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Hoover resident Matthew Creighton is a former Alabama State Trooper who fell into a gambling addiction that ultimately landed him in and out of prison three times. He has since written a book titled Don’t Get Sidetracked and shares his message at schools and churches across the state.
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Courtesy of Matthew Creighton
Matthew Creighton Shares His Story
Hoover resident and former state trooper Matthew Creighton shares his story of addiction with youth and civic groups across Alabama.
Matthew Creighton will always remember that moment.
He watched his son walk toward him inside the Alabama Sate Prison. Creighton was used to appearing regal and polished in front of his child, proudly dressed in a state trooper uniform.
That day, however, Creighton looked down at his white suit, unable to believe his son had to see him this way.
“I’ll never forget that look on my son’s face,” Creighton said. “He absolutely broke down and said he could not come back to that place ever again.”
Creighton had created a successful life for himself. After losing his parents at a young age, he became the legal guardian of his four sisters. He married his high school sweetheart, had three children and became an Alabama State Trooper, ultimately working his way up to the rank of lieutenant.
All that changed after a gambling addiction landed him in and out of prison three separate times.
But today, the Hoover resident has turned his life around for the better, and now he takes his message of redemption to schools and churches across the state in hopes of making a difference.
A humble beginning
Creighton grew up in Clarke County in a small town called Grove Hill, the oldest of seven children with dreams of playing football at The University of Alabama and going professional. His dreams were put on hold due to an unfortunate series of events. His two brothers died as infants. When he was 16, his mother passed away from diabetes. Several years later, a car struck and killed his father while he was changing a tire on the side of the road.
At age 19, Creighton assumed guardianship of his four younger sisters.
“Those girls are grown and have families now but they still treat me like I’m their dad,” he said.
After high school graduation, he entered the U.S Marines. He married his high school sweetheart, Allison, and ultimately decided he wanted to become an Alabama State Trooper.
“I’m the kind of person that when I do something I’m really dedicated to it,” he said. “I’m a go-getter. I got promoted early, one of the youngest guys in the state of Alabama to get promoted that early. I was 25 years old.”
He was promoted to sergeant and eventually, lieutenant. He worked in various specialized units and recalls taking people to jail three or four at a time.
“I think when I reached the rank of lieutenant I got a big head,” he said.
After nearly two decades of being a respected state trooper, Creighton would soon find himself on the other side of the law.
One day while at a gas station filling up his patrol car, Creighton overheard several men talking about how much money they had won at the dog races. At that time, he and his wife were in the process of buying a house, and the thought of winning extra money was tempting. He decided to give it a try.
He vividly remembers his four winning numbers: two, four, seven and eight. Those lucky digits won him $22,000 at the race that day. He was elated at the time but looking back, he sees how easily he fell into delusion.
“I mistook pure luck that day for something else,” he said.
His gambling grew and he began lying to his wife and eventually, writing bad checks. Checks for hundreds of dollars turned into checks written for thousands of dollars. One account opened turned into at least eight different accounts opened at various banks. His habit on the side had turned dangerous, putting both he and his family at risk.
“I remember walking into the banks in my state trooper uniform, and unfortunately because of that I think I got away with it easier,” he said. “I even get my wife involved.”
But he wouldn’t get away with things forever. Ultimately, the FBI began an investigation and he was sent to state prison in Montgomery. His first stay was 15 months. When he was released, he fell back into the habit and was sent back again. After six months, he was released but couldn’t stay out of trouble.
After two chances to change things for the better, the judge showed no mercy and sentenced Creighton to 20 years in federal prison.
Never a problem too big
Creighton firmly believes in a saying his mother told him when he was young.
“She always said there’s never a problem too big for God,” he said.
He believes things began to turn around when he went to the Alabama Therapeutic Educational Facility (AETF), a residential reentry facility in Columbiana for people suffering from addictions. There, he was able to reflect on his life.
“That place did so much for me. They really helped me channel my energy in a positive way where I didn’t have time to think about gambling,” he said. “I started telling them ideas about how I wanted to speak to children at schools.”
In July 2009, he was released from prison on parole after three and a half years. Today, he is thankful for his loving wife and family for staying by his side and speaks to classes at AETF.
Creighton wrote a book detailing his experience titled Don’t Get Sidetracked, which was published in 2012. He said people are often surprised about the brutal honesty of the book, particularly about his time in prison.
However, he feels it his duty to candidly share his experience with children and reveal how easy it is to fall into the trap of addiction. Creighton is currently sponsored by 26 Hoover businesses, which allows him to give his books to as many children as possible. He takes the books with him to speaking engagements and is overwhelmed when children run up to him after his message, crying and giving him hugs.
“I never thought I would find something I love as much as being a state trooper,” he said. “But, I just love talking to these children. It’s about doing something good.”
He says he continues to get emails and calls daily from parents who are grateful for Creighton sending their children the message that every decision they make has consequences. He hopes to speak at Hoover High School and Spain Park High School in the near future.
“The biggest point I want to make to these children is how easy it is to screw your life up. I don’t want these kids to think for one minute that it’s easy in prison,” he said. “I can’t believe what happened to my life. But the good Lord has taken a huge mess and used me in a positive way.”
For more about Creighton or to purchase his book, visit matthewcreighton.com