Happy LGBTQIA Pride Month! I am a queer person in recovery, and of the sober people I know, most are LGBTQ+. My communities might skew queer—but it’s also true that there are many LGBTQ+ people in recovery. An estimated 30% of LGBTQIA people struggle with addiction, compared with 9% of the general population.
Addiction and Shame
While Pride itself is a big drinking day often sponsored by alcohol brands, a lot of us don’t drink or use drugs anymore. These sobriety journeys are worth celebrating along with our ability to be ourselves.
Often, recovery helps us live as ourselves in the first place. Secrecy, shame and active addiction are often intertwined. A trans woman I know once told me that while she knew she was trans since she was a kid, in order to transition, she had to get sober. The first time she said her name, she was in addiction treatment.
Learning About Your Sober Self
Recovery is a process of learning who you are, which for some people can include realizing they’re gay or bi or trans. The writer Tawny Lara (who was also on our SHARE podcast!) has written about embracing her bisexuality when she was three years sober.
Other people learn about their gender through the mental clarity and self-awareness of sobriety. On realizing they’re non-binary in recovery, one writer said, “Sobriety seemed to change me, but what it actually did was scoop me up and shove me into the spotlight.”
Staying Sober at Pride
It looks like this year, Pride will be different depending on where you live. Last year almost all Pride events were canceled; in 2021, some cities and towns will have an in-person event.
Even if you’ve been sober a while, you might feel out of practice being at a heavy drinking event sober. First, remember that you don’t have to attend. You can plan ahead and create your own sober event.
If you don’t have many friends in recovery, search for local meetup groups or other online LGBTQ+ spaces and see if there’s any interest in a sober Pride gathering. As I mentioned, there are plenty of queer sober people; you might be surprised at how many are in your area. If you have sober friends who aren’t LGBTQIA, they can still celebrate Pride with you.
If you go to a Pride event where there is a lot of alcohol, bring a non-alcoholic drink you like. I’ve found that a lot of the awkwardness of being sober at events is having nothing to hold in your hand. Having your NA drink of choice helps you feel part of the celebration.
LGBTQ+ people deal with a lot of discrimination, especially at the intersection of marginalized identities. A study in Drug and Alcohol Dependence found that LGBTQIA people who experienced more than one form of discrimination (for instance, gender and race) were about four times more likely to have a substance use disorder.
However, it’s not all trauma and stress. Queer people experience a lot of joy. For those of us who are sober, recovery can bring more joy to our lives. That’s worth celebrating.
If you are struggling with a substance use or mental health disorder, there is hope. TruHealing Centers offers high-quality treatment for addiction and mental health disorders in facilities across the country. Our staff—many of whom are in recovery themselves—will help get to know who you are sober and build a great life in recovery. Call an admissions specialist at 410-593-0005.