An estimated 20 to 30 percent of the LGBTQ community abuses substances, compared to about 9 percent of the population as a whole. This can be due to several factors, but can mostly be attributed to the daily societal pressures that our community faces that heterosexuals simply don’t have to put up with. Discrimination based on sexual orientation in the workplace, hate crimes, internalized homophobia, public humiliation, and family isolation due to coming out are all contributors. We also know that LGBTQ nightlife plays a big role in our community. Meant to be a safe space to hang out, date, and let loose, club life is categorically immersed in the world of alcohol and recreational drugs. What is sometimes glamorized on screen and on social media is just not cute in real life.
This Pride season will be especially triggering with the first in-person celebrations and festivals we’ve had in over a year. We are ready to party and coming out of lockdown isolation, our triggers can be doubly tempting. We’ve all seen the Pride goers who have drank too much, staggering in the streets, we’ve heard of the stories of people ODing at the club. Keep on your recovery path – not only is Pride a celebration of the obstacles our community has overcome, but it is also about the pride you have for yourself and in your life as an LGBTQ member.
Here are my red flag triggers and some no BS ways to handle yourself this Pride season. They may seem like no-brainers, but spelling it out and preparing yourself for the inevitable could mean the difference between surviving Pride season as a sober person or putting your recovery efforts to waste.
Most Pride festivals are sponsored by alcohol companies. With easy access to alcohol and the party atmosphere imagined by the promoters, there’s not a lot of catering to the sober community. We know that nightlife is mired by drug use, times that by ten for any Pride celebration.
At least Pride celebrations have some form of security and access to medical staff if there is an issue with alcohol/drug interaction. Throw legal and security supervision out the window when it comes to private parties. Not wanting to be a narc, most drug use and over-drinking will be ignored and maybe even promoted as a natural way to celebrate.
We know that relapsing is a big part of the recovery process. No one wants to relapse, but everyone has a different journey and some people just can’t avoid succumbing to their triggers. Relapsing comes with a high amount of guilt that some people just can’t get over, their journey is over. Some can use their relapse as a way to recommit to their journey and learn from their triggers. When a sober friend relapses, there is the temptation to also have a “cheat day” in the name of solidarity. Don’t do it.
The gays love drama, just look at our library of gay memes. Drama on Drag Race and on Real Housewives can be entertaining, drama in real life, not so much. High drama can lead to feelings of depression, anxiety, and isolation…all triggers. Alcohol and drug use can exacerbate the drama, and catty fights can turn into physical and emotionally abusive assaults.
Goes without saying. Like having a gym partner, going with a group of sober friends will keep you on track. With an entire group abstaining from party substances, the temptation will dull. You will see you can party at Pride through the power of friendship. As a group, head to a meeting or hold your own meeting before going out. Reaffirm your commitment to sobriety as a team. You got this.
This is so important. Pride festivals can become a mess with overcrowding, unclear exit signage, or a maze of vendors with no exit in sight. Become familiar with the space. Most Prides will have an online floor plan with parking, stage, and vendor information that you can look up before. Stay away from the alcohol tents, know how quickly you can exit the grounds, and know where the car pickup areas are. If you start to feel that you may use, just leave. Take yourself out of the equation, it’s not worth a relapse.
Part of your exit plan should be having access to a ride home or to a meeting. Pride can be mean an upsurge in ride-sharing services or even longer waits. Make Uber/Lyft rides a part of your budget plan so that even higher prices won’t affect your ability to leave. Check out less populated waiting areas outside of the Pride perimeter for easier and less complicated pickup sites. Predetermine an end of the night time and arrange for a pickup at a designated time before you even get there. The later you stay out, the more crowds can get out of hand from a day of drinking or using.
Everyone loves having a sober friend to act as a designated driver. While this may work during a Sunday Funday, Prides can get crazy with your non-sober friends partaking even more. Being a designated driver adds unnecessary pressure to your Pride experience and if you are responsible for others, you will feel obligated to stay in environments that are not healthy for your recovery. You should feel the freedom to leave at any point in time.
Well, duh. But read it again. If you know so-and-so has crazy parties with people doing coke in the bathroom, that’s not a party you need to go to. If your friends want to stay close to the drinking tents or bars known for their strong drinks, that’s not the place for you. Take the temptation out of the equation as much as you can. While you can’t hold others responsible for your sobriety, you can be responsible for the choices you make and the environments you choose to be in.
Find out where the sober non-profits or organizations will be having their booths at Pride. Find out if they are having substance-free events or gatherings to celebrate Pride. Can’t find anything? Maybe you can get involved and create an event with a local group.
Most of the non-alcohol drinking options served are water or mixers. Take along your own drinks. Bring one of your tried and true favorite drinks, or make something yourself… sparkling flavored water or homemade iced teas will add a spark to the day. If a Pride festival won't let you bring in water, you can probably still bring in a water bottle of your own that you can refill when you have a chance.
You can do this. Be prepared and know what is a definite “no” to be around. Believe that you can celebrate Pride and continue your sober journey at the same time.
What are some of your triggers and solutions? Sound out!
Find out more about Dr. Shoe and his podcast at www.breakingthroughwithdrshoe.com
Dr. Jason Shoemaker, aka “Dr. Shoe,” is a professional addiction and behavioral health therapist who is not here to mince words. Despite a lucrative career as a bar owner, Dr. Shoe became susceptible to the dangers of the nightlife and turned to using alcohol as a way to cope with his sexuality and familial relationships. After reaching a crossroad, he turned his life around after his stay in rehab and earned a Doctorate in Addiction Psychology. Driven by his personal journey with addiction and determination to heal others in recovery, he takes pride in giving his patients the intimate care they desperately need. As a specialist, his goals are to treat his patients and help them heal from addiction. He has traveled the globe seeking out new entrepreneurial opportunities and profound ways to help those in need.
London’s NLP Programme has recognized his accomplishments, earning him the prestigious Executive Life Coach Certification. Passionately driven to help heal people from addiction, he is on a mission to cut the bs from the world of recovery and mental health and strip the process down to its barebones in his self-designed Six Steps to Recovery. In addition to his speaking and workshop work, he hosts Cut the Bullshit: Breaking Through with Dr. Shoe podcast on United Broadcasting Network, where he and his guests discuss a multitude of themes affecting the recovery and mental health journey with “to the point” takeaways and tough love homework for his listeners.