Let’s face it: drugs and alcohol are a huge part of gay culture. Getting trashed together, hooking up, and using recreational drugs to enhance sex are part of the package, so to speak. And that’s fine, for some people. But when you’re ready to get off the party bus and start living sober, it can be really hard to adjust. Where’s the fun? The sparkle? When sex, bars, drugs, and booze are the norm, finding a life that feels balanced and rewarding can be a challenge. Here are three ways to get into the groove of your recovery.
Love Yourself. A Lot. Really Hard.
Like RuPaul herself says: “If you don’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?” Many of us stayed in active addiction simply because it was easier to find relationships in the bar scene. But how many of those connections are really built to last? When we get sober we start to see what those relationships are really made of. It can be hard to deal with the fact that some people were only drinking buddies (or another kind of buddy). What’s the solution to this sense of loneliness? Love, of course. A lot of it.
Learning to love ourselves is one of the best and hardest things we do in recovery. It sounds really corny, but celebrating our sobriety and the milestones we pass is a great way to rebuild our sense of self and our self esteem. Every day, give yourself a pat on the back: you’re already 24 hours further from the person you used to be, and 24 hours closer to the person you will be. Remind yourself that your life is worth living—after all, there’s only one of you!
Be Smart When It Comes to Staying Sober
Oh, addiction. It is as slippery as an eel sometimes. When we’re not paying attention, our addiction can change shape, or sneak up on us in unexpected ways. Sure, we may have put down the booze (or the crystal meth, or the pills), but all of a sudden we are literally cuckoo for Coco Puffs. Or we start smoking again, when we’d quit ages ago. Or we can’t stop obsessively checking a dating app for updates. Those are addiction related behaviors that can be a problem, so we need to be aware of our choices and the paths they might lead down.
It’s true that nobody ever got drunk from eating too many cookies. (Probably. It’s not clear. In any case, don’t try this at home.) But think about this: we eat too many cookies, so fast that our stomach hurts and we feel like a Hungry Hungry Hippo at a family style buffet. We gain weight, we feel like crap, we hate ourselves and feel unattractive, and then we drink. It’s not the cookie’s fault, but the cookie got the ball rolling. Same with smoking, or hanging around in places that we know aren’t healthy for us. By staying vigilant and calling ourselves out on unsafe behaviors, we can maintain our recovery.
Dating While Sober, A Comedy In Three Acts
The eternal question: How are you supposed to date without a drink in your hand? Yet people do it all the time, and do it successfully. If you’re worried about making authentic connections with people—whether it’s a relationship or a business partnership, it’s okay to leave alcohol out of the picture. it’s better to know what someone is like sober—and that “someone” includes you, too! When we show up to a date sober, or make a point to meet at a place that doesn’t serve alcohol, we get to be our real selves. And we see our date at their realest, too. Champagne goggles will make everyone look a little better, for a minute. But when we dull our senses, we miss out on all the cues and hints that are so important for forming valuable relationships.
Additionally, abstaining from alcohol or drugs can give you a really clear look at how other people view your recovery. If you don’t drink, does your date act weird and awkward? Do they try to pressure you to drink? Do they unload a long, dramatic story on you about their alcoholic father or that one time they were arrested for drunk driving? Or are they cool, accepting? At the end of the day, whether it’s a one night stand or the love of your life, you don’t want to be with someone who isn’t down with you. Sober you. Recovered you. In a way, recovery is a great litmus test for your potential partner’s character. If they judge you, that speaks volumes about what they’re made of.
My Emotions Are Off The Chart!
One of the first things to happen in recovery is that our emotions come back. For those of us who have been socially conditioned to be tough or butch, that can be a real challenge. Alcohol and drugs are a numbing agent for people who have substance abuse disorder. It scrambles our emotions, and can even cause long term issues with our brain’s serotonin receptors. When we get into recovery, our hearts and minds slowly begin to reconnect, and the result is a lot of feelings. So many feelings. More feelings than an Oprah special. How do we handle this?
As Jon Kabat-Zinn says, “You can’t control the waves, but you can learn how to surf.” Although strong emotions may feel strange or unfamiliar, they are natural in recovery. They don’t make you weak. They’re part of your process. Find people you can trust and be honest with them about what’s going on with you. Friends, a therapist, or a support group are all good resources. As time goes on, you’ll get accustomed to your emotions and learn to trust yourself. Part of recovery is becoming a whole person, so even if you love being rough and tough, you may find yourself embracing a little bit of your feminine side. Stranger things have happened.
As you stay sober, you’ll figure out what works for you. This is your journey! Enjoy every minute of it.