Dan L. started drinking to numb himself while trying to hide that he was gay, he said. Now 32 years sober and wanting others to have a safe place to turn, Dan started an LGBTQ+ 12-Step Recovery Group at Sheboygan County’s Rightway Club. The group meets weekly on Tuesdays at 6 p.m. and is open to all people who want to fight drug, alcohol or other addiction problems.
If the recovery group grows, it might happen more than once a week, said Dan, a board member of the club. There are no age or education requirements to participate. The Rightway Club is a nonprofit that provides meeting rooms for several 12-step recovery groups.
“The reason I started this group is, I don’t want one person in this world to feel that because they’re different from the quote ‘norm,’ they’re not welcome,” Dan said. He said the importance of having an LGBTQ-affirming recovery group has been apparent at the group’s first two meetings.
“One (person) put it this way: ‘I never could really be myself at a regular meeting. But at this meeting, I can be myself’ — so I was happy,” Dan said.
Prejudice impacts the health of LGBTQ people
Prejudice against people in the LGBTQ community can lead to problems with addiction and mental health. Lesbian, gay or bisexual adults are more than twice as likely as heterosexual adults to experience a mental health disorder and nearly twice as likely to experience a substance use disorder, while transgender people are nearly four times as likely to as cisgender people to experience a mental health disorder or substance use disorder, according to the National Alliance on Mental Illness.
For Dan, he felt he had no place to turn growing up in 1960s Sheboygan, he said. He attempted to commit suicide at age 19 and drank through half of his first marriage, he said. “I was ridiculed all my life,” he said. “Well, it’s still bad here in this city. … There’s always going to be that prejudice around. I just want to stamp it out.”
About the LGBTQ+ recovery group
At a typical Rightway Club meeting, the group will sit down and read the Alcoholics Anonymous 12 traditions, 12 steps and promises. The 12 steps start focused on alcoholism, but are applicable to whatever someone’s addiction is, Dan said.
The leader of the meeting chooses a topic out of one of the club’s many books, members introduce themselves and then the group discusses the topic or anything else they want to talk about. Meeting leaders ask at every meeting if anyone needs a first-step meeting, which is admitting, Dan said. Members will go around and say when they started drinking or using, how they got to the point of stopping and how they are now.
“It gives the person that’s here for their first meeting the feeling that ‘I’m not the only one,’” Dan said. “And that’s what many people say if they come in here. They say, ‘I feel like I belong here. I’m not the only one who has felt this bottomless pit that I could not get out of.’
“There’s some hope here, and we try to give them that hope,” Dan said.
There are no fees to attend a meeting. Coffee and sodas are $1 a piece, and donations are accepted but not required. People with questions about the LGBTQ+ Recovery Group can call Dan L. at 920-226-8145 or call the Rightway Club at 920-452-3375.
“Our biggest thing is, if you need help, don’t be afraid to say ‘help,’” Dan said. “If you need help, we can help. If you need more than what we can offer, we can suggest (more resources).”
- The National Suicide Prevention Lifeline: A hotline for individuals in crisis or for those looking to help someone else. To speak with a certified listener, call 988.
- The Veterans Crisis Line and Military Crisis Line: Connects veterans and service members in crisis and their families and friends with qualified U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs responders, available via a toll-free hotline, online chat or text. 1-800-273-8255, press 1.
- Crisis Text Line: A national and confidential text messaging service that connects individuals in crisis with trained listeners. Text “Hopeline” to the National Crisis Text Line at 741-741.
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