Pride Recovery’s Matthew Bianchi on structure, accountability and accepting, without reservation, who you truly are.
BY MARK ARIEL | PHOTO BY DUSTI CUNNINGHAM
Matthew Bianchi, Admissions and Outreach Coordinator at Pride Recovery Los Angeles, an LGBTQ Intensive Outpatient facility, knows a thing or two about becoming clean and sober.
“At the age of 25 I was a full blown opiate and tranquilizer addict,” he reveals in an interview with THE FIGHT. “I had multiple doctors prescribing me opiates and tranquilizers and was buying them off the street. I would take prescription narcotics, snort other drugs up my nose and drink myself to oblivion. I had to be numb all the time and if I wasn’t, I was frantically in search of how to get back to not feeling again.”
Born and raised in the city of Taunton, Massachusetts, Bianchi says that while his family was supportive and loving after coming out as a gay man “it was a very long and cautious period of adjustment for me that continued through my teens and well into my 20s.”
The world wasn’t designed for LGBTQ people, and that constant experience of being ‘the other’ comes at a cost, a cost that contributes to the huge statistics of substance abuse in our community.”
“The adjustment was in regards to the expectations of greater society more than anything else,” he explains. “The goal was to be authentic and at the same time be safe. Without any real LGBTQ role models this is very to hard to do. «My older brother Mark Anthony, who is also gay, would offer me guidance and style advice when most needed but he seemed to face the same issues I was facing in regards to lack of proper role models.”
THE TURNING POINT
Bianchi’s growing addiction almost led to jail time. “I took an ax to the back of a pharmacy at 3 in the morning,” he reveals. “This was a desperate attempt to get drugs. If you didn’t know, an ax will create sparks when it’s swung hard against steel. Luckily all it did was make scrapes and some sparks. It was a close brush with a long prison career. I think of that night often. It helps me to remember.”
“The turning point,” he confides, “came in the form of an intervention led by my father, my mother and my sister-in-law Caycie. They persuaded me to seek treatment for a third time. This time I was given the gift of desperation or the desire to do whatever it took to get and stay sober. I began chasing recovery with the same fervor I had when I was chasing the drugs. I went through a detox center and then a 30 day residential treatment program. I then lived in sober living for over nine months while attending a intensive outpatient center daily. During those nine months I learned how to live while still having the structure and accountability I needed in early sobriety.
During this time I came to learn the value of life and friendship and I came to appreciate my family and all of the good things in my life. I discovered who I am and slowly came to love that person. With hard work and dedication my life began coming back together.”
The LGBTQ-Affirmative Pride Recovery model understands that the LGBTQ experience comes with a legacy of relational wounding.”
“As time went by I naturally wanted to learn more about the psychology behind my drug dependence. I discovered The Velvet Rage, a book written by Los Angeles psychologist Dr. Alan Downs. This book opened my eyes to the fact that it was my own shame about being a gay man that had led me to create a disaster of my life. I found that it wasn’t that others had done this to me, it was all my own doing. Simply because I couldn’t fully accept, without reservation, who I truly am.”
“Today I have a much welcomed sense of normalcy in my life. My days revolve around my fiancé Roger, our 2 chihuahuas and a very moody African grey parrot, not drugs and alcohol. I live with an immense amount of gratitude on a daily basis… My biggest challenge today is trying decide where in the yard I should put the white picket fence.”
CULTURALLY SPECIFIC TREATMENT
Bianchi’s career in the recovery field began over 10 years ago as a counselor’s assistant at large treatment center on Cape Cod, located in Falmouth, Massachusetts.
The facility provided all substance abuse related services, from detox stabilization, a 30 day residential rehabilitation center, multiple halfway houses, sober livings and a handful of day treatment settings.
“I worked in most of those settings diligently during my seven years with the company,” says Bianchi. “The most challenging and most rewarding work was while working in the detox. Fast paced and rarely a dull moment. Throughout my time there I was always a strong resource for the LGBTQ clients. I wanted them to know that you can be a member of the LGBTQ community and be sober and be happy at the same time-in very sharp contrast to what the culture tells us.”
Eventually Bianchi found himself in Southern California, working as a sober companion. “I was fortunate to be able to work for a highly esteemed and well established company. I received regular assignments and would be paired up with LGBTQ clients. Here I developed a very special skill set for working with substance dependent transgender individuals that have proven be highly effective,” he says.
Bianchi was then hired as a counselor at a 30 day detox and residential rehabilitation center in Sherman Oaks. “Here I once again found myself as the island in the storm for substance dependent gay and transgender clients. I was then approached by Larry Hymes, the clinical director of Pride Recovery Los Angeles, to join his team in creating and promoting effective substance abuse and mental health treatment for our LGBTQ community. After too many years of watching LGBTQ individuals have little to no culturally specific treatment and me feeling like the only lighthouse within a thousand miles, I quickly said yes.”
RESILIENT AND BEAUTIFUL
Pride Recovery is an LGBTQ Intensive Outpatient facility.
“Our specially trained LGBTQ-Affirmative staff offers a whole-person, strength-based approach to treating the LGBTQ individual,” states Bianchi. “We use trauma-informed and evidence-based practices to effectively treat the whole LGBTQ person. Modalities include: DBT, CBT, Mindfulness, Motivational Interviewing, Psycho-education, along with various trauma interventions. All of these modalities are used in individual, group and experiential therapy settings. We also offer dual-diagnosis treatment.”
“The LGBTQ-Affirmative Pride Recovery model understands that the LGBTQ experience comes with a legacy of relational wounding,” says Bianchi.
“The world wasn’t designed for LGBTQ people, and that constant experience of being ‘the other’ comes at a cost, a cost that contributes to the huge statistics of substance abuse in our community. Traditional treatment is great, but LGBTQ people are ‘the other’ there, just like we are everywhere we go. Pride Recovery is a place where members of our community can find a healing home and sober community. After all, the members of our community have come a long way because we are resilient and beautiful. We want to celebrate that.”
Matthew Bianchi, CADC II, is the Admissions and Outreach Coordinator at Pride Recovery Los Angeles. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org. For more info on Pride Recovery Los Angeles call: 844-303-1515.