That's Matt Beckett today -- thankful, responsible, someone trying to give back. Someone trying to help others live without the pain he endured.

Instead of using drugs or drinking, he races his car at the Hayden Speedway, plays ice hockey, plays with his kids. Work, family and kids, those are his addictions now.

This is the life he's supposed to live, he said. This is who he's supposed to be.

"I wouldn't want to mess up where I ended up," Beckett said, when asked whether he'd go back and do things differently. "I wouldn't change what I did. It made me a lot stronger. The place I'm at now was worth it. I don't take anything for granted. Not my family, not my job, nothing."

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