“Along with the twelve steps, I’m putting equal emphasis on my spiritual, emotional and psychological healing this time around,” Matt F. shares while sitting in the BTS amphitheater.
The youngest of three, Matt was born and raised in Orange County, California. “I grew up in a Reformed Jewish household and, while we weren’t super observant, my parents did put a strong emphasis on attending Shabbat services every week,” Matt recalls. Another part of his faith that Matt enjoyed was his annual trips to Jewish summer camp. “I started going when I was around eight and kept going till I was fifteen,” he recounts. Along with summer camp Matt also enjoyed playing baseball and listening to music. “I used to sit in my sisters’ room and listen to the radio until they would kick me out,” he laughingly shares.
At age ten a cousin introduced him to hard rock music and he instantly fell in love with it, in particular the band Kiss. “They became my idols. I even graduated from dressing as Dracula and Frankenstein for Halloween to Paul Stanley and Gene Simmons,” he describes. However, his real passion as a young teen was BMX bike racing. But, the bikes were expensive and his parents initially balked at the idea. However, as he puts it, “I constantly lobbied my mom and dad and they finally gave in and bought me a bike.” It turned out to be a good investment as he ended up racing for four years and actually winning several races.
By the time he entered high school Matt had hung up his BMX and turned to being a part of the marching band as a trumpet player; an instrument he had started playing in fourth grade. As part of the band, Matt would regularly hang out with the drum core guys. “They took me to my first Rush concert and also introduced me to drinking beer at the parties they would have,” he shares. Along with all these typical teenage activities and experiences, Matt was also furthering his growth as a young Jew. At age thirteen the family took a trip to Israel where he celebrated his Bar Mitzvah. And, “during my last year of summer camp, when I was fifteen, I went to Israel again for six weeks,” he says. During that time, Matt traveled across the entire country, climbed Mount Sinai and went on a Kibbutz. And it was during one of the Shabbat services on that Kibbutz that he and a friend absconded a few bottles of wine and got severely drunk. “It was enjoyable until the next morning when we both woke up horribly and violently sick,” he explains with a hearty giggle.
Upon his return to America, Matt put down the trumpet in favor of a bass guitar and also quit the marching band and started playing football along with his first sports love, baseball. As he progressed into his junior and senior years, Matt became part of the high school jazz band along with a couple party bands. But it was at his first job, at Anaheim stadium selling peanuts, where Matt took his musical journey to the next level. “I met this guy and he was in a punk rock band and needed a bass player. So I saved up some money, bought a bass amplifier and joined the band,” Matt recalls. The next couple years saw Matt cut an album with the band, go on some mini tours with them and experience that “living out of a van” rock and roll life. He also partied hard with more drinking and had his first brush with marijuana as well. Upon entering college, Matt continued playing with the band on occasion and even joined a popular house band during his junior year at UC Santa Barbara. But by his senior year Matt had retired his bass guitar in favor of graduating with a degree in Biological Sciences.
Over the next decade, Matt worked jobs as a freelance contractor for Armor All, as a junior chemist and in the medical diagnostics field. Then a start-up biotech company that initially had great promise hired him but, “even though I had gotten in on the ground floor it ended up going nowhere,” he recounts. But the experience had a silver lining that enabled him to land his dream job at AmGen, where he enjoyed ten years of great success. However, along with that success came a dramatic increase in Matt’s drinking. “I really got into single malt Scotch and every Friday there was a cocktail party where my drinking worsened,” he remembers.
Following his ten year run at Amgen, Matt decided to take a little time off. However, “a little time off” ended up turning into eight years of complacency and severe depression, which led to an even more dramatic increase in his drinking. It got so bad that during a visit to his parents’ home, for his fiftieth birthday party, “my family staged a mini intervention concerned about my alcohol consumption,” Matt shares. Having heard about Beit T’Shuvah through his sister, Matt called and began a dialogue with Lysa H. And along with those discussions, he also connected with BTS’ front desk angel of salvation, the late Ryan Kopald, who, as Matt puts it, “was extremely integral in motivating me to come to Beit T’Shuvah.”
And, following a brief time on the waitlist and a two-week detox stint, Matt entered the program in February of 2019. “It was eye-opening, enjoyable and I learned a ton about the tools of maintaining sobriety,” he shares. But, even though he was able to spend eleven relatively successful months at BTS addressing his addiction, there was something missing. “My focus was primarily on the twelve step program and I wasn’t addressing the internal spiritual and psychological factors fueling my drinking,” he recounts.
Not surprisingly, six months after he left BTS, Matt cratered under the weight of the pandemic lockdown and relapsed. And from June 2020 till June 2021 Matt’s drinking reached the same levels he had experienced prior to his initial stay at Beit T’Shuvah. “I was alone and depressed and it was too easy to start drinking again,” he relates. As a result, Matt returned to BTS in September 2021. But, as mentioned earlier, this go around would be different. “My treatment team has helped me develop a much more well-rounded and robust approach to my recovery this time,” he describes.
Through the encouragement of his Spiritual Counselor, Michael W., and his counselor, Katy L., “I now have a strong recovery plan in place and I’ve learned how to incorporate spirituality into my daily life,” Matt shares. He’s also rekindled his relationship with his old A.A. sponsor as well as his love of athletics by joining the BTS Marathon Team. He concludes by saying, “although my days of running on an intensely regular basis are behind me, I look forward to the challenge of completing the half marathon with my BTS team members.” Along with finishing that physical race of endurance Matt is also in a much better position to complete the most important race – the one for his life. We’re all rooting for you, Matt.
To donate to Matt’s fundraising effort as a member of the 2022 BTS LA Marathon Team, click below and give what you can to help him, along with all the members of the team, raise money to help other souls, like Matt, get the help they need to conquer their addictions.