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Matt Haney, holds his son, Hawk, 16 months, while picking out a shirt to wear. His tattoo illustrates his transformation from methamphetamine addict to his new life in Christ. Since his recovery, he's become a family man and a central figure in his father's business, all things he never dreamed of before 2007, when he went through rehab. "You can change no matter who you are or what you are," he says. "Your past doesn't define you."

Choosing a New Life

story by Caitie McMekin

At one point in Matt Haney's life, all he had was himself, his car, and enough money to feed his dog chicken nuggets from the dollar menu. Since recovering from a methamphetamine addiction in 2007, Matt has a lot more in his life — a wife, four children, and a job in the family business.

Faced with an unavoidable choice between jail and a rehabilitation program, Matt's family fought for him to go to rehab. He checked into Lifeline Ministries, an independent faith-based center in Paducah.

"If I had gone to jail, I might not have changed," he says. He doesn't take his new life lightly. "Calling addiction a disease is a severe disservice for diseases—addiction is a decision. People use the term disease as a crutch. Every morning I wake up and say 'I'm not gonna get high.'"

And after he's made the choice for another day, he drinks a cup of coffee and helps his wife, Ashley, get their daughters ready while their 16-month-old son sleeps in. Then he heads across the driveway to work. He and his father, Mike Haney, run Hillbilly Stills—a maker of distillery equipment. Their stills draw hobbyists and commercial distillers from around the world.

But more than restoring Matt to his family, his recovery revived his faith. A tattoo on his back depicts a cross with a demon to the left and praying hands to the right illustrates the journey he's made over the nearly 10 years since he left behind one life for another.

"You can change no matter who you are or what you are, your past doesn't have to define you," he says.


Ashley Haney, Matt's wife, waits in front of her home with her son, Hawk, 16 months, to put her daughter, Landyn, 3, on the bus for preschool. Her work day will start soon. Once Landyn gets on the bus, Ashley puts Hawk down for a nap and helps Matt with the accounting for their family-run business.


Matt handles a phone call with a customer disputing an order. He and his dad run Hilbilly Stills, making distillery equipment. It's just across the driveway from his house, so it's easy for him to walk home whenever he needs to. "One of my favorite things is I can go home and see my kids," he says. "They're my world."


Ashley gives a tired smile to Matt after discussing bills for Hillbilly Stills.


Ashley works at the kitchen table, sharing the space with her daughters Abby Hargrove, 12, and Landyn.


Matt walks across his driveway with his dog, Otis, for work at Hillbilly Stills. Matt is usually in the shop by 7 a.m.


Matt checks his phone as he gets ready for work. Running a small business requires a lot of his attention, but the rest of his time is spent with his family or at church.


Landyn shows her dad a french fry as Matt picks off her dinner of fish and chips at the Wickliffe Harvest Festival. They attend the festival every year because Matt's wife Ashley, who grew up in Wickliffe, has never missed one in her life.


Matt walks into Faith Baptist Church with his brother-in-law after hanging the Christian flag on the pole out front before the Wednesday night service.


Ashley stops Hawk from tearing the pages of her Bible at church in Wickliffe. Ashley attends church with her husband Matt, four children and many of her extended family members.


Matt walks up the stairs to the sanctuary with Hawk and bibles in hand.


On a night like every other in their household, Ashley and Matt pray with their kids before going to bed.


After putting the kids to bed, Ashley and Matt sit at the table to decompress over a glass of wine.

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