From Death to Life – Hollie’s Story

Table of Contents


“The doctor told me that if I ever used again I would die. I ended up on life support.”


My name is Hollie Zak and I was born in Melbourne Florida. Growing up both of my parents suffered from alcoholism. My dad was a functioning alcoholic. My mother not so much. She left my dad, and he was stuck with 2 girls raising them by himself. He was broken hearted with my mom leaving and dove deeper into his addiction to alcohol. Sometimes he came home angry, sometimes mad, other times everything was fine.  We didn’t know which dad we would have. That made our childhood difficult and out of balance. I quickly took over the mother role for my sister and my Dad, cooking and cleaning. I really didn’t have much time for school. My dad left early in the morning and didn’t come home till late.

I got into horseback riding as a teenager and had an accident. I was thrown off my horse and hurt my back. My doctor prescribed pain medication and I was addicted to it from that point forward. Right from the beginning. It made me feel numb. It made me feel happy, at least I thought that was happy. For once I wasn’t feeling hurt, I wasn’t feeling anything, and I liked it. I didn’t want to ever have to feel those emotions I balled up for so long as a kid. That was my release, I didn’t have to feel anymore. I just dove right in. It changed who I was as a person. I couldn’t do anything without it. It’s all I thought about. It consumed me, I would do anything and everything to get it. My mind deceived in thinking that it was the most important thing in life.

I began using opioids intravenously and things took a turn for the worse. I ended up getting really sick with endocarditis. I couldn’t walk or talk. So I went to the emergency room and we found out that I had a stroke.

I thought that was it for me.

100% of your gift goes to the life-changing programs at St. Matthew’s House. Support us today.

I didn’t see any light at the end of the tunnel. At that point, I didn’t care if I died or not. I got sick again and I ended up having open heart surgery. I had to have 2 valves replaced, and an emergency pacemaker because my heart wouldn’t start on its own. The doctor told me that if I ever used again I would die. I ended up on life support. I was in respiratory failure, heart failure, and kidney failure. The doctor said there was no way I was going to make it without heart surgery.

My family had to make the decision.

It’s strange because I don’t remember all of this. I had to hear it from my family’s point of view. It’s really difficult when you’re just knocked out in the hospital and you don’t have any idea this is happening. It was hard to comprehend really what I was doing to my family. What I was doing to everyone around me. My sister sat me down and talked about when my dad and she had to make the decision whether to pull the plug or to put a trach in me. Either way, they said I was going to pass away. My sister talks about how my dad was talking to the doctor how his lip was quivering. And I can’t get that out of my head now. I could just see my family having to make that decision. Horrible. No father, no sister, no mother should ever have to make that decision about their kids.

Something just clicked in my head when my sister told me that story for the first time. Like I really wanted a different life.

We were looking for a rehab to go to and nobody would take me. Because of my medical problems and my medical history. I kept getting turned down. Kept getting turned down. We found Justin’s Place. As soon as I read the paperwork about Justin’s Place I knew this was the place for me. I knew without a doubt. I had a peace about me that God was going to send me to the right place. He didn’t bring me through all this just to drop me there.

Since I’ve been at Justin’s Place I’ve had a relationship with God that I didn’t think could get any better; but, it just keeps getting better and better still. I’m working with the women in the program now as an internship. Justin’s Place has done so much for me. I have a family with St. Matthews House. It’s like a big family.

My dad, he is not in his addiction anymore. He’s an amazing dad. He’s always been an amazing dad, but now he has found God. My sister has been sober for over 3 years. She is in recovery and doing amazing. Now we have a relationship like we did when we were younger. I talk to her every day. I have a niece that’s 3 years old. She’s my everything. She’s so precious to me. She’s a beautiful little girl. She looks up to me. We have a friendship with each other I would have never imagined I would have had with anybody. My mom, we are working on our relationship. Its up and down. I still can talk to her and she’s doing better too.

100% of your gift goes to the life-changing programs at St. Matthew’s House. Support us today.

I love Justin’s Place Recovery Program, the way it’s set up. The best part is they help you get a job. Just to have an opportunity like that is groundbreaking for me. I have a family forever that is going to help me through this. It gives me a lot more hope for a long-term recovery. I have hope now. And I really feel like I have a future with St. Matthews House. They give you a whole other chance that no other program can give you. I’m just so grateful for everything that has happened.

Thank you for making this possible for me.

You may also be interested

Follow us on Social

Last week, the CEO and Director of Development for the Citygate Network visited St. Matthew’s House to take a tour of Campbell Lodge and enjoy lunch at LuLu’s Kitchen.

We’re proud to be a distinguished accredited member of the Citygate Network.

@citygatenetwork.official #CitygateNetwork #SWFL #StMatthewsHouse #nonprofit @luluskitchensmh
Thank you to the volunteer crew from @jwmarcoisland for recently helping out at our Golden Gate thrift store!

#CommunityPartners #SWFL #StMatthewsHouse @stmatthewshousethriftstores
Southwest Florida friends, we need your help!

Our shelter has an urgent need for hygiene items:
🔹 shampoo
🔹 conditioner
🔹 towels
🔹 toothbrushes
🔹 deodorant
🔹 and more!

Donations can be dropped off at our Naples shelter (2001 Airport Rd S, Naples, FL 34112).

#SWFL #nonprofit #StMatthewsHouse #donate
Dear St. Matthew’s House Supporters,

I am thrilled to share some exciting news with you as current supporters of our mission. We wanted you to be among the very fi rst to know that St. Matthew’s House is introducing a fresh new look through a refreshed brand and logo.

For over 35 years, St. Matthew’s House leaders, staff, volunteers and donors have followed Jesus as called in Matthew 25:40 - transformed thousands of lives - and established the "Heart of St. Matthew's House." As we launch this new look, we honor that foundation and build upon it for the future.

This July we launch our new logo, website, and other collateral materials. We remain committed to the 35-year track record of our faith-based mission serving those experiencing hunger, homelessness or addiction in a way that relaunches their lives. 

Together we provide hope and healing to those experiencing some of life’s most challenging circumstances to assure they are not alone or without a pathway for their journey from crisis to contributor. The work of St. Matthew’s House includes the five pillars of food assistance, homeless shelters, addiction recovery, transitional housing and workforce development.

The new logo carries forward the iconic “Heart of St. Matthew’s House” but now the heart is encircled by an arrow that points to a “pathway” and symbolizes forward movement in our participant’s lives. Its vibrant look conveys the innovative, caring and collaborative nature of St. Matthew’s House. A new tagline states “Journey Together” as an invitation to join with St. Matthew’s House in cultivating communities where people in crisis are progressively seen, accepted, challenged and supported.

Over the summer months, if you are in Naples, you will begin to see the application of the new logo on signage at St. Matthew’s House properties as well as in our communications. We also hope you check out the fresh new look of
As the summer goes on, you'll also begin to see a refreshed look to our thrift stores and other social enterprises as well!


Steve Brooder
St. Matthew’s House
Video Reels THANK YOU, MIDWEST FOOD BANK! 🫶 We’re so grateful to work alongside you striving to ensure that nobody goes without food in #SWFL.

@midwestfoodback #MidwestFoodBankFlorida #StMatthewsHouse #CommunityPartners #FoodAssistance
Carousel Join us on July 11, 2024, to celebrate the latest class of graduates from the #JustinsPlaceRecoveryProgram; we can’t wait! 💟

#StMatthewsHouse #JustinsPlace #RecoveryProgram #SWFL
Recently, our previous board chairman, Joe Trachtenberg, stopped by our headquarters to deliver a $15,000 check to our CEO, Steve Brooder, on behalf of Victaulic Inc. and the Edward T. Bedford Foundation.

This generosity deserves our immense gratitude, so thank you! 

@‌VictaulicCompany #SWFL #StMatthewsHouse #CommunityPartners