PA Stop billboard

Denise’s Story

“I lost my beautiful son Matthew to drug addiction on March 24, 2016. I found him unresponsive in bed. He died of an opiate overdose.”


I am 52 years old. I am married to my high school sweet heart for 35 years. We have three sons: Daniel (he is the oldest), Matthew (he was our middle son), and Jonathan (he is our youngest). We have four grandchildren and one on the way. We are a close family we all get along well. We raised our sons to be respectful, hard working adults that fear God and contribute to mankind. They made a few mistakes like anyone else. Never in a million years did any of us ever think that one of us would become addicted and lose his life to drugs.

Matthew was a bright child, got into the average mischief, graduated high school and a vocational school for masonry, had a great career, and a beautiful eight-year-old daughter. He had his ups and downs like we all do, but he was emotionally sound. He loved life, he loved to be with family and friends. His smile lit up the room! He loved to fish, hunt and ride his Harley. We went on family vacations together. Matthew was 31 when he got addicted to prescription medication and it took his life when he was 32.

I saw a PAStop billboard. You know, the one that has a picture of a prescription bottle on it. That caught my attention as did the words “Break the Connection.


You see, there is a big connection that I believe we need to pay closer attention to. I am convinced that clinicians need to be educated extensively, since they are the ones with the power to write the prescriptions. I believe that there needs to be better and improved safety precautions in place that will help to prevent people from becoming addicted in the first place.

Is there anything you wish you had known before he started using painkillers that were prescribed to him?

I wish that I would have known how to prevent the doctor from writing the prescription in the first place. I wish I would have known how to fight for stricter enforcement of guidelines for writing prescriptions for medications. I wish I would have known how to intervene in the process of addiction and stop it.

How big of a problem do you think opiate abuse is in your community?

Opiate abuse in my community is high. Our community has made national news because of the abuse and the overdoses.

 How has this experience affected your family?


We will never, ever be the same! Words cannot express our sorrow. We all miss Matthew so much. Our hearts break for his daughter. Matthew and his brothers were close in age and they were not only brothers, they were friends. It is so hard to see the pain they are going through.

We have also learned a lot about people’s ignorance and the stigma that goes with drug abuse and losing a child to drug abuse. But I don’t blame people; I used to think a certain way about it, too. People just need to be educated. And that’s what I hope to do.

Denise, 52
McDonald, PA

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