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Peanut butter and jelly, socks and shoes, coffee and doughnuts.

There are some things that when you mention them, they immediately evoke a pairing. When people mention gays and lesbians, creativity and diversity usually come to mind. But lately, there seems to be darker pairing that is slowly tainting the GLBT community: substance abuse.

Substance abuse, in simple terms, is a coping strategy. People use alcohol, drugs or other substances to help them deal with painful, stressful or debilitating situations. Many minorities suffer great mental anguish when coping with their second-class status, but with the GLBT community, attacks and pressures come from all different fronts. Growing up, most youth are told and taught that heterosexuality is the norm, that families should have a mommy and a daddy. Religious teachings condemn homosexuality as an abomination. Politicians and lawmakers stand on their soapboxes and vilify what they deem as the homosexual agenda. Schools do little to curb gay and lesbian bullying. With every aspect of society telling you that being gay and lesbian is wrong or immoral, it is hard to not internalize those feelings. Soon a discordant state exists where your true nature conflicts with your outward persona. In your isolated state, you can’t talk to anyone, you don’t know anyone who’s openly gay or lesbian, you have no available resources. Your only source of comfort is to take a swig of alcohol, swallow a pill or smoke drugs. Numbness is what you strive for and these substances deliver a quick injection of “I don’t care.”

But let’s say you manage to come out and accept your sexuality. You’re instantly bombarded by a culture that’s dominated by socializing in bars or clubs. Parties are sponsored by major alcohol companies, glossy cigarette ads fill magazines and drugs are exchanged as fast as handshakes. The thought of feeling left out is more than you can bear so you partake in the festivities. It’s a culture of excess and you’re right in the thick of it. Soon you become hostage to the drink or the drugs and what turned out to be social partying has now become hardcore.

It’s not surprising that national statistics show that alcoholism and drug abuse affect 20 to 30% of the homosexual population (Ziebold & Mongeon, 1982, Rofes, 1983). The consequences of these abuses have resulted in a steady rise in the number of arrests for Driving Under the Influence, Possession and other alcohol or drug related crimes. Substance abusers fail to understand that their abuse have far-reaching effects – ruining lives, draining finances and even worse, jail or prison time.

Seeking help starts with an admission of a problem and since the origins of these abuses stem from denial, it’s hard for abusers to admit they have a problem. Ask yourself the following questions to indicate the possibility of a problem:

Do people comment often on how much you drink or use drugs?
Do you drink or use drugs even when you are alone?
Do you often have black out periods?
Does drinking interfere with friendships, school or work?
Have you ever been arrested as a result of drinking or using drugs?
Have you ever wondered whether you have a drinking or drug problem?

If your answer is yes to more than one of the questions, seek help. Through counseling, peer-to-peer support and group therapy, The Pride Institute can help you resolve the root cause of your substance abuse. We can show you new and more effective coping strategies. We know that facing a life free of alcohol and drugs is daunting to some, but The Pride Institute wants you to know that you are not alone. You’ll get the one thing you been lacking all your life…unconditional love and support. Contact The Pride Institute today and start your sober life now.