Every June, our social media feeds are filled with rainbow flags and folks from all colors of the rainbow celebrating their queerness. Unfortunately, for those of us who are on the path of sobriety or alcohol-free, those celebrations can get a little trickier. (Especially if you’re struggling with alcohol use disorder and seeing the myriad of rainbows plastered all over liquor companies’ products.) But just because you’re no longer drinking or trying to cut back doesn’t mean that you can’t join in this month-long celebration of all things LGBTQIA+.
This Pride Month at Tempest, we’ll be specifically highlighting the beauty, triumph, and complexity that is being LGBTQIA+ and sober or on a path of recovery. Through posts on our Instagram account and in email (you can subscribe to our newsletter here!), you’ll get our best tips and stories about how to celebrate Pride Month without alcohol. In the meantime, read on for our four top pieces of advice on celebrating your queerness and your sober pride this month, all month, and in all the months to come.
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1. Come out as queer and sober—if you want.
When I first came out as bisexual at the age of 16, I wasn’t yet drinking. Years later, after I quit alcohol, I had to come out again—this time as a sober person. For many of us, coming out in sobriety is only the beginning. Although I was personally lucky enough to recognize my sexuality and be open about it at an early age, that is not the case for others.
In fact, some people who drink do so because they are drinking away their gender identity or hiding their true sexual orientation. That’s why it can often happen that a person comes out as sober and queer at the same time. Sometimes, in the haze of our drinking days, we cannot look internally long enough to realize that maybe the story we told ourselves our whole life isn’t true anymore.
So this year, celebrate Pride Month by coming out as both queer *and* sober… if you’re ready. For some of us, being open about our true selves is monumental to our recovery. But for others, it’s not safe to come out as queer and we’re not ready to be vocal about our sobriety. And that’s okay, too. How you share your story, and who you share it with, is up to you. But if you’re ready, then now may be the time.
2. Understand the impact of alcohol on mental health.
One of the most difficult parts of Pride Month for me (and many other queer folx I know in sobriety) is just how much liquor companies have taken over Pride events. When I lived in New York City, Pride Month was full of fun and wonder, and rainbow-adorned vodka bottles and beer ads everywhere. But this is a big problem considering that alcohol use disorder is more prevalent for LGBTQIA+ people.
“LGBTQIA+ individuals are 2.5 times more likely to experience substance use disorder compared to heterosexual individuals, according to a study by the American Psychiatric Association. Furthermore, the study states that women who identify as lesbian or bisexual are more than twice as likely to engage in heavy drinking in the past month than heterosexual women (8 percent and 4.4 percent, respectively). In addition, a 2013 survey conducted by the U.S. Census Bureau found that a higher percentage of LGBTQIA+ adults between 18 and 64 reported past-year binge drinking (five or more drinks on a single occasion) than heterosexual adults,” writes Bonnie Horgos for The Temper.
But while Pride Month can be difficult for queer sober individuals, there are also several sober LGBTQIA+ resources that you can check out. Queer-specific resources, groups, and meetups such as Q Center, Identity House, Trans Lifeline, The Trevor Project, and the National Queer and Trans Therapists of Color Network are all places where you can seek help and support if you need it during this month and throughout the year.
3. Embrace the challenges and joys of being a queer sober person.
Being a queer sober person can be full of challenges (see above) and it can be full of plenty of joys, too. One of the things that can be a challenge is that LGBTQIA+ inclusion is not always available in recovery circles but, at the same time, we as a community have heavily impacted the recovery movement as well. And don’t forget: Making recovery spaces more inclusive is an important part of the conversation, too.
When I was first in recovery, I struggled to find fellow queer folks to connect with. Because I came from a rehab center, there weren’t many options available to me. And, if I’m honest, the one other queer person I knew struggled as well because he was not well accepted by his fellow male (but straight) peers in recovery. That’s why these days I make it a point to seek out other queer and sober people. It’s not easy to find, but it can be incredibly fulfilling once you do.
These are just some of the challenges and joys of being queer and sober. For me, finding and connecting with a queer sober community has been a huge part of my recovery and finding a support network. Sometimes those relationships are in real life and sometimes they’re online. So if you’re not sure where to start, then why not go ahead and follow some sober LGBTQIA+ folks on Instagram? We are here to connect, too.
4. Enjoy celebrating Pride while sober.
Okay, so I’ll admit it: Celebrating Pride Month after getting sober or trying to be alcohol-free doesn’t exactly look the same anymore. But that isn’t’ necessarily a bad thing. When I was newly sober, people would often question what I would do for fun but the truth is that my options are now much more plentiful than ever before. These days, I can be queer and sober and still celebrate Pride. Whether that’s by supporting queer artists or volunteering at a hotline or dancing the night away (my favorite) with an alcohol-free cocktail, my options and yours are unlimited.
Just because you don’t drink anymore doesn’t mean that you can’t be a part of the celebration. While we remain in the middle of a pandemic, there are things you can do to celebrate pride without alcohol this year. For instance, if you are vaccinated, you can meet up for a queer poetry reading at a local coffee shop that’s keeping things safe and socially distanced.
If you don’t feel safe venturing out, then you can attend a virtual Pride Month event or host your own queer virtual book club. If you need a bit of extra support, you can attend a sober queer event or join a queer recovery community. For instance, Tempest membership hosts queer-support calls led by our knowledgeable Care Team. And of course, you can always host your own sober Pride party! The best part? This can be done both online and in-person, depending on where your sober queer buddies are and what you are comfortable with.
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When it comes to celebrating Pride Month as a queer sober person, the good news is that you can most definitely do this without an ounce of alcohol. And while it may not be easy to find your sober support network, you can definitely do that too. In the meantime, follow along on our Instagram for more LGBTQIA+ sober content all month long and to connect with fellow sober queer friends.