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Recovering addicts find second life at Matt Talbot Inn

CLEVELAND, Ohio (Catholic Universe Bulletin) - Mark Battistone doesn’t have the nightmares anymore.

Yet he’s still battling his demons and probably will for the rest of his life. The nightmares started about five years ago after Battistone was involved in a horrendous industrial accident. He was operating a piece of heavy machinery similar to a large backhoe when he accidentally decapitated another worker whom he did not see standing near him. Using heroin became a way for Battistone to cope, not only with the horror of what had happened but also with his own struggle with painful, degenerative arthritis for which he had been taking morphine. “For a long time, I couldn’t close my eyes without seeing the guy laying there,” he said. “I was taking drugs handfuls at a time. After that accident, me and God were on the outs.” Things could have continued on that way indefinitely. But Battistone, 48, found hope at Matt Talbot Inn, a residential treatment facility founded by a Franciscan priest 40 years ago in Cleveland’s Tremont neighborhood to help men recovering from alcohol and drug addiction and start new lives. A Cleveland native who grew up at Holy Name School, Battistone sometimes attends Mass at St. Martin of Tours Church, Maple Heights, or St. Monica Church, Garfield Heights. Although he said he prefers to keep his religious beliefs private, Battistone is overcoming his addiction, coping with his physical ailments and slowly wrestling with his demons. He said the counseling and other programs at Matt Talbot Inn have helped. “I’ve gotten to take a real good look at myself,” he said. “I have a strong faith in God.” During the last 40 years, the streets have seen thousands of stories of despair just like Battistone’s . The dedicated people at Matt Talbot Inn turn those into stories of hope. Terry Morris, program director at Matt Talbot Inn and a parishioner at St. John Bosco Church, Parma, Ohio, said turning lives around and helping the men feel connected to God again is what their ministry is all about. “I’ve learned that recovering people are very resilient,” he said. “I’ve found the men are willing to make the changes. It helps them see they cannot do it on their own. They get to a point where they need to surrender to a power greater than their own.” Founded in 1965 by Franciscan Father Bernard Scarborough as a halfway house for addicted men, Matt Talbot Inn today is a 30 to 90-day residential treatment facility that helps men recover from alcohol and drug addiction so they can live better lives. The men are referred to the Inn, which is operated by Catholic Charities, from various social service and government agencies. The Inn is named for Venerable Matt Talbot, born in 1856 in Dublin, Ireland. As a young boy, Talbot became an alcoholic while living in poverty. With the help of a priest, Talbot became sober by trusting in his higher power, a similar concept used today in the 12-step program of Alcoholics Anonymous. While living at the Inn, the men receive group and individual counseling, medical and psychiatric evaluation services and life skills training. The programs at Matt Talbot Inn also reach far beyond the house on Professor Avenue. As part of the Catholic Charities Services system, Matt Talbot Inn has inspired several programs and facilities throughout the area where both men and women recovering from drug and alcohol addiction can find hope. “This is our mission,” Morris said. “This is what Jesus would do.” ‘The best thing’ The idea of doing what Jesus would do is not lost on the men who live and work at Matt Talbot Inn. Chico Lewis, a resident assistant, is a former client of the program and continues to receive counseling while recovering from alcohol and cocaine addiction. He said he hopes that by having “walked in their shoes” he’s able to help other men deal with their addictions. “Matt Talbot was the best thing that ever happened to me,” he said. “It was like something special was in this house. I knew if I did what they told me to do, I would be all right.” Like Lewis, the men who come to Matt Talbot are from diverse backgrounds, cultures, ages and addictions. Some have been homeless for years. Others are professionals whose lives finally unraveled. Some are alone. Others have families with whom they hope to reconcile someday. Gabriel Cowan, 44, said he entered treatment after realizing his crack cocaine addiction was going to kill him someday. “I got sick and tired of being sick and tired,” he said. “I saw my dad die from this drug. I didn’t want to die like that. Today, I let God guide me throughout the day.” John Cuevas, a parishioner at St. Michael Church on Cleveland’s near west side, also has found hope at Matt Talbot Inn. An alcoholic, Cuevas got the scare of his life in December after seeing blood in his urine. His doctor told him his pancreas was failing and that if he didn’t stop abusing alcohol, he’d be dead soon. Cuevas said a big part of his problem was that he keeps his feelings inside and used alcohol as a way to cope. When his dad died three years ago, he went to the bottle again. This time, though, he lost his job, his wife and his children. Today, with help from the counselors and other residents at Matt Talbot Inn, Cuevas is working toward reconciliation with his family, his God and himself. “I have a close commitment with God now,” he said. “Since I’ve been here, God’s given me nothing but blessings. I’m just grateful to be alive.” ‘My fight’ Cleveland native Robert Crabtree, 45, first tried heroin when he was 10 years old. Although he is a professional with a bachelor degree in computer science and business administration, he was unable to shake the heroin addiction until going to St. Vincent Charity Hospital, which works with the folks at Matt Talbot Inn, where he is today. “Heroin addiction is my fight,” he said. “It’s the cross I’ve got to bear.” For him, the spirituality based program at Matt Talbot Inn has made the difference in trying to recover from his addiction. . “I always had answers before,” he said. “This time, I had no answers. This time the surrender is complete. It brought me to my knees.” Henry Bucks, 48, first tried alcohol when he was 11 years old and moved on to other drugs at 13. Today, he’s recovering from addiction to crack cocaine. A member of St. Paul AME Church, Cleveland, Bucks said he’s able to surrender to God his addiction and hopes to get a new job soon and get on with his life. “Things happen in life,” he said. “The world’s not gonna change. I have to change how I deal with it” For more information about Matt Talbot Inn call 216-781-0288. For more information about other Catholic Charities Services call 216-334-2938.

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This story was made available to Catholic Online by permission of the Catholic Universe Bulletin (www.catholicuniversebulletin.org), official newspaper of the Diocese of Cleveland, Ohio.

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