I’ve been clean for two years and forty five days. At the end of last year, I started meeting other people that shared the same struggles as me. I wanted to share their stories. Many of them declined but Matt Burke was one of the few that agreed. Below is his story…
When did you realize your drinking was more than social?
I had known for quite some time that it was more than a social thing. I guess I had just accepted it? I had gone over 10 years only having had 2 nights in that time that I wasn’t drunk. Literally, 2 days in more than a decade time span…nuts.
When you made the decision to quit drinking, what were you most afraid of?
I was afraid of quite a few things, actually. A few years ago I went to a doctor to seek some sort of help for my drinking and I was told that due to the amount I drank that if I were to quit cold turkey I would most likely have seizures and possibly a stroke that could take my life. That was really scary to hear and to know was a possibility. I was also really worried about the withdrawal experience. That was incredibly scary and i could write a book about that. Aside from my health, I was worried about how it would affect my social life. My entire adult life was spent drunk, so it was like starting completely over in the social life aspect of things. I’m 6 months booze free now and I’m still super uncomfortable going out sometimes.
What was the first step in quitting drinking?
Well, I kind of had to quit haha… I had 2 weekends in a row where I partied extremely hard and both Monday’s I woke up throwing up blood and it had me extremely worried. I don’t have health insurance, so I quit after the first blood experience for a few days and then the following weekend was my birthday so I partied hard again. Well, after that weekend I ended up being in such bad shape that I had difficulty moving. I had the met intense pains I had ever felt and it really felt like I was dying. I managed to drive over to my friend’s apartment just in case I needed a ride to the hospital, so it was at that point that it really became obvious to me that I needed to quit. I didn’t seek any kind of AA or treatment, I did it all on my own and I am extremely proud of myself.
How has your decision affected your career?
Quitting has been the best thing in the world. Not only for my career, but the quality of my life has just gotten better. I am more focused, I know what I want and I’m not scared to chase it. Not being drunk all the time allows me to have a clear head while I’m at shows and the ability to get home and post images the same night instead of passing out after haha… It’s the little things.
What has been the hardest part of sticking to your decision?
To be honest, there’s been nothing hard about my decision at all. It was just my time to give it up and I’m fine with it. I keep beers in my fridge at my apartment for when I have company over. I’ve had them since before I quit and have never even thought twice about having one. I’m extremely lucky to have been able to quit and stay as focused as I have.
You just recently celebrated six months of sobriety. If you could tell yourself one thing six months ago, what would it be?
I did just celebrate 6 months and it was incredible! If I could tell myself something, I think I would skip WAY further back in time a few years and, but since that’s impossible AND I’m not years sober, I would have just told myself that things get better. Things get easier. Once the cloud of being a drunk leaves the world becomes a much brighter place. I’ve never been so comfortable and confident as I have been these last 6 months.
You were an alcoholic when your daughter was born. How did that affect your relationship with her/your parenting? Did that also contribute to your breakup with her mother?
I certainly was an alcoholic when my daughter was born. I would definitely say that it affected my relationship with my daughter AND with my parenting, both in a negative way. As far as my relationship with my daughter goes, she is my best friend. We have always been close and we feed off of each other, so I was in no way a bad father or neglectful or anything, I just wasn’t ‘there’. I was either looking forward to a beer, drinking a beer, drunk (when she was asleep) or I was hung over. As a quick side note: I had been drinking so much that my stomach was just destroyed, which made leaving the house to do any task a chore, and adding an infant to it made it even worse, so we spent a LOT of time indoors. She would want to go to the park and things like that but daddy wouldn’t be able to take her because his stomach was so shredded up from the years of abuse… It was a real bummer. So it’s not that I was a bad parent or anything, it’s just that I wasn’t as fun as I could have been. But, all the time spent at home allowed us to work on her crawling, walking, motor skills, etc more which was cool and we did a lot of reading and coloring together. Did it contribute to my break up with her mom… I don’t know, to be honest. I think our ‘course’ of being a romantic couple had just ended. We were meant to come together to create this beautiful child and we did just that and now we are both free to do our own things in that department.
Do you believe in any sort of Higher Power? If so, what affect has that had on your sobriety?
I believe in some sort of a higher power, but I am not religious by any means. I think that we are all put on this earth for a purpose and we have some sort of force guiding us to that purpose. I believe that there is a reason for my years partying on tour and now there is a reason for me to have put the bottle down. If anything, these 6 months have really brought me closer within myself. It has given me time to truly understand myself and understand what I want from this life. I want to accomplish a lot of things and I think sobering up was step 1 in the process.
As I’ve mentioned countless times before, music has always been a safe place for me. That was the reason behind creating this community. It’s an indescribable feeling to put your headphones on and have someone echoing your feelings… not commenting on them or judging them, simply validating them. Below are a few questions I asked Matt about how music related to his life…
Name a song that describes…
You drinking: Secret Lives of the Freemasons – To The Barricades
You sober: Mae- Summertime
Your outlook on life six months ago: Rise Against – Ready to Fall
Your outlook on life now: Of Mice & Men – Second and Sebring
Why did you choose to get involved in the music industry?
I have always been obsessed with music my entire life. I had never thought about working in the industry and out of nowhere was picked up and taken on tour. Once that happened I was sucked into the world and I just had to continue to pursue it.
What artists or songs keep you going and why?
I listen to a bunch of different music depending on my mood. I’ve been listening to a lot of Enter Shikari, The Story So Far, Transit, Of Mice & Men but then sometimes I’ll switch it up and listen to a bunch of Adele, City and Colour, into it.over it, Jack’s Mannequin and some other pretty chilled out stuff.
Getting to know Matt through these conversations has been an amazing experience. His tenacity has been a huge encouragement over the past two months. There is so much brokenness in him from years of alcohol abuse, but there’s also so much hope. That’s what I want you to take from this story.