Queer Out of Water

Rainbow Fist
An Act of Protest
January 26, 2017
Ashley Arnold from ClexaCon
Women You Should Meet (W.Y.S.M.): Ashley Arnold
January 30, 2017
Person drinking bottle of alcohol

(Photo: i.telegraph.co.uk)

Person drinking bottle of alcohol

(Photo: i.telegraph.co.uk)

Growing up I always wanted to be a cast member on The Real World. I loved the Seattle season so much that after college I moved to the Emerald City sight unseen. My reality TV dreams never materialized, but I’m now living in a Real World-esque situation. Instead of seven strangers, there are nine queers who live in a house. People get very real and everyone is in recovery.

I live in a sober house in Minneapolis, MN. A sober house is a place where people recovering from addiction live in a supervised and sober environment with structure and rules including curfews, chores, and required attendance at recovery meetings. Minneapolis—and especially a sober house—is the last place I ever thought I would be. But at some point you get tired of running from yourself and your problems.

This October I came to Minnesota to seek treatment for my alcohol dependence. I chose the Pride Institute, the nation’s first treatment center for LGBTQ+ folks. I chose this institute because I wanted to be in an affirming environment and needed a facility that specialized in treating both substance abuse and mental health issues. For 27 days, I attended small groups, participated in wellness activities including hikes and acupuncture; and regularly met with a counselor, psychiatrist and mental health therapist.

The first week I kept to myself because I wanted to leave and return to my life. I was, however, reminded by my counselor in our first one-on-one session that my life wasn’t normal – it had become unmanageable. Being high functioning didn’t mean I wasn’t an addict. In addition to being high functioning, I was also able to hide my problem because drinking and going out is an integral part of LGBTQ+ culture. Bars and clubs are where many of us make friends; meet partners and dance as a form of self-care. It was also where I drank too much often to the point of blackout. In the LGBTQ+ community, research suggests that alcohol abuse and dependence occurs at even higher rates than in the mainstream population. Independent studies collectively support the estimate that alcohol abuse occurs in the LGBTQ community with rates up to three times compared to the mainstream population.

After Pride, I enrolled in an intensive outpatient program and moved into a LGBTQ sober house. Each step is helping me learn how to rebuild my life without alcohol. Getting sober is the hardest thing I’ve ever done, but I have the amazing support of my family, friends and housemates. Everyday at Pride we had to say a positive affirmation as part of the morning community meeting. I would often say, “I’m on the right path.” I now believe that more than ever.

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