Enders Island & the Edmundite Southern Missions
My name is Matthew Fiorillo, I have been a resident on Enders Island for over a year. My life before Enders was troublesome to say the least. I was a deadbeat father who sacrificed a relationship with my own daughter and family in order to get high. When looking back on my past some would ask if I wish to shut the door on it and forget it. Some even ask what my greatest regret is and to that I always say not coming to this island sooner. But my real answer is simply no, I cannot shut the door on my past nor do I wish to. My experience in life before The Island is best described as a façade fueled by false pretense. My strength to keep going in that life was exhausted from my constant need to escape my own feelings and insecurities. And my hope that someday things would get better had fleeted.
I had a terrible fear of commitment, jumping from job to job as soon as any real responsibilities were put on me. The times when my family and friends needed me most is when I would isolate and ignore them. Most importantly when the reality of being a father to my beautiful little girl became too overwhelming, I fled then too. to find my escape When things got tough, I did what I knew best, I ran and hid from my feelings using any substance I could find at the time. It was the coping mechanism I grew up with, it worked for me, and it was fun for a while… until it was not. My family eventually stopped trusting me all together which for me personally was heartbreaking. When I lost that trust from my loved ones, I lost the trust within myself as well. Isolating myself from everyone who ever cared and needed me I felt Completely alone in my addiction because that was what I thought I deserved. I started that life when I was just 14 years old, it was all I ever knew, I truly did not know what it felt like to be able to look at myself in the mirror and love myself.
On November 3rd, 2019, the day before coming to The Island, I remember just being sick and tired of being sick and tired. My mother had just told me that I would be going to a sober living community in the morning and with almost a sigh of relief I just said ok. It was then and there where I started my first step in recovery, I was willing to come to terms with my addiction and admit that I lost control and needed help. I remember one of the first things Father Tom said to me after settling into my new room. He said, “I don’t care if I ask you to go out and count the blades of grass in the lawn, I want you to do it.” Thankfully it never came to that, but it was about the willingness to do what is asked of me, something that is so important in getting better as a recovering addict. It was that tough love that really started the long journey of recovery. But the tough love did not stop there.
With being absolutely petrified of change, my new schedule and way of life was almost crippling for me. From weekly Spiritual Direction meetings with Brother David to regularly scheduled AA meetings 7-8 times a week, I was expected to do my part. I also started praying every day and doing step work with a temporary sponsor. Coming to The Island as an agnostic, I thought my new routine of getting on my knees every morning and every night was foolish. But it all came back to that willingness I needed to have, so despite the feeling, I continued my weekly meetings and prayers and after a couple of months something in me started to change.
In February, my family and I went on a cruise and for the first time in my life, I did not ruin a vacation or upset my family all week. But what was really inspiring about that cruise that I did not know at the time was a quote I saw in the library of the cruise ship. It was a quote from Albert Einstein that read “There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle.” I did not understand why, but that quote resonated and stuck with me throughout my time here.
Last summer I was able to visit the Edmundite Southern Missions where The Edmundites gave me the privilege of working with the poor and underprivileged kids in their summer school program. I jumped at the chance to try something I thought would never be possible in my lifetime. Experiencing poverty at its worse and being able to help those in need led me to a greater appreciation that I have never felt before. I felt as though I already learned so much about being a part of a community on Enders but seeing the people of Selma come together to help others in need was inspiring. Looking back on those 9 weeks down south, I can honestly say it changed the way I view life and the way I approach every single day.
My life is completely different today. My family and myself included, never thought the day would come where I would be in a place like I am right now, in my second semester of college with straight A’s looking at 4 year colleges like Holy Cross and Worcester Polytechnic Institute, being spiritually and physically present for my daughter who has turned in to my best friend, and being able to look at myself in the mirror today and smile. Today I have hope, and friendships I never would have known could exist. Thanks to the ministry of the Edmundites at Enders Island, my mother can cry happy tears seeing her son finally grow up to be the man she knew I could be, instead of the man she feared I would become. Whenever someone asks me what the Edmundites have done for me or have given me, the only word that ever comes to mind is "everything." The ministry of the Edmundites has allowed me to take back my life and make the most of today: and today, I choose to live my life as though everything is a miracle.