Matthew McPheron just wanted a cheap high, but heroin drove him to the streets. He slept on a playground, using a smelly trashbag as a blanket.
“I had finally reached the place that I belonged: homeless, strung out on dope,” he says in 2013 CBN video. He spent years living in a drainage ditch under a freeway. “I crawled out from underneath a bridge, and I didn’t spontaneously combust into a different person. It took a lot of hard work, a lot of pain, a lot of tears.”
Today, Matthew runs recovery programs and hires his own patients into TrueCore Cleaning, a janitorial company he bought on his 10-year sober anniversary in 2016.
When it comes to finding the reason he fell into drugs, Matthew can’t blame his dad, who was first a fireman and then a minister. Mom left him alone during his early years — and then left him for good in Youngstown, Ohio.
“She would just put me behind a door with some Legos and leave me and not even talk to me,” Matt says. “It really put me in a place where I thought I was meant to be abandoned and rejected.”
After his dad remarried, his step mom died.
“I took a really selfish perspective, where it was like, ‘I’m being abandoned again,’ Matt recalls. “So it made those walls go right back up.”
In the wake of losing a mother for the second time, Matthew, who was then in secondary school, self-medicated to ease the torment.
“I felt hurt; I felt lost, and I didn’t know what to do, but I knew for me, at that age, going to church didn’t work for me. What worked was putting a haze in front of me so that I didn’t have to deal with reality.”
As a young man, Matthew sold drugs and stole vehicles to fund his craving for drugs.
“One night I was at a party and I was getting drunk,” he says. “There was a gentleman there who said, ‘I have a buddy who runs a chop shop and they need a Nissan, and they’re going to give $1,500 for the person that gets it. I thought, ‘Fifteen hundred dollars! That’s like three weeks worth of selling dope.’”
The deal wasn’t lucrative enough to keep the law from catching up to him. In jail, he began to deal with his conscience.
“When I was in prison, I had a little bit of time to reflect and think about the things I had done, and the people that I had hurt,” he says. “It consumed me.”
Once released from jail, he decided he would not commit any more felonies. He needed a cheap drug.
“Three months into shooting heroin, I found myself with nothing, broke, and homeless. I had finally reached the place that I belonged: homeless, strung out on dope, sleeping in a trash can liner. The plastic kept me warm, but it smelled like trash.
“I remember thinking to myself, ‘This is where you belong. This is what you deserve.’”
One night, Matthew was out searching for his next fix.
“I was walking northbound on Sixth Avenue, and I started praying, and I was saying, ‘Lord please, just give me ten dollars so I can buy a shot of dope. And I look off into the distance, and I see something that looks to be currency. About ten yards, I could see a ‘10’ on it, so I thought, ‘It’s a ten dollar bill.’ And I said, ‘Oh, there is a God! Here, My whole life I’m waiting for You to show yourself to me, and here You are giving me a ten dollar bill for dope,’” Matt says.
The ten-dollar greenback was fake, yet what was inside was worth undeniably more.
“I realize it’s not a real ten-dollar bill; it’s a fake ten-dollar bill. And I said, ‘Lord, I knew you didn’t love me. I knew you weren’t going to give me ten dollars.’ And inside of it was the full book of Proverbs, pulled out of one of those miniature New Testaments. I took that Book of Proverbs with me and I read that night about wisdom.”
Matthew says that night was a defining moment in his life.
“For the first time in my life, I remember thinking that there is a God, and he is present in my life,’ he says. “I thought he had a warped sense of humor, you know. I would’ve preferred a real ten-dollar bill! But this was one point where it was evident that the hand of God was working in this situation. And I felt the Lord saying, ‘I’m always with you. I’m never going to abandon you. I’m never going to reject you.’”
Matthew surrendered his heart to Jesus Christ and was born again.
He began going to chapel and considering the Good Book, and later experienced a fruitful recuperation program.
Before long a short time later, he met and wedded Jennifer, who was one year ahead of him in the recovery program. His first job was janitorial. Today Matthew helps Jennifer run the The Miracle Center, a drug rehab in Tucson.
Matthew additionally broadcast “The Overcoming Life,” a Christian radio show for recovering addicts.
“One of the most powerful things about being a believer in Jesus Christ, about being a Christian, is we’re given an opportunity to reach out into the darkness, and offer people life,” Matthew says. “We’re given an opportunity to reach out to people who are incapable of loving themselves, and offering them an unconditional love that is so great that it can’t be denied.”
Ryan Zepeda studies at the Lighthouse Christian Academy in Santa Monica.