For One Vermonter In Recovery, Family Support Was Key

Jan 13, 2014

Last week, Gov. Peter Shumlin chose to focus his State of the State address on one issue: opiate abuse. He drew heavily on the documentary film that explores the topic by Bess O’Brien, called The Hungry Heart.

The film focuses on the work of Dr. Fred Holmes, who treated his pediatric patients for opiate addiction. In his speech, Gov. Shumlin quoted one of Holmes' patients, Dustin Machia.

“Dustin said, 'Be careful, because your addiction is waiting out in the driveway, just getting stronger, just waiting for you to slip up and take you away.' His family knows too well the crushing hurt and harm that comes from opiate addiction, even as they have stuck with him throughout his disease,” Shumlin said.

Machia became addicted to opiates when he was in 10th grade, and went on to steal to support his habits. His family stood by him, and with the help of Dr. Holmes, he has been in recovery for 5 years.

Machia is now 25 years old, and working on his parent’s farm in Swanton. He’s married and is expecting a child.  He spoke with VPR’s Mitch Wertlieb.

Machia said he had no hesitation in going public with his story because, “the two main people that I cared about knowing, already knew, and that was my mom and my dad.”

When he can get away from the farm, he goes to screenings of The Hungry Heart in schools and speaks with students. He said they mainly want to know why, and that’s a question he doesn’t always know how to answer.

“You make that one choice, and you live with it. Not that I wanted to be a drug addict, it just happened like that. A lot of kids in schools, especially these days have tried it, or have been in a group where it was brought up in the conversation, ‘let’s do it,’ and it just happened, even though I knew right from wrong,” Machia explained.

Machia said his family played a large role in his treatment.

“You need help with it. Just to do it on your own, with no advice from the professionals is pretty hard,” Machia said. He relied on Dr. Holmes, his parents, AA meetings and rehabilitation to give him the tools needed to beat the addiction.

After being in recovery for five years, Machia is now looking at the next five years. He’s a fourth generation dairy farmer. He and his wife want to take over the family farm with his brother’s family and raise his child there.