By John Grossi
Walk into Beacon House Thrift Shop on Anaheim St. and the first thing you will notice are the men in blue shirts. Greeting customers, helping the clientele, moving inventory, running the register. Polite, grateful, diligent, these men are dedicated whole-heartedly to a cause that has already helped them so much.
Beacon House, a long-term residential drug and alcohol treatment center, is located in San
Pedro yet serves those in need throughout the nation. At this new thrift shop in Long Beach, every employee is a current or former resident of Beacon House. The store is not only a primary fundraiser for Beacon House, but gives its residents a real-world workplace to hone job skills and improve mindsets in a less controlled environment than the conference room at Beacon House.
“Everyone at Beacon House is moving in the same direction, no matter where they are in the
journey,” says Matt Huff, general manager of the store.
A Loaded Shotgun and Bad Thoughts
Huff was manager of the San Pedro Beacon House Thrift Shop before helping open the Long
Beach location and running all its operations. Enrolled in Cal State Dominguez Hills, Huff grew up in Torrance and currently lives in Huntington Beach. He recalls a good upbringing, playing youth sports, and earning good grades. As you witness him exude a general sense of calm and confidence, you would never recognize the Matt Huff of just 3 years ago. Yet in 2018, Huff was sitting in a trailer park in Louisville, Kentucky, holding a loaded shotgun and contemplating ending his life. With two outstanding heroin-related arrest warrants and sheriffs
patrolling nearby, he called his mom one last time. She suggested Beacon House.
“It’s the last house on the block,” says Matt. “It’s for people who are deemed hopeless. Guys like me who had burned through insurance. You go in there with the clothes on your back.”
When Huff checked himself into Beacon House, he was not new to treatment centers. He
had been to a total of 18. They didn’t work. Except something about Beacon House was different.
“They allowed me to treat the underlying problems associated with my alcoholism rather than just physical abstinence. They provided me a safe place to begin unpacking some of that stuff and taught me emotional sobriety.”
Matt did not start using meth and heroin as a coping mechanism. He started using it because it was fun. A step up from the drugs he and other friends were doing. But when his own father committed suicide in 2013, Matt describes himself as having “crossed the invisible line.”
He used that as an excuse to do whatever he wanted. A mindset that led him on a self-destructive road toward illegal hustles, fraudulent businesses, insincere trips to rehabs to gain people’s trust, and then continuing the cycle all over the country.
At Beacon House and through AA, Matt was finally able to address his mindset, emotional trauma, and self-described “child-like solutions to adult problems.”
Beacon House’s structure was strikingly different from other rehab centers Matt had tried, notably its personnel. Everyone who works with the residents at Beacon House is a graduate of the program.
“It wasn’t like I was getting scolded. I was getting presented information and the reason people saw me so clearly is because they were getting past the same problems or had already gone through this. It was always coming from a place of help, not a place of scolding, from people who had depth and weight in what I was struggling with.”
Matt describes it as the hardest thing he’s ever had to do in life.
“Lifelong conceptions and driving creeds, and hyper masculinity, and ego—all these things had to be thrown aside. It felt like an identity crisis, it felt like I was losing my entire self. But I had to realize that all my decisions had led me to this place. I couldn’t argue with the facts.”
A Turning Point
Matt’s day of realization came a few weeks into the program when he was presented some seriously hard truths about himself. He found himself talking trash on the program, and a friend pointing out that he couldn’t be trusted. He would change who he was depending on the situation. In that moment, Matt had to confront himself down to his core, and realize he couldn’t reach his goal the way he was, alone.
That night Matt gave in to the steps of AA. He accepted a higher power. He made the decision to move forward on the clear and simple path that would lead to a better life for himself. He leaned on the “family” that was his fellow Beacon House residents, and he allowed his family to lean on him.
“You can learn something from every guy at the house,” says Matt. “They’re all moving in the same direction as you, but they’re all at different stages of their journey.”
Matt’s Date of Sobriety is November 28, 2018.
In 2016, Matt’s mom had cameras and alarms installed at her house, fearful of her own son. These days, she leaves the backdoor unlocked so that Matt can come over a little early and watch football before their weekly Monday night dinners.
Beacon House Thrift Shop is a social enterprise program of the Beacon House Association of San Pedro, a state-certified, residential substance abuse recovery program for men and a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization. The men of Beacon House work at the thrift shop to practice the life and job skills they need to build a successful future, while 100% of proceeds from second-hand donation sales benefit the recovery program that gives these men a second chance at life! We accept donations from the community and always have a wide variety of items available – furniture, household goods, clothing, and more – all at reasonable prices.
Learn more at beaconhousethrift.org.