2018 Harvey House Graduate Profile
My name is Matthew Mantel. I graduated from Restoration Ministries Harvey House on October 13, 2018 I will just give you a little background to show you what God has done in my life. I was born January 14, 1991 in Munster, Indiana. I had a good childhood growing up. I played little league baseball, Pop Warner football, and Biddy Basketball for the town of Highland, Indiana. I grew up with both parents and I had a stable home life. I have two brothers, Nick and Andy, and a sister, Monica. We were close growing up. We were typical kids messing around, hanging out with the neighborhood kids, riding bikes and playing ding-dong ditch. We were just typical kids being kids.
Then when I was about 14 I started smoking marijuana. I stopped playing sports and started hanging with the “troublemakers”. By the time, I was freshman in high school I was partying every day. Freshman year of high school was a blur. I really didn’t do anything except drink and smoke weed. Several times, I was suspended from school for missing classes or coming to school too high to go to class.
I started to get in trouble in town. Before I knew it, I became one the “troublemakers”. None of the parents wanted their kids around me. Every Highland police officer would stop me whenever they saw me because 9 times out of 10 I had weed, pills, liquor, or something else I shouldn’t have had. I found myself in and out of juvenile detention, on house arrest, and on probation. I took every court sanctioned drug and alcohol class they had for juveniles. I would get off probation or house arrest and go right back to being that “troublemaker”.
On April 6, 2007, my world was turned upside down. That is when my mom passed away. I remember it like it was yesterday. I was sitting behind my garage in the backyard smoking a cigarette when I heard an ambulance pull up across the street. I thought it was for the neighbors next door because they were old. Then I saw my little brother bust out the front door saying my mom wouldn’t wake up. I was in disbelief, how could this be happening. I felt like I was stuck in a bad dream. I went to talk to my dad to see what was going on. I saw him crying and talking to the police.
That’s when reality set in. My mom was not going to wake up. I went to the only thing I knew to numb the pain. I was doing drugs, smoking weed, popping Xanax, and drinking a fifth a day. That became my life for the next year until I was 17.
By the end of sophomore year, I had only four credits when I should have had 14. The principal told my dad my only option was to be a five-year senior and I wasn’t going to do that. My dad told me the only other option was to get my GED and join the Army.
That is exactly what I did. I went down to the recruiting office with my dad and explained my situation. They said they would help me get my GED. So, I joined the Army. I went to Ft. Benning, Georgia for basic training. My dad was at my basic training graduation and I noticed a sense of relief in his eyes. I saw him finally being able to relax because he didn’t have to worry about me being that “troublemaker” anymore. I was finally doing something “right” or so I thought.
After basic training I went to Ft. Carson Colorado 4th Infantry Division. I felt like I was finally a part of something good. However, when I had got to my actual unit, I found out we were leaving for deployment to Afghanistan in 62 days. I wasn’t even 18 years old yet. I would turn 18 just ten days before my first deployment. Talk about feeling overwhelmed. I wasn’t even sure what to think. On May 31, 2010, my unit backed up and went to Afghanistan. About halfway through my deployment in November the Humvie I was in was hit by an I.E.D. I was injured and was sent back home. I had shrapnel wounds and I needed a left knee replacement.
Because of my injuries, I could no longer perform my job in the army. I was an infantryman and I wasn’t able to walk with all my gear. I was home for a year and was about to get a medical discharge when I failed my drug test. I tested positive for the pain pills I was “off” for months. I had become addicted to my pain medicine. After they took me off the pain pills, I was still buying them on the streets.
Instead of getting a medical discharge, the Army gave me an Other Than Honorable Discharge with no VA Benefits. I came back to Chicago addicted to pain meds. I was too ashamed to ever tell anyone. I started hanging out with the “troublemakers” again. Before I knew it, pain pills turned into heroin. I did the heroin because it was cheaper than the pain medicine I was buying. Then on September 29, 2014, God blessed me with a beautiful daughter. That’s when I got my act together, but that only lasted until my daughter was about two years old.
Then I was a full-blown heroin addict again. I lost everything for heroin, crashed my car, lost my apartment, and destroyed my relationships with my family and my daughter. I had nothing and no one - just a tent in the woods and my dog. I lost all of my self-worth and self-esteem. I didn’t care what I looked like or what I was doing. I only cared about how I could escape reality by getting high.
Finally, my dad and stepmom had enough of sitting in the front row as I was slowly killing myself. On July 3, 2017, they took me to Restoration Ministries (RM) and I entered Harvey House, RM’s free Christian-based 18-month residential men’s recovery and rehabilitation program. My life changed forever that day. This place seriously saved me from me. I learned that my past doesn’t make me who I am today. My past will always be my past, but I won’t let it determine my future ANYMORE. While I was at Harvey House, I got closer to God. I relearned basic life skills like how to wake up on time and how to be a part of a family again. Restoration Ministries is seriously like family to me. Everyone helps everyone. There are great role models on the staff and at our church, Spirit of God Fellowship. Everyone genuinely cares. This place saved my life and I will forever be grateful.
In July 2018, after being in the program for a year, I was presented with a great opportunity to get my life going. A job-training program called Cara Chicago. It is a 4-week program that helps you get a job and keep it. I learned interview skills, time management, how to conduct myself in a workplace and more. I did the CARA program for four weeks, and after the fourth week, I started looking for a job. Cara staff helps you with job leads, and help you get a resume together. I sent my resume to the East Bank Club, a very nice fitness club downtown with good restaurants. A week later, the HR Manager called me to schedule an interview. I applied for a cook position. When I went to the interview I was super nervous. I had been out of work for 2 plus years. When I walked in saw the place was top notch, I didn’t think I would be good enough to get the job. However, I checked in at the front desk and waited for the chef to come out and give me an interview.
After waiting about 10 minutes, he came out and started talking to me about a dishwasher position. (I applied for a cook position). This threw me off, but I kept an open mind like CARA had taught me. I remember the Cara staff saying you have to get your foot in the door so I took the position of a dishwasher. I started working August 19, 2018. I was a dishwasher for about a year then after “showing up and showing out” I was promoted to cook. The moral of my story is don’t let yourself get a big head and not take a position because you think you are over-qualified. I love working at the East Bank Club and I love the people I work with. So, don’t block your blessings because you think you’re too good for something. I learned that you must be trusted in the little things to be trusted in the big things.
With my job, I was able to save money and I moved out of Harvey House. I rent an apartment right down the street from Restoration Ministries. It has kept me connected with my friends on the staff there. I now have regular visits with my daughter, who is now five years old. My relationships with my dad and my younger brother and sister are great. While in Harvey House, I took a Hope and Healing class, where I learned my past isn’t a life sentence. I’m so grateful to Restoration Ministries for helping me stay sober and get my life back. Now, I’m working on getting my driver’s license. I’m excited for my future and to see what God has in store for me. And yes, I still have my dog. He lives with me in my apartment.