Many of us who’ve watched the women on Teen Mom since their early episodes of 16 and Pregnant are strangely protective. Matt Baier gets it. He knows fans want the best for his fiancée, Amber Portwood. He just wants the rest of us to understand he has the same goal.
“Some people will tell you putting two addicts together is a recipe for disaster. Not if one of those addicts is Amber Portwood. Because this woman is the strongest person,” Matt told us in an exclusive interview. “Neither of us ever judged each other, which is why our relationship is so great right now. We don’t have anything to hide.”
Similar to Amber, Matt is very open about his past addiction struggles, which began when he suffered herniated discs while playing hockey in college. Doctors then discovered he had cauda equina syndrome, a rare disorder that affects spinal nerve roots and requires emergency surgery.
“I was offered to take prescription pain killers, which I never had before… Before I even realized it, I was completely hooked on painkillers,” Matt said of his post-operation prescriptions for Vicodin and later Percocet. “To me, I wasn’t really an addict, simply because of the fact they were legal, they were given to me by a doctor.”
Matt said he never had a problem getting the prescription pills, even as his addiction worsened.
“I was finding doctors who said, ‘Oh, you’ve had this syndrome, you’ve had this surgery. Of course we’re going to give your painkillers, because you’re obviously in a lot of pain,'” Matt explained. “You start to convince yourself that you need these things so much that you start to feel pain that isn’t there.”
Even though he obtained the pills legally, Matt said the addiction took just as serious of a toll on his life as anything else would — especially when it came to his relationship with the mother of his two children.
“I was just absent. I was distant. I was always, always high,” Matt said. “This went on for years and years and years.”
Matt said he finally came to terms with his addiction about seven years ago when his daughter asked him to end his relationship with her mother.
“My daughter looked at me and said, ‘I don’t want you guys to get back together… Dad, you do a lot of drugs… We don’t want you guys to get back together,’” Matt recalled. “And I’m like, ‘Oh my god, my kid realizes that I’m high?’ It really snapped me into reality.”
Matt said he quit cold-turkey after that, but continued recovery wasn’t as simple as he anticipated. For support, he went to AA meetings — which he prefers over NA, even though he never struggled with alcohol — up to three times a day. In the time since, he’s built a “fantastic” co-parenting relationship with his ex-girlfriend and has a great relationship with his kids.
“Not a night goes by that I don’t say goodnight to my kids,” he said. “My kids have forgiven me for being a junkbox a long time ago. Now, I can finally be their dad.”
Then, more than one year ago, he struck up a friendship with Amber via Twitter.
“What I realized in short order is that, after hearing her story and having her tell me the story personally, is that this might be one of the strongest people that I’ve ever met in my life,” Matt said. “She was the one person that I could discuss past behavior with who never said, ‘Oh really? That’s awful.’ She just went, ‘Yeah, I get it.’ And vice versa.”
After half a year of talking online, Matt visited Amber in Indiana — even though neither of them expected a romance would come of it.
“When we met as friends, not only did we realize we had addiction in common, we had almost everything in common. We had music, we had movies, we had past experiences,” Matt said. Because he was able to continue his work as an executive IT recruiter for a large company, Matt moved from Boston the following month. In the time since then, he said he’s seen Amber experience the whole range of emotions — and truly believes she will “never” go back to using.
“I can tell you with the straightest face in the world that’s the last thing I’m worried about because that woman is made of iron,” Matt said. “She is tough. She deserves role model status.”
For more on Matt and Amber’s relationship, tune into Teen Mom on MTVs each Monday at 10/9c. Also find out more about Amber’s inspirational story by picking up a copy of her book, Never Too Late.