Recovery

A Sobering Pride

My first Pride celebration sober I went in with far too much confidence, and quickly lost it. I was just shy of 7 months clean when I took on one of the biggest alcohol events of the year.

Pride weeks are known for their heavy sale of liquor. Especially events such as the Providence Night Time Parade. Which is held in the evening, on a street lined with bars, and quickly followed by massive block parties. And don’t get me wrong, its fun – it’s REALLY fun. But alcohol and other party substances are EVERYWHERE.

And while most cities have purposefully made their parades early to avoid the heavy drinking, its still a problem no matter where one goes. I grew up outside of Chicago which is (in my opinion) the best parade in the country. But every year people were getting so trashed the city organizers kept moving the time of the parade earlier and earlier. It didn’t matter. Whether drunk at 2 in the afternoon or 10 in the morning, people love to get wasted on Pride day.

 

I’ve Been There.

Up until 4 years ago I was one of those wasted party members. I don’t remember most of the previous pride parades. Though I do know that one year I came to and found that I had wandered into the midst of the Chicago parade. I was marching down Halsted street in a rainbow bikini proudly waving a flag that I don’t remember purchasing. Everything was a blast, until I woke up the next morning and realized I had spent my rent money and had no idea what I did the night before

So four years ago – and newly sober -I headed to the Boston parade, decked out in full queer apparel. I quickly felt that I was in over my head. But managed to power through the pre-parade activities and was relatively distracted during the main event. Until we headed to the after parties. Immediately after paying my $20 entrance fee I regretted the decision.

I could feel my mouth literally salivating for a taste of alcohol. My eyes darted back and forth, wondering what drinks everyone was purchasing. I was on edge and short with my girlfriend. My teeth were nearly ground to bits. I felt trapped and panicked. I didn’t live in Boston and I didn’t know any people in the city, other than my current friends. Eventually I faded from the dance floor and found a quiet spot in the jammed packed bar to sip my Red Bull.

I managed to make it through that night. But I was attending the Providence Night Parade the following weekend and I determined I wouldn’t put myself in that position again.  I contacted my sponsor and we came up with a plan. This is what I have done every Pride -and alcohol fueled event – since.

 

1. Plan Ahead

Take a few moments to answer these questions:

  1. How can I leave if I feel uncomfortable? – Do you have Uber or Lyft downloaded on your phone? Do you have a bus pass? Are you taking your own car? My first year was right before Uber really took off so that wasn’t a very accessible option. So instead, I looked up phone numbers of cab companies and had them saved in my phone. I also made sure I had enough money to pay the taxi.
  2. What will I say if someone offers me a drink? – You don’t owe anyone an explanation. Try saying you’re on a diet, or you’re not feeling well. Perhaps the excuse that you’re in training or you’re allergic to alcohol will get people off your back. You can also get a red bull or sprite. Ask the bartender to put the drink in a glass with some fruit. Most people wont offer anything if you have a drink in your hand.
  3. Where can I go to take a break? – If you’re at a bar or a house party, look for a spot you can dip out to if you need a break. Bring some cigarettes or a vape. Or you can have someone on back up to call you so you have a reason to be on your phone.

 

2. Be Honest

Not just with yourself. Be honest with your friends and sponsor.

  1. Be honest with you – My biggest problem my first year sober was that I wouldn’t acknowledge how I was actually feeling. I had to be willing to let some things, and people, go.
  2. Be honest with your sponsor or sober companion – Find someone to hold you accountable and tell them the truth. Let them know when you’re struggling. Again, you can’t do this unless you are first honest with yourself.
  3. Be honest with your partner or friend – No doubt you’ll spend Pride with other people who drink or use other substances. Sometimes this can hold us back from being honest because we don’t want to be a “buzzkill”. But chances are, if you’re sober, you’ve got people in your corner supporting this decision. Rely on these people, let them have your back. And if you can’t think of any friends who want you sober, then you might need to re-evaluate your friends.

 

3. Let Go

Let go of the person you were and experience a new person

  1. Be a new party animal – For so many years I believed I could only party if I was drunk or high. And my first Pride I stayed in that mindset. But the next year I tried again, and this time I let go of that old me. I had a blast. Last year was also fantastic and this year I expect my Pride partying to be the best pride yet. But I don’t party the way I use to. I’m more reserved, I’m not the center of attention, but I have fun.
  2. Realize other people aren’t watching you – You may be watching everyone else (because it’s fun AF to watch wasted people when you’re sober) but I promise they’re not watching you. So let go. Dance, sing along, get in the mosh pit, scream your head off. To be honest, that’s what everyone else IS doing so really you’re the odd person out if you’re not joining in.
  3. Enjoy being able to absorb the experience – Many people at the parades, bars, and block parties won’t remember the majority of events the next day. Like I said, I can’t remember most of my first four years of Pride. But I remember every detail of the last 3 years and there are so many moments that still make me smile. The gift of sobriety is that I can absorb the moment and hold those feelings with me. Embrace that gift.

 

So have a wonderful Pride Month my friends. And remember, you’re not alone and you don’t need a substance. To thine own self be true.

 

-Evan

What Sobriety Has Taught Me About Transition

989 days, 32.48 months, 2.7 years ago, I woke up and for the thousandth time promised myself I wouldn’t get drunk today. There was nothing special about this particular day. I had no pressing reason to get sober. I didn’t fear losing anything because I had already lost it all. I was crashing on a dirty red sofa in my best friends, boyfriends sunroom. I had about $30 to my name, a car which thankfully ran, and a rolling cleaners rack to hold my clothes, and I didn’t even have enough clothes to fill the “closet”. My relationship had ended, my job was close to ending as well and my friendships were quickly evaporating. Yet honestly none of this motivated me to quit drinking. I wanted to quit because I was certain that I was just a few days or hours from drinking a poison I’d researched and ending my life. And I was sure that if I kept drinking I would have the courage to follow through with my plans. I had not yet begun my transition.

So I headed off that morning to a 12 step recovery program that I didn’t particularly like in hopes that today I could stay sober. And somehow I managed to hang on. The next day I returned to that program and the next day I stayed sober too. Every day I repeated this process slowly accumulating days that turned into weeks and then months and finally years. And I want to say clearly that I don’t have this sobriety thing handled, and I don’t know if I’ll be sober tomorrow, because addiction is a bitch. There’s been a lot of coverage in the media lately about Demi Lovato’s relapse. And there’s been plenty of judgment in sobriety meeting spaces online and in the real world. Everyone has their opinion on my Demi overdosed but my reasoning is simple. Eternal vigilance is the mother effing price of sobriety and no one ever beats addiction. We all just learn how to live despite our weakness.

But now that I’m done and with my pessimism, I don’t want people thinking I’m just wasting my time running from a drink. The lessons I’ve learned staying sober and listening to others who have stayed sober have translated into all aspects of my life. Especially concerning my transition. So here’s a Buzzfeed-esque list on how this lifestyle has helped me.

1. I’m powerless over the rest of life

This step is about acceptance and not giving up. I have to accept where I’m at right now. I can work to make things better, the future doesn’t have to be bleak. But in this moment, I must accept the reality of my situation. And accepting helps me to get a clearer picture of what I need to do to get to my goals.

2. There’s hope

I can’t get caught up in the idea that I’ll be stuck this way forever. In my program, we have a saying, “Just do the next right thing”.  When I was overwhelmed with my name-change process I kept repeating that phrase to myself. I couldn’t handle thinking about everything that needed to be done. I just focused on one step at a time. And once I completed that step, I looked for the next.

3. Identify, don’t Compare

Comparing myself to guys 2 years, 5 years, 10 years into a medical transition can kill me. I’m. Not. There. But I’ll get there. I can listen to their struggles and their motivations and use those in my own life. I can aspire to be them, but I’m not them yet. I can’t look at someone else’s journey and think “Well I’m not like this guy” or “I’ll never look like that” or even “He’s doing it all wrong”. That’s not the point of my transition. This is my journey. I take what I need and leave what doesn’t serve me.

4. It’s One Day At A Time, EVERYDAY

Everyday I have to wake up and take today as it is. I don’t find peace living in the past and I don’t find comfort projecting into the future. Every day is a fight. Every day I have to keep doing what I’m supposed to do. Every time I want to give up I remind myself that I just need to get through today. I don’t know about tomorrow, I’m just taking today.

 

A few more notes….

1. This is simply advice for living. If you struggle with mental illness then please seek professional help and trust your doctor. There is no shame in admitting we need help. There is no shame in mental illness.

2. If you need help battling addiction then please reach out. We can put you in touch with local recovery centers. We can be reached at yourqueerstory@gmail.com or through any messaging on our social media @yourqueerstory.

 

Blog by Evan Jones

 

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