Former angry meth addict on new mission to spread love
Once a drug addict ingloriously rejected from an outlaw bikie gang, it is hard to imagine that a heartfelt hug could be the catalyst for Mathew Kratiuk's dramatic life transformation.
"I was scared, angry, hurt, fearful, and broken-hearted," Mat shares openly.
"I've had this massive ego; all around the world I was known as 'Killa'. Suddenly I'm just a drug addict in a small shack in the middle of nowhere [at a rural NSW rehab centre] with nothing. I was on the verge of suicide."
His addiction to ice started 16 years earlier, after his parents' divorce and being kicked out of high school. He began living a flamboyant lifestyle on the Gold Coast financed by drug dealing and debt collecting but knew he needed to reform.
Mat tried rehab but missing out on a WA mining job was the final straw that led him to join a bikie gang in Perth, which he now says was a misplaced search for family and acceptance.
His life and identity were undone by an uncontrollable meth addiction that was triggered by guilt and anger after the death of his estranged father in Sydney.
"I hit the drugs so hard that I was beaten up and kicked out of the Perth bikie club," Mat explains.
He put a gun to his head but decided to give rehab another go at a Christian rehab program in Dooralong.
Six weeks into it he was considering suicide again and what hell might be like.
However, everything changed when the wife of the rehab director walked out of the rehab chapel and simply asked Mat if he would like a hug.
Mat retorted, "What do you want to hug me for?"
"Because I love you, mate," she calmly replied.
"I didn't even know what a hug looked like," Mat recalls. "I said 'OK' and she just pulled me close and she started to pray for me. I broke down crying. For 33 years the world had put me in the 'too-hard basket', labelled me unlovable. In one action this lady said to me: 'My God says to love him and to love him well.'
"I realised these people genuinely loved me and then I began the process of getting well... The answer was love – that broke the wall down."
While rehab had not helped in the past, after that hug a Narcotics Anonymous sign that read "If nothing changes, nothing changes" flicked another switch in his mind.
"This is when I started to pray," he recalls. "God revealed to me, 'You're 33 and you're the king of rehab. You're worried about being the coolest, toughest guy in rehab. Come on, mate. If nothing changes, nothing changes."
At the next chapel service Mat moved away from the 'tough' guys and sat at the front alone.
Each week that followed more of the 'tough' guys joined him, until a whole row were there, absorbing God's Word and the sacrificial love and forgiveness that the Lord Jesus Christ was offering them.
Four weeks later, Mat says, "I surrendered and gave my heart to Jesus. I declared that He is my Lord and my Saviour, and that I no longer live in my own strength but in His supernatural strength."
From there Mat adds, "Jesus completely restored me and freed me from addiction, fear, anger, anxiety and violence, and replaced them with unconditional love, compassion, understanding and complete forgiveness! I am truly at peace for the first time in my life."
However he cautions that the daily journey has not been easy.
"Like everyone, I have days when I am tested and have made mistakes ... but the divine difference is that I don't just believe in Jesus – I surrender myself to Jesus every day.
"I have Jesus to help me through everything, so no matter what the trial or temptation, I come out of them stronger and wiser and closer to Jesus."
Mat graduated from rehab in January 2015 and accompanied former drug addict and travelling evangelist Owen Pomana on a three-month trip to tell people about Jesus throughout South East Asia.
In November Mat won an Industry Excellence Award for Business, out of 60,000 in the Hunter TAFE region and now works as a full-time Christian pastor.
"I feel challenged by God that He wants my testimony to be heard. The amount of times I should be dead or in jail is phenomenal. Looking back on my life I see that it was all part of God's plan to do His work."•