This month I thought I had an easy assignment: find ten LGBTQA+ celebrities that are sober. In spirit of Pride month, I wanted to raise awareness about LGBTQA+ sobriety through strong role models. What I found is that I first need to spread awareness in general. As I researched trying to find LGBT celebrities who were sober, I found a limited number of those who came forward with their stories.
Two celebrities with compelling stories that are out of the closet are Boy George and Ruby Rose.
When boy George recollected about his time trying to become sober, he remarked that “I got clean on March 2, 2008. That was the day I went to my first Narcotics Anonymous meeting. To be honest, I didn’t want to be there. Recovery takes time… But I knew in my heart it was where I needed to be. So, I stuck at it, and I’m pleased to say that I’ve been successful since that day. I’ve stayed sober.” Boy George said that gratitude was a word that stuck with him from recovery through sobriety, saying that “[b]efore I got clean I didn’t really know what gratitude was. But I’ve learned to appreciate what I have now.”
Ruby Rose, lesbian from the hit Netflix series “Orange is the New Black” turned to alcohol to try and cope with being beat for her identity, sexual abuse, and bipolar depression. She mentioned having a “one more drink” mentality that did not have positive results. She learned that alcohol was not an answer to her problems, nor was it fixing any of her problems. She went to therapy and rehab to truly face her demons, leaving the bottle behind her.
Now we shouldn’t jump to conclusions and assume that the scarcity of LGBT individuals’ stories of sobriety means that LGBT people aren’t sober. Rather, what I found was that the LGBT community is severely under-represented when it comes to sobriety. There are difficulties and obstacles that LGBT individuals have in finding helpful resources for sobriety that straight people may not have thought about. The most visible of these difficulties is that the path to becoming sober becomes a “dual” coming out—in the sense that when one has an addiction it takes courage and strength to seek help and admit to others they have an addiction. On top of admitting alcoholism and drug abuse, LGBT individuals would have to share their sexuality. Thus, having a duality of acceptance needed, support for their sobriety and support for their sexuality. A sober community, rehab, or other support system could be more damaging to LGBT individuals if that community does not accept, include, or support their sexuality and or gender. For example, a trans person seeking rehab or support during sobriety could be faced with many walls if they couldn’t find trans-friendly or trans-inclusive groups. Drug and alcohol use are high in the LGBT community because many individuals turn to these vices to cope with familial, religious, or societal rejection. Therefore, one can infer that if a LGBT person was sent to a homophobic rehab or sobriety group that they would find it increasingly difficult to avoid their unhealthy coping mechanism. When trying to help someone be sober, you can’t surround them in the environment that originally led them to abuse alcohol or drugs.
We need to be mindful of the LGBT individuals in our community. We need to reach out an offer an extended hand. LGBT individuals who suffer from drug or alcohol abuse walk the long rode of sobriety and acceptance for their identity.
Below are statistics from QuitAlcohol.org:
- More than two percent of adults aged 18 and older in the United States identify as an LGBT individual. This equals more than five million people. (Kaiser Family Foundation)
- LGBT individuals experience a high level of poverty, with approximately 20 percent of gay and bisexual men and 20 percent of lesbian and bisexual women living in poverty. Furthermore, 25 percent of transgender Americans report a household income of $20,000 or less. (SAMHSA)
- A higher number of gay (40 percent) and lesbian (33 percent) men and women report consuming five or more alcoholic beverages in one day than heterosexual adults (22 percent). (Kaiser Family Foundation) Many LGBT individuals admit that they are more susceptible to alcohol abuse to try and cope with rejection from family. I personally had a friend who would drink anytime he thought of his family or had to deal with them. My trans friend had a horrible fall into alcoholism because her other disowned her. We all know that drug and alcohol abuse is never justified, but when we are at our lowest that is when vices tempt us and can often lead to paths of destruction.
While Pride month is a great time to spread awareness, be open to continue to learn about the LGBT community and find ways in which you can help in the journey of their sobriety. For in this journey, we all need to join hands and walk together.