Matthew DeRyckere – RESILIENT A.F.: Stories of Resilience


I grew up with a physically abusive alcoholic father. This caused me a lot of anger and confusion about how to process my emotions.

In 2000, my father died, and I thought I was free; boy, was I wrong. I started using alcohol as a way to mask my problems and push them down. I immersed myself in the party scene and drank heavily for the next 20 years as a way to cope.

The death of my sister in 2016 was particularly traumatic and sent me into a downward spiral. I drank more and started using cocaine, at first telling myself it wasn’t a problem since I wasn’t buying it myself. My substance abuse changed who I was as a person, but I didn’t realize it at the time since I was in the middle of my addiction.

My marriage was toxic due to my alcoholism. I wasn’t fully present, as the drunk version of myself is very different. The death of my sister and the problems in my marriage made my drinking and cocaine use even worse. I blamed my ex-wife for not being supportive enough during this difficult time, but now I understand that I was also unsupportive of myself and others due to my addiction.

In 2019, my wife and I separated. I decided to go on a trip to the Dominican Republic to visit my sister to clear my mind, thinking it would help. However, within a few days, actually a few hours, I was drinking heavily, using cocaine, and making unsafe decisions like buying drugs from strangers in back alleys. During the visit, I was very distracted by my thoughts due to drinking every day. Near the end of the visit for one last night of debauchery, I ended up bringing a sex worker back to my sister’s home late at night, which caused a huge confrontation when my family found out.

My sister intervened and had a friend who owned a recovery center speak to me. I broke down in tears, realizing the pain and estrangement I had caused over 20 years. My sister gave me an ultimatum – get sober or be cut off from the family permanently. This was the wake-up call I needed. I attended my first AA meeting that day and have now been sober for over four years.

Since getting sober, I have rebuilt relationships with my family and am in a much better place mentally and emotionally. I have a newfound self-love and can look at myself in the mirror with pride rather than disgust. Quitting drinking allowed me to process my trauma and grief in a healthy way. I now have supportive relationships and offer help to others struggling with addiction to not give up on themselves. 

My story shows how addiction is often rooted in past pain and how recovery leads to personal growth. 

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