Breaking the Stigma: Matt O’Neill – The Battle of Addiction and Recovery

If you live in Calgary, it is likely that you have heard his voice on the radio.

Matt was kind enough to share about his personal struggle with addiction and mental health. Join us as we hear what it was like to be in the thick of the addiction, what going to a recovery centre is really like and how he continues to fight the battle of addiction every day.

If you are struggling or know someone who is, this is the episode for you.



Nicki Kirlin, Jenna Fortinski, Matt O


Nicki Kirlin  00:02

All right. Thank you, Matt, so much for joining us.


Matt O  00:04

Well, good morning, everybody. Oh, wait a minute. Yeah, this is not my show. No, I’m a guest feel free.


Matt O  00:11

You guys look beautiful today. I’m a little nervous. I have never done a podcast and this studio is nicer than mine at at jack FM. What do you want to know?


Nicki Kirlin  00:22

Don’t worry. We’ve got a list. Yeah.


Matt O  00:24

Okay. I got to go pick up kids at arenas right now. So let’s get to it. All right.


Nicki Kirlin  00:30

Okay. So first question is, okay. Some of our listeners may know you from the radio. But for those that don’t tell us a little bit about yourself.


Matt O  00:39

I host a morning show at jack 96. Nine here in Calgary. I started that probably in 2004. Then I fell off the cliff and at the last weekend for two years, three years. And then they heard me back. Because I figured, well, that wasn’t very smart. Let’s get them back. And they found out he was sober. And back at it and happy to say that Sarah Crosby and I are doing a great job. Because that’s that’s what she tells me.


Jenna Fortinski  01:05

Yes. And it’s true. Yeah, absolutely show.



Kate, do


Nicki Kirlin  01:09

you have a fun fact for


Matt O  01:10

us? A fun fact. Yes. About you about me. I can touch my nose with my tongue. Okay, ready? Are you ready? We don’t need to. You can do it. I can do it. He could do we validated that for everybody. Oh, my goodness, he can do anyway. I want to say it’s an honor to be here. You guys. I’ve been listening to your podcast for a while now. And I think you’re doing some great work. And it’s very much appreciated. You reached out to me after a story I shared on air a couple of weeks ago about COVID crashing? Yes. COVID crashing? Yeah. My. So I’m an alcoholic. sober for two and a half years now. But having some issues over the last I did a couple of weeks ago. I shared that on the show. And then you guys reached out. Yes. And I was appreciative of that. So it’s good to be here.


Nicki Kirlin  02:00

Thank you. We are so honored that you agreed. honored. Yeah, that’s a that’s excessive word.


Jenna Fortinski  02:06

It’s so Oh, we were so excited. Yeah. When you responded to us, we were just over the moon.


Matt O  02:12

Oh, thank you. No, I’m just a hockey dad in Calgary doing his best to get by. Yes. At the end of the day. Yeah.



That’s awesome.


Nicki Kirlin  02:20

We’re Yeah, we’re just so excited that you’re here with us. And we think that you’re hilarious. Yeah. So this now I’m setting it up a little bit. Yeah. So let’s, let’s,


Matt O  02:29

let’s get this thing up. Okay. First, I have some questions. Okay. I have answers. greatest singer of all time. Johnny Cash. Okay. Get that order. Okay. Greatest song of all time. God’s gonna cut you down Johnny Cash. Okay. Can I do too? Yeah, I guess I’m walking barefoot. You too. Okay.


Nicki Kirlin  02:52

Okay, so then my question is what what makes Bonnell the greatest singer of all time,


Matt O  02:56

I think he. I think YouTube’s lyrics are reflective. I think they’re empathetic. And they’re just magnificent. And just personally, that’s what I grew up on. And to this day, enjoy them. I tried to teach my kids that this is what you should listen to. However, they say no, that’s stupid. Because I want to listen to rap nation. And then so as I was trying to go to bed the other night. Okay. And I’m trying to go to sleep. Yeah. I just moved into a new place. Yeah. And his show I have a 13 year old, I don’t know, how old is like, What’s his name? So Liam’s 15 and 12 year old as well. So I just moved into a new place. And the the 15 year old has one of those speakers that you guys are younger than I am. What are they called? Like? Old like, beats like, yeah, hangs it on the shower, and he’s listening to rap music. And he’s singing things that I’m like, Oh, my God, you can’t use Do you do that at mom’s house? Because those words should not be coming out of your mouth. And then it reminded me when I was a kid, if I was listening to Judas Priest or my kids, or my parents thought it was a Satan was


Nicki Kirlin  04:14

worse. Yes.


Matt O  04:15

Yeah. So yeah, we have to have that conversation. Yeah. So I can’t get him into YouTube. or hip.



God really?


Matt O  04:24

Well, I’m trying to I know, that’s my goal in life, right.


Jenna Fortinski  04:28

It’s such a chore. Yeah.


Matt O  04:31

Stupid. There’s an expletive in front of it. So so we have to have this conversation.


Nicki Kirlin  04:41

Okay, I have to I have to ask your opinion on on one other thing. Because I’m a diehard Elvis Presley fan. Okay, so what like what what do you think of them? Do you like his music? Well, I find it very concerning when he like moves his pelvis. Do you find it a thing?


Matt O  05:00

Cuz I was watching, I was watching the television show just the other day just the other day. And I’m glad that they move the camera up so they didn’t show his his waist down because I think that’s concerning for the kids.


Matt O  05:14

It does awful nasty. It does. Yeah, yeah, it makes you uncomfortable. Yeah.


Matt O  05:23

Oh god. It’s just my kids get in the car and one of them says, like hits the rock nation. I said no. Why don’t you say drag it six nine. No, cuz that sucks. Do I want to hear Steve Miller?



I like to fly like an eagle. Yeah. Okay, now let me have that settle.


Matt O  05:49

Yes, right. Yeah, those. These are the most societal, yes. important issues of our time.


Nicki Kirlin  05:55

Right, exactly. So we’re gonna dive right in to the issues. Yeah. The issues. The interesting part of the conversation. Here’s what I’m excited about.


Matt O  06:07

Is that I’m sitting in a in a studio in office for an hour. Yeah. With psychologists. And I don’t have to leave and go to the front desk. Yes. And pay $300. Which I do every week. Oh, you’re saying oh, maybe I do. Yeah, we forgot to. That was in the fine print. The agreement was a taxing I’m here. So I’m not sure that’s legally binding?



To be discussed. Exactly.


Nicki Kirlin  06:43

Okay, so you mentioned when we started off that you have had some struggles with alcoholism. So do you want maybe more than some? Do you want to share with us a little bit about your journey? What like, what,


Jenna Fortinski  06:57



Nicki Kirlin  06:59

what is your journey look like?


Matt O  07:00

What is my journey look like? Well, I’m definitely an alcoholic. sober for two and a half years now. But it’s been definitely as you suggested the word journey Very much so. So I’m a radio show host have been since like, for 30 years now. Yeah. So I started off in Ontario, and did small markets and worked my way up and ended up doing a morning show in Toronto by 30 years of age, which was somewhat unprecedented. And I ended up doing well. then moved to Calgary when I was 2000. In 2000. Okay. And it not only alcoholism, but mental health. I know you guys are fantastic. And I think it should be appreciative that you guys talk about that ever since I was a kid. I’ve had issues with that. Then that many years ago, it was tough to put your finger on the voices in your head. Right? That that suggests you’re an awful person, right? And that’s what they said to me. But at the same time, I grew up in a fantastic household. I have two younger brothers, I got to teach her to lawyer as a brother back in Peterborough, Ontario. I have wonderful parents. And so I grew up in a great household. But I was always shy as a kid. very shy and very. Yes, really, you really, here’s so let me get to the Yeah, I was very shy and very concerned about people’s opinion of me. Yeah. So dealt with that. And as I got into high school, I found a way to make people laugh. And that sort of covered. Yes. Maybe my true self. Does this make sense? I’m talking to a psychologist. So I found a way to cover that my insecurities. And you know, I found myself doing stand up comedy, found myself getting into radio and do quite well at it. And then as time went on my mental concerns at the same time would be I covered them up with alcoholism. And maybe you can tell me this as a as a psychologist, which comes first. I think that’s the I think that’s a great question, which comes first alcoholism or mental illness? Because my parents have recently told me that they both run in in our family. Okay. So one exasperates the other at some point? Yes. So what comes first?


Jenna Fortinski  09:31

I think it’s a chicken and egg question. Yes, it definitely right, is that there is no you know, Wonder anything with mental health is that there is no one path, right? And there is no one definite answer. So I think what’s important is your understanding of what’s happened for you.


Matt O  09:48

And yeah, and as I go through this, and talking to professionals and I do a meetings and psychologists so those those two different facets of one’s mind you They coalesce. Yeah. And you have to identify them and figure out how to how to deal with them. So yeah, moved to Calgary in 2000. had their mind Eric show for quite some time. And then then, but four years ago, we were told our contract was was up. And they can’t they said to us, they said, okay, you were gonna keep paying your salary. But you can’t work anywhere. Oh, called a non compete clause. So if you’re getting paid a lot of money, yes. Just sit at home. When it first happened. I’m like, Oh my god, this is gonna be awesome. I can golf every day and make a shitload of cash. Yes. greatest thing ever. Within fall comes? Yes. And you’re drinking vodka watching Netflix at 9am as soon as you’ve taken the kids to school, and it just devolved into a place where it was awful. Yeah, it was awful. I mean, a beautiful wife, Paige. Great kids leaving back. And it was a great. It was just a great life. Yeah. And then that happened. Yeah. And then you cut you have competing voices in your head. And yeah, so ended up doing stuff that I should not have. Right. And, you know, when you when kids start finding bottles, places or your wife starts finding bottle places, and you’re like, it wasn’t me. There’s like, it’s not the 10 year old. Maybe Smirnoff anywhere. Maybe it was the past homeowners. And we built this home, you idiot. So there’s one day I guess what, five, four years ago? There’s one day I DS. My kids are great hockey players. Yes. And there was one day, four years ago was about to take Liam to hockey and page game all at the same time. And he looked at he looked at page and he goes, Mom, I don’t I don’t think dad should drive me to hockey today. Oh, my God. And I broke down. And 48 hours I was on a plane to Cranbrook to go to rehab. Wow. And it’s kind of funny. Like for the prior to that our screensaver on the computer was rehab places Really? Which I think looking back very clever. Yeah. But nuts. But not so understated. As an alcoholic, you keep thinking. So this was going on for a couple years. So yeah, we have all that free time. Yeah. And you know, in your head, that you probably have a dependency prior to that. But when you have that free time, that’s, that’s the worst part. Yeah. So so we’re just as I said, devolved. So I was at a plane to, to Cranbrook and went to it’s called Top of the World, Top of the World Ranch, which was fantastic. I would highly recommend it as a vacation place.



So that was gonna be


Nicki Kirlin  13:19

an ideal vacation.


Matt O  13:21

Like there’s chefs, there’s horseback riding, there’s a yoga if it weren’t for the fact that you’re an alcoholic. It’s like sandals. I look back and think it’s not like down on 11th Avenue where you go for 30 days. So I’m, in all honesty, I think I’m fortunate that I had the means yes. Yeah. Do you know what I mean? That’s the means. And yeah, it was it was great. I can’t I can’t give praise to them enough. I mean, great counselors, great environment. And, and the tools were fantastic. It was very holistic. And also the the base of there was there was indigenous peoples. There is like, elder, there’s elder, the others an elder there that sort of ran the place their sweat lodges. But they spent like eight hours hitting. So there’s walkabouts and, and fasting Yeah. So it taught me a lot.


Jenna Fortinski  14:30

So the question was, is does going to treatment look like what they show you in the movies that you’re like, I got


Matt O  14:36

one. I’m sure they’re all different. I mean that that’s my only experience. Yeah. And I’m gonna fast forward. It. It worked. Okay. But then I relapsed. Yes.


Jenna Fortinski  14:46



Nicki Kirlin  14:48

Can I back up for just one second? Because there’s a question that I want to ask about. So what led you up to kind of going to treatment that Time to Cranbrook because you said that your son had made that comment about not you not driving him to the hockey, right? Yeah. Did you know prior to him saying that? Yes, there was something wrong. Oh, Mike. Definitely. Yeah. Okay.


Matt O  15:15

And so yeah, because you have those. You have those competing voices in your head. And if you’re told every day, and this is just advice to anybody who has somebody in their life that you suspect or know, not suspect, let’s be honest, who know we’re drinking too much. Yeah. Don’t just say stop drinking.


Jenna Fortinski  15:33



Matt O  15:33

Yeah. Yeah. Because it’s hard to explain. As an alcoholic. The necessity


Jenna Fortinski  15:39

Yeah, right.


Matt O  15:42

To drink. It’s, it’s a physical dependency. And I, to this day, can’t explain why it is. But even to this day, I still have that want. Yes. But you have to find triggers or inspirations? Or powers beyond you. To not drink, right. And my, to this day, I do that, and I’ve I’ve been failing. I’ve been finding it actually difficult to over the last couple of months drink COVID. But at that time, yeah, my inspiration to stop drinking was the kids they would often say dad’s acting, acting weird again. And I be found passed out. Goodness. Wow. And I would look at the kids and I’d cry, I’d be upset. And this is amidst a good life. Yeah. Do you read me? I mean, you’re living in suburbia, and everything’s great and blah, blah, blah. But there’s that one. There’s that that physical need, and you can’t explain why it is and you try to tell people. I’m gonna quit my, okay. I’m getting hammered this weekend. But Monday. Monday is the day. Monday I’m gonna stop drinking. Guess what? Monday never comes. Yeah. until something triggers you to say okay, so yeah. So I went to, to rehab, and I cannot if someone out there right now listening is going through this rehab is definitely wonderful. Yeah. needed. Yeah. And great. Fantastic. But then you do relapse? Yeah. And if I can tell a quick story about Yes, please do. So while I was at rehab, I fell in with a guy named Nick. Nick became my best friend, Nick, Nick and I he was an early riser. He was a he’s a Canadian veteran, late 20s served in Afghanistan, and he was there on opioid addiction. And he and I would meet at the lodge at 5am. Every morning, start the fire make each other hot chocolate. And as I look back, you think about all of your best friends in life. Yeah. And with the amount of hours you’ve spent with him. When you think about the fact that I spent 24 hours a day with Nick. He’s like my housemates in a cabin. Yeah, he spent all day together go to counseling together. You are walkabouts together. You do all this. I just love him dearly. And so yeah, so you have 45 days together. Yeah. And it was it was awesome. love him dearly. So. So after got out of rehab got home. The problem was that I still didn’t have a job to come home to. So there’s still all that free time. Now. I did great for two months. Yeah, I was. I was doing a following the plan that they taught me. Then I got a call from from the resort. I’m sorry, not the resort. I didn’t even I didn’t even Yeah. And it was it. Was Bell dead. Oh my god. in a motel room. Oh my god. No. Why would I lie? Oh my God, that’s awful. sewage overdosed. Oh my god. So I decided, Okay, I get up. So they. So the rehab center decided to have a memorial. That’s what I’m looking for and have a sweat lodge in his honor. And so I decided, Okay, I’ve got on a plane flew out. Spent 48 hours there just to celebrate his life. And I was asked to talk about him, because I don’t know if you understand this, but I talked a lot while I was there, so they thought I would be a good person to to give a memorial. Yeah. And I look back and listen thing how counterintuitive is this? What do you think I did when I got back? Oh gosh. Of


Jenna Fortinski  19:57

course. I relapse Yes.


Matt O  20:02

I’m so stupid. And then, and then a couple of months after that. My wife at the time and the kids had a vacation that went off for three days, etc, etc. Knock on the door. And I was served with divorce papers. So what do you think I did that?


Jenna Fortinski  20:28

Yeah, of course.


Matt O  20:30

Yeah, it’s just but it’s it’s so and this is a college. Tell me this. How stupid is that? So you want your drink being provoked by issues that made you drink in those of the problems? No, it’s a question for you. Why are you just looking at me?


Jenna Fortinski  20:52

I’m waiting for you to finish actually.


Matt O  20:53

Anyway, so. So yeah, so so that happened, then I found myself living in a condo in Auburn Bay. And things are just shitty. shitty. Yeah. But here’s what made me stop drinking. And this sounds so wanting to gain the respect of my children and regain that and appreciation and trust was a guiding force, but he’s still relaxed. Here’s the oddest one is that I got a call from my mom one night. My parents. They’re older, like my dad’s 90. Wow, mom’s 85. And this is three, three years ago. Right? So I got a call. And mom is on the phone crying because she had talked to a two page wife at the time. And he was in trouble. Yeah. And just as a concerned mother, I think a wonderful loving Yeah, Aaron beautiful. Human. And what made me quit drinking. Yeah, was in my head. Cuz you need these triggers to make you stop drinking. And I thought, Oh, my God, I cannot have them die. Having let them down? Oh, I can’t have them pass away thinking. I failed them somehow. And hadn’t drank since. Wow. So I keep up with me. They really keep up with my God. Psychology, or what’s the word I’m looking for? Yeah. counseling. Yeah, counseling. And I have a sponsor, I have a best friend Chad, who’s gone through this. And just the combination of these things. And then so I got sober. Two months later, I get a call from from Rogers. JACK FM. Hey, our ratings are down. I hear you’re clean. Do you mind coming back? Wow. And then three years later, or two and a half years later? Here we are. Beautiful. In a beautiful room with a big sign that says the best is yet to go. And how true it is? how true it is. to come? Yeah,


Jenna Fortinski  23:04

here you are talking about your story. Yeah. And was that a boring story? No. My story. No. It’s so interesting to me. And I don’t like I want to pick your brain about it. Because I because you you kept saying like what a stupid choice or how stupid is that? And, like, it sounds like it’s coming from a place of that it was a choice. It’s sometimes not a choice. That’s right. Yes.


Matt O  23:37

I found myself. I think three weeks ago during this COVID. And I think people are having to deal with a lot of COVID breakdowns. It was so my current situation. It’s great. Yeah. Two different households. I can hate that. Because I grew up in a great, great family. I got married. Beautiful, smart, wonderful women. Two great kids. I know that this is never gonna happen to me yet. Here you are. Yeah. So there’s that period during the the problems. And he’s beat yourself up. Yeah. So now today I find myself okay. This is who it is. Yeah. And everybody gets along. There’s nothing ugly. Everybody sees each other every day. Because we got kids playing hockey every day together. Oh, it’s Yeah. So we just, it’s just it’s friggin Yeah, like as we speak right now. I have to go to page. I have to go to the matrimonial home. I believe it’s called. so wonderful. So there’s the intersection. I mean, like a pick up like I was saying, Oh, yeah. So during COVID there was over the last month there was some periods. So in normal times, I pick up the kids every day from school, take them to an arena. So you have that time to look as if you’re an alcoholic. listening right now, you know, you need freaking structure. You need full time stuff. So drink COVID during those weeks, right did not have the kids and did not have to pick them up from school or take them to hockey. I found myself wandering around my house with those voices saying that shit that I used to hear earlier on when I did when I had full time stuff going on. And then the other night the countering voice saying, well, Matthew, you know how to solve this. Just go to the store, buy a bottle of vodka. Nobody’s gonna know. No one sees you right now. And I found myself sitting on the bathroom floor of my kids washroom couple of weeks ago, with my knees. With my head and my knees, arms wrapped around it bawling for an hour. Oh my god. And I thought, Okay. And I just started thinking back to Okay, think about your parents. Think about your kids. Think about your contacts. Yeah. And I thought my parents. Wow. They said, You know what? just just just mom just talk to me. Yeah, it’s hard to tell the story. Because as an alcoholic you there’s a there’s a point in it when you just want to drink? Yes. Because you know, it’s gonna take away pain. Yeah, of course. But if you if you find something else to think about, it can pass. It passes within 10 minutes if you have a different stimuli. Yeah. So that’s what we did. Yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  26:38

Yeah. And I think like, for me, the most important thing is that, you know that that really deep understanding that there is a certain point where it is a choice, but then there is a point a bigger point where it’s not a choice, right? And that’s why it’s mental health. That’s why it’s an addiction, right? Is that because if you had the choice, you would have not gone where you went in the first place. Right? And we wouldn’t have jumped as far and as as you did, right. It’s,


Matt O  27:05

that’s true, because I’m fascinated. You mentioned that I often say I’m an idiot, I’m probably not you’re not. But but so you look back on the bad choices you made course. And you think, Well, why did I do that? So I think at that point, you’re like, Okay, maybe it’s not completely intellectual.


Nicki Kirlin  27:24

And you were even saying before, about how you had that sensation that like that physical want, right, like, and that’s something that you can’t


Jenna Fortinski  27:31

just shut off? Yeah. Right. That’s


Nicki Kirlin  27:34

something that was coming from you, that you you can’t control. Yeah. Right.


Jenna Fortinski  27:38

So that’s, you know, and it’s important for people to know that are struggling, right. And for, you know, people that are around people that are struggling, because there is a little bit of a misconception that, you know, like, why is you know, Dad choosing to do this? Why is mom choosing to do this? You know, why? Why does my brother keep choosing, you know, drugs over me or choosing alcohol over me, whatever it is, it’s not really a choice, right? It’s mental health, it’s addiction. It’s out of your control, because we are all good people. And we would never purposely choose to hurt the people that we love the most like that. Right?


Matt O  28:15

And if people are listening, and they’re suffering from alcoholism, they think, well, I’m never gonna get out of this or regain the respect of my kids. Here’s what’s happened lately, which makes me helps me not drink. The kids the trust is we gained the respect is regained the oppressions appreciation of driving them to frickin hockey every day, is regained listening to rap nation. And they’re and they’re getting to the age where they’re 14 and 12. Now, and they’re actually saying things that make me well up. They’ll come home and from watching, just getting into situations where alcohol is involved. And one of them said the other day, I’m proud of you. Oh, my God. Because they remember what it was. It was really a couple of years of horrendous Yeah, like 40 ounces a day. Oh, my God.


Jenna Fortinski  29:11

Oh, my God.


Matt O  29:12

And they remember that. And, and now they’re, they’re, they’re saying, I’m proud of you. Yeah. What’s that like for you? It’s just hard. It’s, it’s just everything. It makes me get up the next morning and get back to work. Yeah. Yeah. And, and look forward to, to every moment with him, and knowing I’m probably gonna live longer. That’s right. Today, then I probably would have lived in the same situation three years ago.


Jenna Fortinski  29:42

And again, just another beautiful coping strategy, right, that when you are in those moments where you’re on the floor, you know, head between your knees is to remember to hear those words, right? To hear those words and to say this is why I keep pushing through, right and this is why I’m choosing to stay on the path and a mountain rain and good on you for for doing that in


Nicki Kirlin  30:04

these times he is I mean, like anybody it like we’re all faced with such a great challenge right now in living through this pandemic. And that, you know, it’s unlike anything we’ve ever experienced in our lifetime. So we don’t have the skills to know how to cope with that. So the fact that you have to have these other coping skills on top of other coping skills to just get through this pandemic pieces is


Matt O  30:30

going into an alcohol alcoholism aside, going into COVID. I was excited. This is gonna be awesome. For the first few months, I was like, This is the greatest thing that’s ever happened. I don’t have to go and deal with people. I can just say, yes. It was great. Yes, yeah. But then, at some point, it’s not so great. But I’m glad we’re coming out of it now.


Jenna Fortinski  31:02

Yeah. And I really think like the whole COVID thing was, and is continues to be a recipe for disaster for those that are suffering with addictions, right? Because it is the perfect storm. Perfect Storm, right? And just like what you talked about that day, and the reason why we asked you to come on, as I like you said exactly what’s happening for the people that are struggling, right, is that it would be so much easier to just go to the store. Oh,


Matt O  31:28

my house. Nobody’s gonna know. Anybody. I can just buy a bottle of vodka. solve all my problems that are currently going on in my head right now


Jenna Fortinski  31:40

for the minute.


Matt O  31:43

You think about? No, because I know that. It’s gonna keep going. Yeah, of course. And then that’s going to just be a shitstorm. Yeah. In my life job. Yeah. Children. Yes. Friends. Yeah. Yeah. You have to be like, I know, you talked about it’s not an intellectual choice. Not to drink. But there is a, you do have to be smart.


Jenna Fortinski  32:10

You have to put effort in to not drink because it is an automatic response. Yeah. Right. So you have to beat that automatic response. And that’s where like, the choice factor comes in is that it’s it’s not a choice to drink. It’s a choice to battle. The want to drink. Right? I have to make that choice to battle it. Right. And that’s what it’s about. And that’s so hard to do, because the natural tendency is to just drink. Right?


Matt O  32:36

So give us a quick funny story. Yeah, because I was thinking about my friend, Nick. Yeah. Tell us just sort of some levity. Yeah, cuz I loved him. Yeah. dearly. Our greatest joy. Yeah. So in the in the lodge, there’s a lot of games. Yeah. One of them being Jenga? Yeah. It’s again, it’s a fun game. It’s a while since I played it. This is this is this is gonna sound horrible. Yeah. But I look back on it and laugh. Oh, are you ready?



Oh, God. I don’t know.


Matt O  33:13

Exactly. Yes. Yes. So whenever new clients would come. we’d invite them to play Jenga. Of course. There’s nothing funnier than watching somebody in detail. To play Jenga?



Definitely. I’m glad you



come in.


Matt O  33:53

from West van. Play Jenga. shaking like Elvis Presley.


Jenna Fortinski  34:07

Every time didn’t you? Yeah. All right, what’s next? Okay. Yeah, that’s what I want to know. So,


Nicki Kirlin  34:20

you mentioned a few things that were sort of really important to your success and to your sobriety. Is there one thing that has been like the key for you to maintain your sobriety, or is it a combination of things?


Matt O  34:35

It’s it’s finding things to fill that 10 minutes. Okay.


Nicki Kirlin  34:45



Matt O  34:46

Like I can say, like, you know, it’s thinking about the kids versus thinking about my parents, or thinking about keeping my job. Those are great. Yeah. And they do the job. 24 hours a day, not to drink. Yeah, we’re almost times where you’re like, Okay, I really need a drink. Yeah. You got to do something else. Yeah. Yeah. You just have to find a hot you have to find. So I do the show every day. Yeah. And then before COVID I go to the why I do laps that I’ve been a meeting good that I pick up kids to go to hockey arenas. It’s structure. That’s what it is. Because Yeah, just to take your mind off that want. It’s just finding something to do. Yeah, it’s going for and drink COVID I’m saying that’s why I’ve been struggling. Yeah. Just go for a walk. Yeah. Point somebody. Yeah. Find a project. Yeah. Find a hobby. Yeah. Because those those. Those 10 minutes pass. Yeah. Right. And then you’re back to where you were. Yeah. Prayer. Yeah.


Nicki Kirlin  35:56

Are there certain things for you, in your experience that are that are triggering for you to say? Like, I like? Like, that’s when you need your drink? Like, are there certain things in the day that you experience? Or is it just a sensation?


Matt O  36:09

It’s free time? Oh, yeah. A lot of people talk about triggers being being at a bar. Right. Right. Or being able to drinking? I haven’t found that yet. Like I can meet friends for lunch. Yeah. And have a coke. Right. That’s, that’s not a trigger for me. I recognize I’ve talked to people that there are triggers around people that drink Yes. For me. Not the case.


Jenna Fortinski  36:31

Yeah, interesting.


Matt O  36:32

Not the case at all. I can sit around for people. I mean, YouTube right now we’re doing shots of jack daniels. And I’m not Yeah, I’m not triggered.


Matt O  36:49

As individuals be real in regular things, or alcoholics, everybody’s are individuals. So yeah, for me, that’s not there’s no, there’s no real triggers outside of free time.


Nicki Kirlin  37:02

Okay. But I’m glad that you shared that though. Because I think like there are misconceptions of what alcoholism looks like and what it looks like for a person to be living, you know, sober life and all of these pieces. So I’m glad that you’re sharing your experience of what? Yeah, of how you you deal with it. I


Jenna Fortinski  37:18

think that’s fantastic. So, in my practice, I’ve worked with people that are still practicing. Yeah, yeah, of course. Oh, my gosh, I’ll never be a pro. Never. We’re always learning. So working with people that are struggling with alcoholism, comment that I often hear is, how could I ever live the rest of my life without having another drink? Is that what I really have to do to get over?


Matt O  37:47

He’s gonna turn that upside down. How can you live a life? By having a drink? If you recognize that life really fucking sucks? Yeah. And cause problems when you’re drinking. So yeah, I hear people say that, like, Oh, my God, I can’t go through life without a drink. Well, don’t you remember? what it was like when you were drinking? So I wake up in the morning, and think, well, this is going to be a great day. Because I’m not drinking. And I gotta watch my kids graduate, and they’re gonna love me while I’m there. So how can I not? How can I drink? And it was manifesting in that. It’s, it’s tough, because the physic physically like, yeah, I want to drink. But then mentally, you have to realize what the circumstances are. If you decide to drink because I know if I have a drink, then there’s gonna be 1000 1000 of them. Yeah.


Jenna Fortinski  38:48

Yeah. Yeah, it’s so interesting, right? Because that’s always that’s always the one of the first conversations we have, right is that well, all my friends drink? And I What am I supposed to say to everybody that I can’t have


Matt O  38:59

a drink? Oh, just say, Oh my god, here’s what I learned. Here’s what I think of the shit. Here’s what I learned. Is that because if I’m at a hockey tournament, you know, or at the bar, and somebody says, Come on, have a drink. No, I can’t. Yeah. And, and people are like, oh, they’re gonna judge me that I can’t really give a shit. Cuz if you guys wrote last weekend, and you look at here, we’re looking like that for the bar last weekend, and you were really hung over? And somebody said, Have a drink? And he said, No, I don’t want to drink. They’re not judging you. So if an alcoholic says I don’t want to drink, you don’t have to explain it. And they don’t care.


Jenna Fortinski  39:51

And I guess the reality is, is that people really do not care, right? Because we live in a society where people are really just concerned about what’s going on with that. Right. And so okay, if you say no, okay, great. Like, I’m more for me, right or whatever. Right? Like, yeah, like it and people. I think when people are struggling with addiction there is, you know, like a microscope on what is everybody going to think? Right? And so much pressure that Buddha society where it’s also it’s all about us.


Matt O  40:21

Like, why do people care about? Yeah, what they think nobody actually cares. Get it through your head. It’s not about you. I don’t want to drink is it’s Yeah, they don’t give a shit.


Jenna Fortinski  40:35

I know I know. But it’s Yeah, it’s it’s a it’s such a battle for people and but the reality is is that you know to walk a good path in life if you are struggling with an addiction is that Yeah, you know, the rest of your life does look like no alcohol, right? Or whatever substance you’re using. Right is that’s how we get to where we need to be. Right.


Nicki Kirlin  40:57

So if you could give yourself past self one piece of advice, prior to starting your journey to sobriety, what would it have been?


Matt O  41:12

focus on the things in life that make you happy, that don’t involve alcohol. When I fell into alcoholism, there was so many great things in my life. There was like you, you guys are psychologists. So you can tell me what was that? Was I born an alcoholic? Because when I fell into alcoholism, life was so great. It is right now. Yeah, but there was a couple years where it wasn’t. So if I would talk to myself if I knew now what I know. How’s that song? Go? Yeah. If I


Matt O  41:57

would tell myself, embrace playing basketball with your kids. And don’t go into the backyard and sneak a drink in and try to hide it from them. Because that didn’t give you as much joy as playing 21 and beating their ass. And if it did, it really did.


Nicki Kirlin  42:18

Yeah. Yeah, that’s Yeah, no, that makes the whole whole world of sense to me, honestly.


Jenna Fortinski  42:25

Yeah. So you said in the beginning, if we know somebody that’s struggling with an addiction with alcohol specifically, and you tell them, stop it, don’t drink, it’s probably not gonna work. It’s not gonna work. Because I was told that every day. So what should we say? What do we what are those? What do people do with alcoholism? What do they need to hear? Or what can we do?


Matt O  42:54

Just sit down and be honest and say, I love you. I know you have a problem. Let’s deal with this together. Let’s find the tools. Let’s find ways. And it may take some time. And this is gonna sound weird, but okay, you’re probably going to keep drinking for a little while. But let’s get you off that. Not just stop drinking rose. That doesn’t work. Because when you I remember when I got back from rehab, and the eyes are always on you. And so the pressure and especially if you’re dealing with mental health, drag, oh my god, but the pressure is such that I’ve got to toe the line. Okay, I’ve got to be focused. I got to do this. But it’s just not healthy. So if you’re with somebody in your life, who you think is, is drinking too much, and you want them to quit, just tell them listen. I know you’re drinking too much. Let’s work together. on cutting it back. You don’t listen. How about you have one glass of wine tonight? because trust me that it gives one pause like okay, yeah, okay, if I can have one class tonight, instead of just nothing, because if you just hold nothing, you’re like, Oh, my God, I’m just gonna fill myself. Yeah. I don’t know if that makes sense. I’ve never actually articulated this, this before. But yeah, just be there, be present. And say, we have an issue together. Let’s figure it out. Let’s slow down. And we’ll get to a place where you’re not drinking.


Jenna Fortinski  44:43

And that’s beautiful. And I think like, you know, in the clients that I’ve worked with, and what I know to be true of, you know, alcoholism and addiction just through studying, not experience but what the books say. Right? I think it is it’s recognizing that it’s not Just one person’s problem, right is that you know, is there is a community element that is as helpful. And, and you know, and just walking that journey with the people that you love is is so important. And I think that also there is an element of there’s only so much you can do as an outsider is that a lot of it has to come from the person that’s in it. Oh, right.


Matt O  45:22

Definitely. There’s there’s no fault but yeah, oneself. Yeah. What if the person you’re with what’s health? longevity? Love. appreciation respect. Yeah. There’s a lot they can do. They can just listen. Yeah. Like, I wish I was asked. Get Why are you? What are the other issues? I’ve never really talked about mental health during this period. Yeah. I mean, that’s sort of been. So yeah, I think I know people listening to your podcast, are coming here for a reason. Yeah. Be honest. If you have concerns if you have voices, yeah,


Jenna Fortinski  46:02



Matt O  46:04

Yeah, I think that’s, that’s important. It’s open. It’s honest. And I think the transparency lately is a little more accepted.


Nicki Kirlin  46:13

Yes, absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, I think so. For sure. I think we’re making gains in that area. We still have some work to do, because I think there’s still that. Yeah, that stigma is still out there. But I think I feel like we’re, we’re on a better path. I have one last question for you. And here’s YouTube. On jack. I’m sorry. I was for a second. I was talking to him like a podcast. Are those listening? Yeah. Why has it been important for you to share your story? Yes.


Matt O  46:54

I think it’s all important. I have a voice. Yeah. It sounds like I have friends who have these issues. I’ve met people who have these issues. And I’ve over the last couple of years, I’ve been texted and asked how do I pay? How do I do this? Yeah, right. Yeah. How to do this. And then I realized, well, holy shit up a couple of 100,000 listeners, right. Yeah. So why not be honest. And in today’s society, as the as you mentioned, the stigma today, the stigma is fading away. Yeah. So maybe I can help. Yeah, I’m saying, you know, thank you. I say, let’s say back in the day, I’d like you to get on the air and say, Oh, my God, I was an alcoholic, and I’m depressed. And I was laying on the bathroom floor. I wouldn’t have said that. 10 years ago. Yeah. I don’t mind saying it today is when you person. I mean, I used to talk about fart jokes, and getting a little bit cowboys. What? in the world where there’s more, there’s more honesty. And there’s more people coming out and saying, Yeah, I got issues. Yeah. So in that I have a microphone. Yeah. Why not just share that. And maybe someone can say, Oh, me too. Yeah. That’s about Yeah, I gotta go see john.


Nicki Kirlin  48:28

Yeah, yeah. Oh, yeah. No, that’s fantastic. And thank you so much, honestly. Yes. For for using your voice for great reason and for sharing your story. The invite. Oh, no, it’s Yeah, it’s been awesome. having you join us.


Matt O  48:42

I gotta get back to whitefish. I mean, Cranston? Yeah. It is from here. Like, I just stopped for lunch. Just to get home. It’s a good thing. Jenna. is giving you some lunch? Yeah.


Matt O  49:00

They have a green room. Yeah. What are you gonna do? I’m gonna make a bunch of sandwiches. And then we’re gonna pick up one kid at an arena. Yeah, another kid at a school was playing basketball. And I’m gonna feed them good. Thanks to you guys. See, excellent. What’s up, guys?


Jenna Fortinski  49:16

Thank you so much. We appreciate it. As always, we will close this episode with a quote. Yes, a quote. Yeah. relevant to what? What is your favorite quote that you live your life by? I have to come up with this off the top my head? Absolutely. We this was not pre planned at all.


Matt O  49:38

There was a great a great philosopher. Yeah, he is passed. Okay. His name was George Carlin,


Jenna Fortinski  49:48

one of the greats one of the



than George George Carlin in that order in that he was before


Matt O  50:00

I got to remember this one. You can get the monkey off your back. That doesn’t mean the circus is left town.


Jenna Fortinski  50:07

Love it. Perfect. Thank you