FAIRBORN, Ohio — When Richard Matteoli went into recovery, he realized he had never met anyone who had stopped using heroin because they usually died.
Matteoli, a recovering heroin user from Ohio, has overdosed on several occasions. On Wednesday, he thanked the people who revived him each time.
“I wanted to show some gratitude and give back to the men and women in this room who saved my life,” Matteoli told a room of first responders at the Fairborn Fire Department’s station No. 2.
Matteoli, who has been clean for 530 days now, told first responders how he first became addicted to heroin and what his life was like while he was on the drug.
Matteoli was a student at Ohio State University when he started drinking at fraternity parties, and his life went “out of control from there,” he said.
After getting addicted to heroin, Matteoli became homeless. He walked around Fairborn, living in dumpsters and sleeping on the bags of trash inside them.
At his lowest point, Matteoli, who is 6 feet 2 inches tall, said he weighed around 121 pounds.
“My life had got to a really low point. It wasn’t the way that I wanted my life to turn out,” Matteoli said. “I grew up like a normal kid. I didn’t want to turn out to be a heroin addict.”
After being in recovery, Matteoli said he realized just how many people he hurt. His mom suffered health issues, he lost touch with his son and his overdoses had taken a toll on the lives of first responders who revived him multiple times, he said.
“I didn’t even care about my own life when I was out there,” he said. “I was very naive to think that I was just hurting myself.”
Matteoli’s thank-you to first responders was appreciated, Fairborn Fire Chief Mike Riley said. Around a dozen or so first responders, including Riley, shook hands with Matteoli and asked him if he had any recommendations for how they could do their jobs better.
“I think it means a lot to public safety (workers) in general,” Riley said. “It may have taken five or six times, but I think it’s outstanding. It’s good for (first responders) to be able to see that change.”
Since Matteoli entered recovery, he said he’s turned his life around.
He met with state Attorney General Mike DeWine earlier this year and is working with one of DeWine’s task forces to help address the opioid crisis. DeWine, who is running for the Republican nomination for governor, is suing drug companies over the opioid crisis.
Matteoli also rebuilt his relationship with his mom and in April he married a woman who has been in recovery for 11 years.
On their honeymoon, he was even able to reconnect with his now 10-year-old son, who had since moved to Florida. Now they video-chat frequently, and Matteoli joked that he’s become a “master” of “Pokemon Go,” one of his son’s interests.
“I’m more present in his life today with him 1,000 miles away than I was with him living in Fairborn about five minutes away,” Matteoli said. “His story the rest of his life, they would have said ‘Where’s your dad?’ and he would have been like, ‘Well he died from heroin.’ Because of what you guys have done, he doesn’t have to do that.”
Cox Media Group