Is Sexuality and Substance Abuse Correlated Within the LGBT Community?

 

Join couples as they discuss what it was like to struggle with substance abuse and how it affected their relationship. What was the drug of choice? Did your sexuality play a role in your substance abuse? How would you describe addiction in the LGBT community?
Alumni Perspective: Willingness

Alumni Perspective: Willingness

by Mandy
Munro Alumni, March 2017

 

So many of us seek recovery when we are desperate and have tried our own ways and failed. We have had our share of pain and suffering and are looking for the solution. Yet the biggest riddle is this: When given the solution, many of are unwilling to fully accept it or do what we are told will make us better. Many of us want recovery on our own terms. “I’ll do this, but not that.”

I was one of those people. Initially, I never even wanted to be a sober person. Sobriety to me was the end of the road and signified the end of my life. Unknowingly, I sabotaged my every attempt to be sober. It took me six years of constant relapsing to become completely 100% willing to go to any lengths.

When I first entered AA, the initial problem I had was with God. I didn’t believe nor did I plan to. My mind was a steel trap. Completely closed. This was the first sign of my unwillingness. Straight out of the gate, I wanted it my way. I relapsed.

My next attempt at recovery was doomed because of my dislike of the 12 steps. I was aghast at the notion of being told that I might have some character defects or was less than perfect. How dare AA suggest that, without knowing me! No AA for me and I continued to relapse. I chose a different path of recovery, known as harm reduction. No 12 steps, no need for God. This I would do. I entered a harm reduction treatment centre and relapsed five days after leaving.

My options were running out and my relapses were getting worse. I didn’t yet understand that my alcoholism was progressing. My work was being affected, my family was at their wits’ end, and I was isolating and binge drinking. I decided I would give AA another try and imagined I would be finally healed. I went to some meetings and sat in the back row (relapse row). I never went early and I shot out of there as soon as the Lord’s Prayer was recited. I continued to relapse.

I decided to get a sponsor but was unwilling to calI her because I was full of fear, I had social anxiety, and a phone phobia. In my mind, I was going to AA, I was accepting God, and I had a sponsor and believed this was enough. Now when I relapsed though, my short spurts of binge drinking had progressed to not being able to stop once I took that first drink. The nightmare of a binge would not end until I went to the hospital.

I decided I was not connecting to my sponsor so I got a new one and she made me begin the steps. I started to get better and got a little bit of sobriety time. I didn’t really enjoy AA though. I didn’t connect to the fellowship. I still had some of my old friends and still wanted my old life. I was one foot in and unwilling to jump in with both feet. And although my relapses were farther apart, they had become dangerous, terrifying, and worst of all, life threatening. I was locked up in the psych ward on a Form 1 more than once, in and out of the hospital, suicide attempts, injuries, and loss of my driver’s licence. My body and my mind were no longer working properly. I was a shell of my former self.

I was beaten. I knew this disease was going to kill me so I put myself into Renascent. There began a journey of real recovery and the beginning of a new life. I became willing. I decided I would do anything and everything I was told to do. I did the work. After leaving Renascent I did their Continuing Care program, I did 90 meetings in 90 days, I did the 12 steps, and I got active in the program and in service. I went to retreats, round ups, conferences. I went to closed discussion meetings and Big Book studies. When I was afraid or unwilling, I prayed for help for strength and willingness. I built a foundation of trust in my Higher Power and began to think of myself as a student of AA and recovery. The more I did, the more I began to like it, and even love it. I learned tools to live happily in this world without the need or desire for any substance.

This past February I celebrated two years of sobriety.

I am continuing to learn and grow and I feel grateful every day. I look back at my stumbling blocks and I remember thinking that because I couldn’t understand how or why things worked, that they couldn’t possibly. I remember thinking “How will praying help me find a job and pay my bills?” “How will going to a meeting affect my day today?” I had been unwilling to listen and trust. In the end, I just had to do the things I was told to do.

At a 12-step retreat I attended a little over a year ago, I read something that has stuck with me, because it described the old me. It read, “Most people say to God, ‘Prove to me that you exist and I will believe in you.’ God says in return, ‘Believe in me, and I will prove to you I exist.’” For me, that says it all. Believe first. Do the work. Live a life beyond your greatest dreams.

Last year I went to India for two months to study yoga and meditation. This year I am travelling to Thailand for a month to volunteer for an organization that rescues street dogs. This is a life I never could have imagined. I have had a spiritual awakening and the desire to drink has been lifted from me. I have a love for recovery, for AA, and for 12-step living. I am no longer running the show; thank God for that!

6 Ways to Learn to Love Yourself in Recovery

6 Ways to Learn to Love Yourself in Recovery

Self-love in recovery can be a challenge, but it’s part of the process of overcoming all the complicated self-esteem hurdles that can come with the early stages of recovery. Before you can love anyone else, you have to truly love yourself!

1. Look in the mirror, honestly. Not just when you’re looking and feeling your best, but when you first wake up, before you’ve gotten dressed, in all your must vulnerable moments. To get confident with what you truly look like, start appreciating all the ways in which you are naturally perfect. Maybe your eyes are an amazing colour? Perhaps you’ve got an awesome dancing booty? Whatever you look like, start acknowledging and appreciating that you look great, just the way you are. 

2. Let go of shame. When you’ve made mistakes, do what you can to correct them, and move on. If you find you’re making the same type of mistake repeatedly, try to figure out why you’re doing it, but the same way you would forgive somebody else, forgive yourself. And remember that a lot of mistakes are also a chance to learn; what can you do better next time?

3. Pay attention when you do something you’re proud of. Acknowledge the moments you catch yourself doing the right thing for yourself or for others, and recognize that being a good person is part of who you are. You’re the kind of person who holds doors for others, who eats healthily, who volunteers, whatever!

4. On that note, volunteer! Spending some time focusing on other people and their needs is a great way to get some perspective and take a break from working on your own recovery. When you’re done, you’ve got one more thing to pat yourself on the back for. 

5. Practice self care. Doing little things to take care of yourself every day is a great way to build a habit of treating yourself the way you deserve to be treated. For example, you might want to get in a quick workout every day, drink a certain amount of water, eat a proper breakfast, or sleep a minimum number of hours. While you’re still building these habits, use a habit tracker app to monitor your progress.

6. Celebrate your successes! Whenever you achieve something special or unusual, make a point of celebrating in some way. Did you push yourself to go rock climbing when you were pretty sure you’d be terrified the whole time? Did you pay off a credit card or finish a course or get a new job, or meet some other personal goal? Tell a friend about your accomplishment, and let them shower you with praise! However you choose to celebrate, be sure to also add your achievement to a list of reasons you’re awesome. 

Perspective: Nothing will bring you greater peace than minding your own business

Perspective: Nothing will bring you greater peace than minding your own business

Officially I don’t belong to a 12-step group; I do have a sponsor who has become like a sister, and a team of incredible women who inspire, mentor, entertain, challenge, and have continued to love me on my best and worst days over the last 8 years, 10 months. Some may say that because I don’t have a home group, I am not a member of AA. I remind them the only requirement of membership is a desire to stop drinking.

For the past 8+ years, I have lived my best life. I am the same woman who could not stop drinking for anything or anyone; I was hopeless and destined to die until I finally “surrendered” in January 2010.

I am growing up in AA and was actively involved in service for a number of years. I still say I owe everything to AA, my higher power, and the people who showed me the way. This includes people outside of 12 step and the people who stick around the rooms, make coffee, and open the doors. I have experienced my parent’s funeral and my child’s wedding, and I didn’t drink — this is truly a miracle. I have found a recovery program that worked for me, and I have persevered. I still consider myself in early recovery, and I don’t hide my recovery from the public. Whenever I can put a face to recovery, I do it with pride as a person with lived experience of a substance use disorder and long-term recovery.

What I’ve learned along the way is there are many roads to recovery, and recovery looks different for everyone. What I measure as success may not be what you consider success. One of the very first teachings in AA was “to keep an open mind” and when I was in early sobriety, I was very opinionated about the quality of other people’s programs even though the next thing I was taught was “live and let live.” It took time, patience, pain, and practice to stop looking at the quality of other people’s lives and focus on my own.

What prompted me to write this is that I want to — as a member of Alcoholics Anonymous — provide an alternate perspective when it comes to harm reduction, abstinence, cannabis, methadone, suboxone, and other mood-altering substances. What people choose to do is none of my business; I want my friends and members of the fellowship to live their best lives. I don’t care if you smoke pot, I don’t care if you drink, I don’t care if you come to meetings drunk. I care that you’re happy, I care that you’re whole, I care that you’re not suffering, and I care that you’re alive.

Letting go has been a process, and for me that means freedom.

Wishing you peace, love, and happiness.