Matt started work at the age of 12. His first employment was for E & J Burke Wine Merchants.They bottled beer and stout. His first taste of alcohol was here; he used to drink the dregs from returned bottles.He then worked for the Port and Docks board and this involved barrels of whiskey. By the age of 16 he often returned home drunk.
By the time he reached 20 Matt was a chronic alcoholic. His second home became O' Meara's Bar on North Strand. Drink became the be all and end all of his life. When he spent all his wages he would beg, borrow and steal in order to get money .He pawned his clothes and boots. He would look after horses outside pubs and the tips he got he would spend on drink. He himself recalls how he stole from a blind fiddler and pawned the violin. Then one Saturday morning in 1884 his life changed.
As usual Matt was waiting outside O' Meara's for his friends. He wanted to drink but had no money. As different men came to the Pub Matt started to scrounge from them, hoping one of them would lend him the price of a pint. Not one of them gave him money or asked him to tag along with them. Matt was devastated. He had helped many of these men in the past lending them money for drink or buying drink for them. Now it was his turn to get a helping hand and nothing.He decided to go home. His mother was preparing Dinner (Mid-day meal). Matt had resolved to take the pledge. He told his mother " Ma, I am going to take the pledge." His mother told him to take it only if he meant it. Matt was 28 and he went to Clonliffe made his confession to Rev. Dr Hickey. As is the custom he took the pledge for 3 months. Dr Hickey became his spiritual director and remained so for 25 years.
Nowadays, we have all sorts of services for those that want to give up any addiction. Matt did not have that benefit.There was no nice clinic to go to, no fraternity like the AA where one could get support. No tablets to help one through the DT's. Matt went cold turkey He had been drinking for 16 years and now nothing. What sheer hell he must of gone through.. But not a drop passed his lips. In order to fill up the time he used to spend in O'Meara's, he took to walking. One day while out walking he could smell beer and walked into Bush's Public House. However the barman was busy and did not serve the stranger. Matt felt humiliated and left. He went to Gardiner St Church and prayed. He made the resolution never to carry money with him.
Matt was a member of the Pioneer Total Abstinence Association of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. This organisation was founded by Fr Cullen S.J. in Gardiner St. Members pledge to abstain from all alcoholic beverages in reparation for those who drink excessively.