A Madison man’s journey from drug addict to Ivy League education

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Matt Norman beats drug addiction and chases his dreams

When Matt Norman looks at his acceptance letter to Columbia University, he is still filled with the same emotions he felt the first time he opened it on October 1st. 

“It was bizarre for me because two years ago I was shooting heroin and then that day, I was accepted into an Ivy League school,” he said.

Matt graduated from His Way, an addiction recovery program for men, this past March — after doing drugs for 20 years. It was his second time through the program.

“I was on opiates at the time,” explained Matt. “It was OxyContin. When I relapsed the second time I went back to heroin.” 

Matt said he did the year program twice at His Way.

“The first time I relapsed afterwards and came back three months later, and I’ve been here about two years now since I came back that second time.”

Matt now works at His Way as a house and resident manager, where he is helping others on the path to recovery. He said he definitely wouldn’t have been able to get to where he is now — headed for Columbia — without His Way.

“I was very grateful because His Way was one of the biggest mechanisms in my life for doing that,” said Matt. “I wouldn’t have been able to do it without it. In fact, it was the biggest thing.”

Going through the recovery program, he said he discovered how much he enjoyed going to class and learning. That’s where he says the dream to continue his education began to stir, so he started taking classes at Calhoun and the at UAH. Over the summer, he applied for and attended a writer’s workshop at Yale University. He attributes his ability to start dreaming again and go after his dreams to a key moment his second time in the program at His Way.

“I realized this freedom that I had in sobriety and in Jesus and that I could do anything in the world that I wanted and I really started to believe that,” he said. “I understand that I probably can’t be president. I have a record, but I can do most things I put my mind to. And I realized that was true.”

Matt’s goal is to become a professor, and he also intends to continue helping others battling addiction.

“I would love to combine professional life with my personal passions of service — specifically serving the drug community,” Matt said.

There is a Gofundme to help Matt raise money for tuition at Columbia. Click on Matt’s Gofundme to support him and read more about him and his journey.

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