Matthew McKinney, 17, HeroinLast Updated: Friday, August 17, 2018
-Written by Mary DeBoer (Matthew's mother)
Matthew was a typical teenager, full of adventure, mischief and zest for life. He took pride in his friendships and made many friends along life’s journey. As I look back on his life, I see someone who always tried to make other people happy, not understanding his own sadness inside.
When Matt was 13 years old he tried pot for the first time because a friend dared him to do it. He always said “my friends got my back.” He would do anything for his friends, and expected the same in return.
By the time Matt was 14 his grades were dropping in school, and we noticed his behavior changing from happy to angry and sometimes even violent. We still have holes in walls that he punched when he was out of control. Alcohol and over-the-counter medication were now in his life almost daily. He was seeing a counselor once a week without much benefit. We tried Intensive out-patient rehab programs twice, however to our horror he just learned more about what drugs were out there and how to use them.
In September 2003, we sent Matt to Minnesota Teen Challenge. He was there for 4 months. He was discharged from the program for stealing cough syrup from a gas station while out on an event the school had planned. Matt called me and begged to please [let him] come home. He promised he had changed and would follow our rules if he could just come home.
Late January 2004, he came back home clean and sober. He was the son I knew before the drugs. Matt was happy, enjoying family time, and starting to excel in his writing and art talents. Life was going well. Peace was in our home again. Unfortunately this time would be short. In April, his old friend from the “bad days” moved back into town. He had been living in Seattle with an aunt for almost a year. At first, Matt listened to us and stayed away from him. However, unknown to us, he was meeting up with him behind our backs. Matt was taking off after we went to bed and hanging with other users. Money, jewelry, and anything that wasn’t locked up would disappear. He took money from his sister and even his little brother’s coin collection. Every day was a battle. I remember asking God to please intervene and save Matt from himself. Our whole family was broken and we and Matt needed fixing.
On December 14, 2004 Matt snuck out of the house for the last time. I called him at 10:30 that night and told him it was curfew and he had to come home. He said he was sorry for leaving without telling us and he would be home soon. He sounded fine and was laughing and talking as if nothing were wrong. I would find out later that within seconds of that phone call, Matt was injected with 66 percent pure heroin. [He was found dead early the next morning.]
Matt’s friend [served] two years in Federal prison for lying to the authorities about the details of the night he died. [The dealer was found guilty of dealing the heroin that resulted in Matt’s overdose. He’s currently serving a life sentence.]
I know this does not bring my son home, however there is justice for Matt and all the kids lost to heroin and those addicted because of these dealers.
Read more real-life stories about young people and substance abuse.