It is no secret that within the LGBTQ community, there is a substance abuse problem. More than twice as many LGBT adults compared to heterosexual adults reported using drugs in the past year, according to the latest data from 2015. Jason Pritchard, of Augusta, GA shares his journey to sobriety.
One drunken night I pulled up at the motel, which was next door to the seedy gay bathhouse “resort,” and in my stupor I snorted what I thought was cocaine. The next few weeks, while not in a drunken stupor at all, I continued snorting what I held onto believing was cocaine. Did it look different? Absolutely. Did I care what it was? No. It made me feel invincible. Why would I give that up?
Turns out I was snorting meth. When the truth came out, I felt disgusted. The guy that lied to me and helped me hold onto my delusion of coke just wanted to get into my pants. I took a month off. “No more,” I said. But then a month later, I was with some friends that had the drug, the opportunity seemed too obvious: if I do this one last time, knowingly, it can help my sense of control on the substance and over the situation.
But it didn’t. I couldn’t stop. I had lost control completely.
As a kid, I loved to escape. When my imagination ran rampant, I felt I belonged. I got involved in theater, feeling a sense of ease and comfort as I transformed into this other being and shared their fictional world, which seemed far better than mine.
My life outside of my imagination was filled with unease. My private Christian school taught me gays were going to hell, so I was looking forward to an eternity of rubbing shoulders with Hitler and maybe a few celebrities if I was lucky. I found out I was adopted at an early age, looking forward to this adventure of a possible new tribe in the years to come. After my adopted mom died, I wanted nothing more than to be reunited with my biological one. I grew up befriending girls. On several occasions at school, one by an openly homophobic teacher with hair the size of a drag queen’s, I was forced to socialize with the straight boys. Nasty boys (cue Janet Jackson…)
I needed something more than my imagination to make me feel I belonged. After my first time smoking pot, I found it. I felt giggly. Nothing was short of fabulous. This is the life for me. This is everything I wanted. Years later, alcohol, cocaine, a few pills here and there, and finally but definitely not least, meth were all in my spiritual vocabulary. (Maybe that one time with crack, but honestly I can’t remember. There’s too much I can’t recall.)
What started off as just letting loose, having fun, being young wild and free, and whatever other Lana Del Rey cliche lines you can fill in here turned into an occupation. I couldn’t go out in public without smoking a bowl. I couldn’t sing the Christmas duet with my friend unless I had a beer. I couldn’t live without the dope. I didn’t know how to live sober. I didn’t want to.
I remember fleeing to my mom’s house after a 4 day binge, thinking all of Augusta was after me. She had tears in her eyes as I tried my damndest to casually talk to her. My roommate up and left to Tampa to be with her family after too much strain due to my addiction. I rarely saw my family unless it was money. No uncle and niece time. Barely saw my dog whom I refer to as my son. Couldn’t hold a job. Endless plans in my head, yet no motivation or completion to them. I tried to get sober. I clung onto Catholicism for some reason, but nothing was good enough. I couldn’t do it and I was tired of fighting. Unlike Dido, I went down with the ship and ended up finally raising the white flag. I reached out and moved from Augusta to Statesboro to seek treatment.
After avoiding masculine, testosterone filled, douche-y straight guys for so long, I finally ended up in a house with them. As if fighting my doppelgänger and getting sober wasn’t scary enough, I was told that even though I’m gay, I can’t socialize with the females. And vice versa. I could not have been any more uncomfortable.
Not only did I have to reconcile my beliefs and fears and hopes and dreams in myself with being sober, I felt I had to do the same with my sexuality. How gay was I allowed to be here? Why can’t we just watch Gossip Girl or Sex and the City? One night, a group of guys came over to watch the Mayweather vs McGregor fight and I think at one point my contact fell out due to my perpetual eye rolling.
I ended up staying at the house for 10 months and 9 days. To say I’ve had a complete spiritual awakening after an existential crisis after existential crisis is an understatement. Many days I broke down in tears from frustration. Many days I was moved to tears out of a happiness I never felt prior. I was openly gay in the house. I started letting my guard down with one guy after befriending him. Then another. And another. Then before I knew it, I had guys watching RuPaul’s Drag Race and not giving a damn whether they liked Jiggly Caliente or not.
I learned one of my fears is vulnerability. There’s a part of me that refuses to open up to someone in fear that they may judge me or leave me. That went hand in hand with opening up about myself and my sexuality in the house. If I jammed to Ariana Grande was I going to be just a stereotypical gay? When it boils down to it, I need to do what I want and what fits me versus how someone is going to perceive me. I learned how to be confident in myself and not give a rats about how other people saw me. It’s something I still struggle with today, but a lot smaller than it used to be.
Breathe in. I am what I am. Exhale.
I went into treatment for addiction with hopes of finding the person I want to be. I got told I was like the rabbit in Winnie the Pooh: always saving, always working, never knowing how to just BE.
I left treatment gaining so much more. I picked up meditation and yoga to help me be in the moment. I gained a spirituality and relationship with the god of my understanding that’s unlike anything I’ve felt before. I actually befriended most straight guys I came across. And other gay guys. And finally, the girls. I have a strong sense of who I am and what I want. A part of me might want to be the sober gay Carrie Bradshaw of the south. But that’s besides the point.
I still struggle. I’m by no means “cured” of my addiction. I live in a college town where boys on Tinder ask if I want to go out for a drink and there’s
constantly parties in my apartment complex. I moved in with 3 sober girls and the freedom at first was bittersweet. On one hand, I could do whatever I wanted with no rules. On the other hand, some nights I felt I had nothing to do with fill my free time than to do drugs. Still, I continued on my path. I’ve come too far and fought too hard to digress. I’ve fought the vulnerability. I’m still fighting the anxiety, but with both minor and major triumphs. I take the bad with the good.
I still love to escape. On some nights, I’ll take a ride and look at the stars. I’ll often write on my blog which I started in sobriety, or I’ll binge on SNL skits. The escaping I do today is far more beneficial than the ones I did a little over a year ago. And the most amazing part is some days I don’t need to escape. The earth is laid at my feet like an open notebook just waiting to be written. I used to feel my life in segments, or chapters, and I feel that now a whole new book is being written.
And it’s only the beginning.