Social Stigmas Easing for LGBTQ But What About Gay-Friendly Drug Rehab?
Posted on 03/20/18: Addiction Recovery
Prejudice and discrimination are equal opportunity haters. No matter what your race, religion, age, gender or sexual preference – a homogenized/diversified society generates its abundance of negative perceptions. Whether based on fear of differences or loathing of similarities – it exists. Perhaps, none more than in the vast misunderstandings about gender identity and sexual preference. While social stigmas are seemingly easing for the LGBTQ community, there’s a double-edged-stigma sword when it comes to seeking drug rehab.
Heterosexuals Are Sympathetic but Can’t Walk in LGBTQ Shoes
I am a heterosexual, white female. Though this most certainly does not define me as a person it does distinguish me in some way, just as you reading this have your personal descriptive.
Although I have fond memories of my great Uncle (gay and married to a man) and other gay, lesbian and bisexual friends throughout my life, I would never with confidence say that I understood the challenges associated with their sexual identity. Not that I didn’t want to. On an intellectual level, I did. On an emotional level I could, comparing their painful stories of bullying to my own. But how could I truly understand unless I walked in their shoes?
The Transgender Who Opened My Eyes
On the first day I started to work at a marketing firm in Arizona, I came to meet a young woman named Kat. During a 15-minute break, Kat entered the kitchen and introduced herself to me. I was struck by her upbeat, enthusiastic yet quirky nature. A strange mix of unassuming, insecurity and confidence, she took an immediate liking to me and rambled on about her hobbies, job responsibilities and “I heard you had a background in film and radio,” she said smiling at me.
Kat cracked me up. I suppose I mentored her a bit, though it turns out the opposite was true. There was something very different about her. I couldn’t put my finger on it but my mind was inundated with questions I hadn’t pondered before. “Is she male or female? Is she gay, lesbian, bisexual or transgender? Is she (or he) comfortable in her own skin? What bathroom does she use in the office? And finally, did any of this matter?” Thankfully, I answered with a resounding “No.”
After I got over my preliminary curiosity overload, I focused on the work I was doing in the drug addiction treatment industry. It wasn’t long before I had a nagging thought that made me stop.
What if I was a member of the LGBTQ community and I had a drug or alcohol problem.
Where would I go to get help?
LGBTQ Members at Higher Risk for Substance Abuse & Mental Illness
Imagine what it would be like to live your personal truth hidden from the rest of the world. If you are lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender or queer and haven’t revealed it to others, it’s a stressful existence. On the flip side, once your truth comes out, a host of other life stresses become evident.
Along with this identity and lifestyle come increased risks for drug or alcohol addiction, mental health issues and suicide. LGBTQ people are 3 times more likely to experience clinical depression or anxiety disorder. The statistics are disheartening.
- Suicide is a leading cause of death, ages 10-24
- 4x more likely to attempt suicide
- 38% – 65% of transgenders have had suicidal thoughts
- 20% -38% of LGBT or Qs abuse drugs or alcohol compared to 9% of general population
- Higher rates of eating disorders
Why is there such a disparaging difference? Understanding the struggles unique to a person of the LGBTQ community can shed some light.
Increased Levels of Stress in Daily Life for LGBTQ Drive Addictive Behaviors
If your life, for the most part, is conducted outside the LGBTQ community, like me, we don’t really have a clue about the risks therein when trying to integrate into the greater population. If you are a LBGT or Q, you’ve probably got an entire book of stories to tell. To break it all down more succinctly, refer to the following:
According to a Professor and Chair of the Psychiatry Department at Rutgers Medical School, it comes to three basic points. Petros Levounis, M.D., M.A. is also an addiction specialist who studies the effects of societal pressures on the gay community and how they can trigger mental illness and substance abuse.
- “Number one is flat out bias, stigma and discrimination against LGBT people.
- Number two is a perceived discrimination, whether you are discriminated against or not, you are suspicious of the world around you, which also leads to hyper-vigilance, hyper-arousal, and, of course, stress.
- And the third one is internalized homophobia.”
The characteristics noted above are not relayed here as a rule of thumb nor could or would they be applicable to every lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer questioning or actively living this life. But it does bring the added layers of stress that potentially, and likely, enter the picture at some point.
What Is Internalized Homophobia
A form of self-loathing, internalized homophobia can take place when a person who is becoming aware of or fully acknowledges his or her own LGBTQ status but despises this truth. This form of self-hate can be originated by oneself or brought on by others’ perception and ideologies against the LGBTQ community. The dangers of harboring internalized homophobia further exacerbate already existing anxiety, depression, suicidal tendencies and the need to self-medicate with drugs or alcohol.
The Dichotomy of Different Yet Wanting to Be Treated the Same
As more people step out of the shadows and into their personal truth, living and embracing LGBTQs (whether as a member or supporter) will help encourage more social acceptance on a broad scale and minimize the emotional and physical pain of prejudice. But we have a long way to go.
Does Gay Friendly Drug Rehab Exist?
Until I met that work associate I mentioned earlier, Kat, I never thought about what it would be like to have a drug or alcohol addiction problem, identify as a LBGT or Q and need to seek treatment. There are various kinds of treatment, outpatient and inpatient residential – each with its set of extra challenges if you’re not heterosexual.
There are specific drug rehab programs available that cater to the LGBTQ community. There are other treatment facilities that have comprehensive programs that are customized for the specific needs of the individual, no matter the gender or sexual preference. Acceptance and tolerance of others are just two of the many foundational concepts practiced during addiction treatment and recovery.
Like anything else, the right drug treatment program has a lot to do with where you feel comfortable. If you’re looking for better options as an LBGTQ suffering with addiction or know someone who is, these are what you need to consider in your search for a gay friendly rehab.
Gay Friendly Drug Rehab Practices
- Motivational interviewing
- Social support therapy
- Cognitive-behavioral therapy
- Dual diagnosis treatment
- Gender-specific accommodations
- Tolerance and acceptance
- Life skills training
- Solid aftercare/alumni program
Feeling uncomfortable about who you are or what you’re involved in can carry a lot of shame. Addiction treatment specialists understand these self-defeating thoughts and know how to listen, respond and guide you through the path of positive self-awareness towards lifelong drug and alcohol recovery. Embrace the good in you and reach out to someone who is always there to help.
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