Matthew's Memory: Mother opens up about son's battle that cost him his life

By JAMIE PATTERSON,

The tears begin to fill in her eyes as Judy Ables listens to the voice of her late son over a voicemail recording.

The pain inside the shaky voice of the 27-year-old is evident as he apologizes to his mother for causing her heartache and vows to become the son she deserves. In closing, he tells her that he loves her and hopes that she will pick him up for church the next morning. 

Not long after he left his mother that voicemail, he would die from a drug overdose.

His name was Matthew Ables. He was a son, a grandson and friend. He was smart and had a great sense of humor that helped him make friends easily.

He was also an addict. 

“The addiction is completely in control,” Judy said, looking over photographs of her son. “You are not dealing with your child anymore. You are dealing with an addict. But at the end of the day, he was my child, my son.”

“...you put your 

pride to the side.”

Judy is stepping forward to share the story and struggle of her son Matthew, whose addiction cost him his life. She hopes to bring awareness to the growing abuse of the drug Fentanyl, which has become an epidemic within the Yazoo community.  

“When it’s your child, you put your pride to the side,” Judy said, looking over a journal she has kept through this ordeal. 

From abusing alcohol to popping pain pills to eating morphine patches, Matthew’s story puts a face to a problem that continues to escalate...even in small town Yazoo. 

Judy said she has always heard about the effects of drug abuse happening to other families in other towns. She never thought she would experience it firsthand. 

“I entered a world foreign to me,” she said. “It puts you up against the wall. Having an addict for a son is difficult, but he was still my child.”

Matthew died on his 27th birthday from a Fentanyl overdose. The drug is a potent, opioid pain medication used mostly on cancer patients. It is 50 to 100 times more potent than morphine.

And it was Matthew’s drug of choice.

Before Matthew became an addict he was a young boy who loved working outside. He was a caring friend who always wanted to be a part of the crowd. He was a devoted son and grandson who always offered a helping hand.

He was smart, kind and loyal. 

His name meant “a gift from God.” And he was a gift to all who knew him. 

A Team, a Family

Matthew was one of 38 students in his class at Manchester Academy. He finished third in his class and showed promise as he pushed ahead with his studies to become an optometrist. 

He was an Eagle Scout. 

He enjoyed playing football and being a part of a team...a team he treated like family. 

At six-feet-tall, he was larger than most other football players. But he loved his fellow athletes, and he loved the game. 

“We had to buy him special outfits and helmets cause he was so much bigger,” Judy said. “His helmet actually came from the New Orleans Saints.”

Freezing three water bottles for him, Judy was always ready to attend every game or practice. She enjoyed watching Matthew being happy, surrounded by his team. 

“He wanted to play so much,” Judy said. “He wanted to be a part of a team. These boys were a part of his team, and he loved them for it.”

Becoming an Addict

Matthew was upset when high school came to a close, and everyone went their separate ways. He stayed in contact with a few close friends, but the team he had grown to love was no more. 

It was time for college, careers, families, life to take over. 

Judy said she knows Matthew missed being a part of a team and the bonds he enjoyed with his childhood friends. But she isn’t sure when he started trying to fill that void with drugs. 

“I can’t figure out where he picked drugs up,” she said. “He wanted to fit in with a crowd so bad. Maybe that’s where it started.”

Judy admits she was an overprotective mother, often sheltering Matthew.  The drugs were something that somehow slipped past her.  

“Just saying my son is an addict..just saying it is hard,” she said. “You want to take care of your child, and you never want to say something is wrong with your child.”

Matthew had several close calls with other abusive substances. But he always slipped through the cracks when it came to the law and rehabilitation programs. 

“It’s amazing to me how much he skated by,” she said. “One thing led to another.”

Matthew also abused other things, including alcohol, sleeping pills and Xanax pills. 

But it was Fentanyl that became Matthew’s strongest addiction.

With the drug coming in the form of lollipops, pills or patches...Fentanyl is available in a variety of forms. 

“Matthew’s choice was the patch,” Judy said. “He would put it in his cheek and chew on it, almost like chewing gum.”

The Downward 

Spiral

Judy said she began to see the signs that Matthew’s life was beginning to take a turn. 

“He began to not care what he looked like,” Judy said. “He went to the bathroom a lot, was itching constantly. He was often nauseous and sleepy, drained of energy. It sucked the life out of him.”

Judy said Matthew became extremely anxious and tired. 

Fentanyl became Matthew’s life. He dropped out of college, began accumulating a high amount of debt. Within a few driving miles, he once spent nearly $1,000 on purchasing the drug. 

After he crashed his truck, over 90 patches of Fentanyl were discovered behind his seat. 

From random encounters with the law to several bouts of rehab, Matthew continued on his downward spiral.

“For eight months, Matthew was treated for depression, a suicide patient,” Judy said. “But I always said it was more than that. He was an addict, plain and simple.”

Judy said there are only a few facilities in the state that specifically handle Fentanyl addiction. It became increasingly difficult to get him the help he needed. 

Urine tests would show Matthew as being “clean.” But the truth was that Fentanyl can only be detected through the blood. 

But the help never seemed to work for Matthew. 

“I asked him why he did it,” Judy said, tearing up. “He told me, ‘Momma, it makes my mind quit thinking.’ It is so hard to hear your child say that.”

Matthew’s

Memory

After years of battling a drug habit, young Matthew died on his birthday last December. Judy said at least he passed with his Daddy by his side. 

“He didn’t die alone,” she said, crying. 

And then there was his funeral service.

“I wanted 12 pallbearers at his funeral because God walked with his 12 disciples,” Judy said. “Jesus was unable to spread the Word when he was crucified, but his disciples did. I told those pallbearers to use Matthew’s death as a way to spread the word of his struggle. My son was here to get them there. I told them to go out and tell others.”

Judy breaks down when she remembers the young friends who came to Matthew’s funeral. It was the same team he grew to love in high school.

“I wish he could have seen that love before he died,” Judy said. “Do not let this happen to your family. At his young age, this was the life he ended up with.”