In a Lonely Place: Radio’s Matt Pinfield Recounts His Relapse Amid the Turmoil of the Pandemic

Michele Amabile Angermiller
·4-min read

It was the beginning of last year, and radio personality and former MTV VJ Matt Pinfield was still on the mend from a major car accident. Crossing the street in Hollywood, he had been hit by a car going 40 miles an hour and immobilized for months. He also had suffered a torn retina. Then COVID came, and his sobriety of several years was compromised. Pinfield, who can be heard on L.A.’s KLOS every Sunday night, recounts his relapse and how he found a way back to recovery.

At the start of 2020, I was in a good place mentally. I had just hosted Rock in Rio and was really excited for the year. Then came news about COVID and the lockdown. Loneliness and isolation are the enemies of recovery, and for someone who’s social like me — I’d go to three to four concerts in an average week — I found it really tough.

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I no longer had access to recovery meetings except for Zoom, which at first was just not comfortable. Pre-pandemic in recovery, you’d go to a meeting and then get something to eat, go to a movie, do things. That’s an integral part of recovery — your life’s not supposed to be over socially; you’re not supposed to be punished. You’re actually supposed to live a more fulfilling life sober.

Everything was shut down, so the things that I enjoyed for my mental and physical health were unavailable. I was doing a regular livestream and interviewing artists virtually, but it just wasn’t feeling right. There was uncertainty. Are we going to survive this? What’s going to happen? Are we going to be able to afford to eat and live? Am I going to be able to float the bills for my family? One day, something really got me upset, and I just gave in. I went to a corner store to pick up some things and in a split-second decision, bought a bottle of vodka.

That was April, and it took about nine days before my friends realized something was wrong. As any alcoholic knows, one drink is too many. I was maintaining for about a week, and then it started to affect my sleep and physical health because I wasn’t exercising. Alcohol is really a poison for me. At the end of April, one of my friends said, “Matt, I can tell you’ve been drinking.” And I said yes.

I was raising money for MusiCares [on his podcast “In a Lonely Place”], which helps musicians who are out of work or struggling financially, and went to them for my own crisis. Fortunately, my friends reached out and said, look, we’re going to do something about it. Jay Baumgardner — he’s the producer who owns NRG studios here in North Hollywood — is one of my close, close friends. And I stayed with him. Allison Hagendorf at Spotify and Chris Trovero all rallied around me and got me on the phone with a rehab facility in the Bay Area. I really wanted to get on the other side of this. I didn’t realize Chris was putting together a GoFundMe to help pay for it. He was such a saint that he drove me all the way to Northern California to attend the treatment center.

The outpouring of love and support from techs, co-workers, a lot of musicians and non-musicians and even fans was incredible. One rock star donated $5,000, and the fund eventually totaled $52,000. I was blown away and humbled. I had to accept the truth, and it was those people who really cared and didn’t want to see me go down that dark path, stay there and lose my life.

I stayed off social media, and I concentrated on my recovery. One of the professionals at the treatment center said to me, if anything starts to bum you out, look at that list of people and realize that you’re loved and cared about. That’s what you need to focus on — the good people in your life.

A few days before the end of that month, they printed out all the comments from people who had donated. I was literally in tears, and so grateful. Quite honestly, I’m accountable to all of those people that gave of themselves to make sure that I got help. I can’t let them down. And I can’t let myself down. Every day you get a reprieve, and you got to keep it in the forefront — put recovery before everything else.

After the news of what I was going through came out, I got letters from all over America and the world: people saying how much they appreciate and thank me for telling my story. I realized that I need to help other people, to use my platform as a public figure. I’m nine months sober this February and feel better than ever. I am accountable, and all I want to do is stay sober, do the work that I love — my radio shows, podcasts, interviews — and help out the next alcoholic.

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