One of the biggest crises currently facing this country is the opioid epidemic sweeping through large rural communities, turning law-abiding people who are just looking for pain relief into junkies facing heroin addiction. Melissa Lee Matos, a West Virginia mother to two kids, was one such heroin addict.
Sadly, this is Melissa after her two kids, 11-year-old Katherine and 9-year-old Elisabeth, found her slumped over like this at the peak of her heroin addiction and decided to take photos to try and convince her to stop using. This, combined with an overdose in 2015 where Katherine had to call an ambulance for her, are why Melissa pushed herself to get clean and sober.
"My eldest would bring me food and drinks, rub my head, stay by my side like a mother would when her child was sick," Melissa tells Metro. "She would watch her little sister, help her with homework, help get her ready for school...all the things a mum would do, that at the time, I was not capable of doing. If crack was around, I smoked it. If pills were around, I snorted them. It didn't matter. I hated myself, hated my life. I have NEVER shared these [photos] before. I'm not sure I ever intended to. This is extremely hard for me in many ways. However, too many people are dying. I have friends who need to see this...
...it goes beyond what my words can accomplish. This is by far, the most raw thing I have shared with the world."
Melissa has now been clean for more than two years, and while the photos of her at the height of her heroin addiction may cause her some embarrassment, she realizes that delivering a wake-up call to other addicts on the verge of completely ruining their lives is more important. "This is what I looked like daily, for years," she explains. "This is what my husband dealt with. This is what my little girls walks 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. 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, 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 find a way out, until she did."
Unlike many addiction tales, this one actually ends in smiles -- not only is Melissa clean, she actually looks pretty goddamn great:
Melissa ends her story with a final message for others out there who are struggling with addiction: "If you are reading this and are going through the same pain I did, I am begging you to reach out. I died more than once, I have now found life...I promise you, there is HOPE. There is recovery, there is freedom and serenity and you are worthy of it. You do not have to suffer any longer. You are not alone. Just reach out your hand, I'm right here. My name is Melissa. I am a RECOVERED addict. Share with me your darkness, and I'll lead you towards the light. I love you all."