Queer & Sober

by Anna Harissis

Bars may have become synonymous with gay culture, but the LGBTQ+ community has had a significant problem with substance abuse throughout the decades.

Whether due to personal trauma, mental health struggles, discrimination, social stigma, lack of support, internalized homophobia, or co-occurring disorders, the  LGBTQ+ community is increasingly seeking out alternatives to the gay bar lifestyle.

This article hopes to provide you with as many up-to-date resources as possible as you enter or manage sobriety.

Did you know?

  • Gay, lesbian, and bisexual adolescents are 90% more likely to use alcohol and drugs than their heterosexual counterparts.
  • Lesbian, gay, and bisexual adults are more likely to engage in casual, binge, and heavy alcohol use than their heterosexual counterparts.
  • Approximately 44.6% of LGB individuals between the ages of 18 and 28 reported binge drinking (consuming 5 or more drinks in one day) at least once in the past month, and another 10.2% reported heavy alcohol use, which is defined as binge drinking at least 5 times in the past month.
“Sometimes the people around you won’t understand your journey. They don’t need to, it’s not for them.” -Joubert Botha

Should You Explore Sobriety?

If you’re part of the LGBTQ+ community, you may have wondered at one point or another if sobriety is the right path for you. The journey and decision to remove alcohol from your life is a personal one, but many people around the world have done it for several similar reasons.  

Common Reasons The LGBTQ+ Community Gets Sober

  1. Improve interpersonal relationships between friends, family, or romantic partners
  2. Better invest in and maintain long-term relationships
  3. Improve health and wellness, from avoiding feeling sick to reducing damage to one’s liver or reversing nighttime breathing issues
  4. Gain mental clarity to pursue goals and a new state of happiness
  5. Level up your financial stability and save money

A Path Towards Getting Sober: Your First 90 Days

“The First 90 Days” is a phrase prevalent in everything from career advice and hobby implementation to addiction support. But why 90 days? The first three months of anything are the most important because it’s when things feel the hardest.

All beginnings are hard: whether you’re practicing a new instrument for the first time, getting back into the gym, or starting sobriety. Your body and mind have not wired themselves for its new reality, and the urge to return to “normal” is an everyday struggle.

But first, let’s break down the first few days.

The Detox Period

If you’ve been drinking heavily, the first thing you want to do is determine with a medical professional or detox center if your drinking levels require a formal detox. Medical detox usually ranges from 2-8 days.

Medically-supervised detox allows you to cut out alcohol in the safest way possible. Severe alcohol withdrawal symptoms can actually lead to death without medical supervision due to seizures or DTs.

If you’re consuming alcohol in a way that seems necessary for your survival and daily living, you should speak to a professional before starting your sobriety journey.  

Rehab: Outpatient vs Inpatient

Whether or not you require a medical detox period, you may want to consider inpatient or outpatient rehab if alcohol has been a major part of your day-to-day experience.

Inpatient Rehab may last anywhere from a few weeks to six months. A residential inpatient treatment facility offers people the opportunity to fully focus on recovery.

Outpatient Rehab is a great option for people who want to enter an alcohol recovery program while maintaining their daily life. Outpatient care allows individuals to stay home and go to a rehab facility during the week.

Intensive Outpatient Rehab is a combination of the above: it operates as an outpatient program but requires a larger time commitment per week.

Next Steps:

Some people may have completed a medically supervised detox and rehab in their first 90 days of sobriety. Others may have removed alcohol from their lives without a formal rehab program.

In either situation, the first 90 days will set the tone for how the rest of your process will go. This period is when you’ll need the most focus and support, which is why treatment is so important at the beginning of sobriety. It’s crucial not to underestimate the power addiction has, so here are some tips to set yourself up for success:

  1. Evaluate the people and places that may trigger you to drink.
    It may be challenging at first, but take a short break from the drinking buddies and places where drinking has been the center of interaction. Communicate with these friends about your current journey and goals if you feel comfortable.
  2. Come up with a plan for celebrations and holidays.
  3. If you decide to attend parties during your first 90 days, come up with a plan for how you’ll manage the urge to drink. Have an exit plan to leave at any time. Bring your own non-alcoholic beverages. And try to have someone join you at the party who supports your sobriety.
  4. Join sober networks and meet sober friends!
    If you’ve built your friend groups around drinking, you may realize that your mutual interests wane once alcohol is moved from the dynamic. And that’s okay! You now have the opportunity to build friendships with aligned interests and values.


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