Thirty-three-year-old Matt Eacott considers himself lucky to be alive. He’s a former addict who put his family through turmoil over the years until finding a Madison-based program that treats him in his own environment -- his home.
Eacott was a teen when the downward spiral started.
“If you were to ask my parents, it would probably be around 13, when I started experimenting with alcohol and marijuana,” he said.
By the time Matt was in high school, he wasn’t like most students who could focus on school during the week. Instead, he was obsessed with what drug he wanted to try the next weekend.
Then, his parents decided to send Matt to a private school.
“They thought if they changed the environment, I would adapt and change my behaviors” Matt recalls.
It didn’t work. He was expelled during his junior year.
A few years later, he was expelled from college. Drugs were ruling Matt’s life.
There were family vacations, but Matt could not stop thinking about drugs.
“A quote normal person would be thinking about, ‘Did I pack the right clothes?’ I was thinking about how I can smuggle heroin through the airport” he recalls.
Matt’s addiction had gone from prescription painkillers to heroin.
“When I went from oxycontin to heroin, I was snorting five bags of heroin a day and by the end of that year, my tolerance had increased from five to eight-five bags,” he said.
Matt would also snort heroin every 15 minutes and he was constantly missing from his job because he was either using drugs or going to buy them.
Matt admits to scamming loved ones and friends because drugs were never enough to satisfy him and he dreaded the withdrawal symptoms.
When his father would bail him out of jail, he would ask if that was Matt’s low point. But not even an almost deadly incident on angel dust in his parent’s house struck him as a low point at the time.
Matt went away to more than a dozen rehab facilities and would do well, but when he returned home, it was like nothing had changed.
“I would say, ‘I think I can use one last time’,” he said. “My identity was really drug use. That’s what I thought I was for the rest of my life.”
Two years ago, Matt’s life changed when a professional who was treating him told him about a program based in Madison called Aware Recovery Care, which brings alcohol and drug addiction treatment into the patient’s home.
A doctor, counselor and nurse were soon sitting around the Eacott’s kitchen table with Matt and his parents, discussing the treatment plan.
“I was able to go to work. I was able to confide in someone and trust someone,” Matt said.
The program involves sometimes daily home visits, drug testing, counseling, medical and mental health treatment and voluntary GPS tracking.
Yale Psychiatrist Ellen Edens, who has completed a fellowship in addiction treatment, studied the results of Aware Recovery Care’s first year with five patients and was impressed.
“Four of five patients had continued abstinence over the course of the year and one patient had some relapses in the beginning,” Dr. Edens said.
Even though there were only a few clients, the success rate of sobriety after one year was more than 70 percent, higher than typical in-patient rehab, she said.
The pilot results by Edens and two colleagues were published by the Connecticut State Medical Society.
“In all my years of training and specializing in addiction, this seemed to have a component that was missing,” Edens said.
She believes this new model of addiction treatment could be the future and she likes the fact that since treatment is in the home, people learn to better handle cues and triggers for relapse.
Dr. Edens said addiction is a chronic disease, like diabetes, which needs long-term care.
“When you go away for treatment or when you only have three weeks or six weeks of treatment, it really doesn’t fit a chronic disease model,” she said. The hope now is for funding for more studies.
Matt completed the year-long treatment and signed on for an additional six months. After that, he decided to commit himself to helping others and is now on staff at Aware Recovery Care.
“I talk to the parents of our clients and I get to relive how my parents must have felt and it’s extremely powerful for me,” he said.
Matt has been sober for two years, which is the longest he has been clean since his early teen years, he said.
He is also engaged to be married in September.
Matt says he now enjoys what he does so much that he goes to work early and leaves late many days. Most of all, he’s happy to be welcomed once again at homes of friends and his parents.