A Sober Pride

By Beck Gee, MA, LADC, IOP Program Director

I get the question all the time “How do you stay sober during Pride?” or “Pride would be so difficult without SOMETHING, how can you even go?” I have had time to reflect on my experience of being part of the LGBT community and being sober over the last couple weeks. This will be my 8th Pride sober. I have been going to Pride since I was 18 years old, and for 7 of them, I couldn’t tell you what happened.

As I reflect, Pride festivals seem like an alcohol manufacturers dream. It seems as though the Pride celebration is sponsored by all sorts of alcohol and tobacco companies. Everywhere I turn I see a different booth with a new kind of drink, beer gardens and people who work for the tobacco companies offering free cigarettes. And when I was using, this was my utopia. Everything I wanted at my fingertips and drugs were never hard to find. So how do I now go back to a place that can bring back the “euphoric recall”, all the “good times” spent with friends over drinks and drag queens?

I admit my first Pride was the hardest. I was in San Francisco, a place where I spent lots of time in a haze of drug and alcohol induced party. I had a lot of anxiety, but I heard through the grapevine of recovery that there was a sober tent space. So that was the first place I went. It was right next to the beer garden (of course!). In there I met some folks just hanging out in the shade, a quiet space away from the craziness outside. There was free coffee, soda, and pastries… it felt like a little serenity in a sea of madness. As the years went on, it got easier. I found myself exploring new ways in which to get involved and have fun. I surrounded myself with sober friends and enjoyed Pride sober. I remembered that I didn’t get sober to stay in my house and be miserable. I got sober to live.

During this time of year I think of the past and what Pride means to me, I make sure I have a plan, and I make sure I put my recovery first. I created a list the most important things that get me through these special weekends as being a person in recovery and being a proud member of the LGBT community.

  1. Recovery First. I must always remember why I got sober and what keeps me sober. No matter what, my recovery comes first to anything in my life, including the after parties, great DJs and people I want to meet. If I am triggered or need to get out of a situation, I leave. Nothing is more precious than my recovery, and I’m grateful I know that. I have a meeting I can go to during the weekend, or meet with sober friends outside of the scope of parties and festivities. I always have a sober plan.
  2. Spending time with sober friends and people who know I’m sober. If people don’t know about my recovery, then they don’t know me. I don’t surround myself with people that will offer me drinks or drugs or try to force them upon me. Yes, I get offered drinks every now and then my someone who may not know, but all I should have to say is “no, thank you” and not be pushed. The moment someone tries to force it, I’m over it and out of there. They are not worth my time.
  3. Dancing. I love it. I always have and always will. There is nothing that gets me out of a dark place like shakin it on the dance floor. I never thought I would have fun sober when I first started this journey… but now, I know that I get to dance and be crazy and not be the douche on floor spilling their drinks and acting a fool (you know who I’m talking about).
  4. Get Involved. Have you ever been in the Parade? Cause if you haven’t, you should! There is something about walking that few miles and seeing the joy in people’s faces and getting to show your support for a cause that you never really cared about during your using. We only cared about ourselves, now we get to give back and add to life rather than take away from it. If you aren’t the parade type, how about working a booth? Just as fun and you get to meet a lot of people.
  5. Learn your LGBT history. Why do we have Pride? Before I got sober I thought it was just a place to party, hook up and do as many drugs as possible. I didn’t know the history behind it. I didn’t even care. Recovery has taught me to learn my history, give thanks to those who have fought and continue to fight for our rights. I even get to be a part of history now and fight for what I think is important. We have come a long way, but we have a long way to go. This gave me more of a sense of Pride than anything I could have every imagined.

In getting sober, I get a life. In getting sober, I get to be present. In getting sober, I get to have a sense of Pride in my gender identity, in my sexuality and in my whole sense of self. Pride is about encompassing all that I have been through and all that I am today. Pride gives me a sense of community that my addiction wanted to take away. As a sober member of the LGBT community I have an opportunity to give back and to show the world that I am somebody. Be well this Pride friends. May peace and a sense of deep rooted pride be with us all this amazing time of year.