Recovering Addict Shares The Devastating Before And After Photos Of Drug Addiction


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Addiction is a powerful thing. If left untreated and ignored, it can completely take over someone's life to a point where it's their only priority. Family, friends, work, hobbies, and even getting a good meal come second to the next fix. 

It's a disease that tears families apart and leaves people dead. And while it's easy to turn a blind eye to addicts and write it off as "not your problem," it's not something we can ignore. 


Even if it hurts, even if it's ugly, even if it's hard to look at, we have to pay attention. The more it's swept under the rug, the more powerful it gets. 

Enter Melissa Lee Matos. 

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Matos is an addict, who's been proudly clean for a few years now. In a 2017 Facebook post that went viral — receiving over 50,000 shares and 35,000 likes — she shared photos of how she looked while she was in the depth of her addiction. 

"I have NEVER shared these before. I'm not sure I ever intended to. This is extremely hard for me in so 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. Please read. Please share," she wrote.

Though she didn't initially state in her post exactly which drug she was on, the marks on her face, droopy eyelids, and partially opened mouth are often common signs of heroin addiction. Heroin addicts usually have what people describe as a "zombie look." 

However, Matos eventually revealed that it was heroin and Xanax she became addicted to after doctors had given her prescription drugs to help with pregnancy complications and postnatal depression.


Matos wrote that this was how she looked while in active addiction:

"This was what I looked like, daily, for years. This is what my husband dealt with.

This is what my little girls walked 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."

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She also said that her older daughter Katherine, was often left taking care of her younger sister:

"My youngest never really talks about it. She doesn't really remember anything and it didn't effect her. She's just proud of my recovery. But my oldest will talk about how it hurt her because I was always locked away in my room and I ignored her. How it was scary seeing me high. I spent most of my days either high or dopesick.


 My eldest daughter would bring me food and drinks, rub my head, stay by my side like a mother would when her child was sick. 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."

Matos also said that she ended up "lying, robbing, and stealing" to support her habit. She added, "The mixture of all of these drugs would turn me into a zombie. I was careless, irresponsible and cold. I was absent as a mother, a wife, a daughter, a friend. 

I began to lose everything and everyone. This was just the beginning. My opiate addiction quickly escalated into complete chaos. The pills I was taking were not enough anymore so I started doctor shopping. Eventually, that caught up with me, I was blacklisted... and sick. Withdrawing off of the medications had me ready to kill myself."

When Matos overdosed in 2015, that's when everything changed. 

She continued, "I had started going to an Intensive Outpatient Program but was still actively using. I used to cheat my urine tests, but one day I went in so high that I didn't even think about what I was doing. I failed my test. Child Protective Services were called. I was going to lose the only things I had left, the only things I loved. That was the day I found sobriety."


Matos, who called the photos that she shared on Facebook "images of a dead girl," pleaded with people who are currently in active addiction to get help. She also runs a Facebook page called "Recover Me" where she shares her story of addiction in hopes of inspiring others to get clean:

"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 ever find a way out until she did."

The mom of two died more than once before realizing she no longer had to suffer, but, thankfully, "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."


RELATED: What It's Really Like To Be Married To A Drug Addict

If you or a loved one is struggling with addiction, SAMHSA’s National Helpline 1-800-662-HELP (4357)  is a free, confidential, 24/7, 365-day-a-year treatment referral and information service (in English and Spanish) for individuals and families facing mental and/or substance use disorders.

Emily Blackwood is an editor at YourTango who covers pop culture, true crime, dating, and relationships.