By Michael Arndt, Alumni Coordinator, CAST CENTERS.
The first Pride movement occurred nearly 50 years ago in June of 1970 in New York City. The 1970’s were a very different time for LGBTQ rights in the United States, and globally. The need for a demonstration at that time was born from the need for recognition, awareness, and to spark a societal conversation around the adverse treatment of LGBTQ individuals.
In 2019, Pride is still fundamentally the same. We have had so much to celebrate over the last decade, but we still have so much to continue fighting for. Keeping our rights at the forefront of the national discourse is just as important today as it was in the 70’s, regardless of the strides we have made since then.
If you’ve ever been to a Pride parade, you will know that the celebratory nature is taken very seriously. In West Hollywood, Pride culminates on a stretch of Santa Monica Boulevard that is lined by bars. This holds true in most major cities where there are Pride parades. But what if you are sober? How do you navigate such a boozy affair? After all, even large alcohol companies will sponsor the very event you are attending, and most of your non-sober friends will likely be drinking and some people will likely be using drugs in an attempt to “relax and have fun.” If you are committed to maintaining your sobriety but still enjoying yourself and celebrating your pride (or even if you are just there to show your support for your LGBTQ loved ones) here are some tips on how to do it while maintaining sobriety.
- RECOVERY MEETINGS. Attend recovery groups before, during or after pride. West Hollywood is home to the Log Cabin and the West Hollywood Recovery Center (both located on Robertson between Santa Monica Boulevard and Melrose Ave). They will be holding meetings during the event. Attending a meeting can be a great way to help ground yourself in your sobriety and keep it at the forefront of your mind when you are surrounded by people who will be under the influence.
- INTENTIONS. If you are newly sober, be very mindful and honest with yourself of your intentions going into Pride. If you have a gut feeling, or a little tiny voice in the back of your head that is telling you you want to be around alcohol because you miss it, or because you want a little backdoor or excuse to drink/use, then run for the hills until you are in a better place. Pride happens every June. Not to mention the LGBTQ community loves to celebrate — we do it a lot. This won’t be your last chance to do so. But if your intention is to fully be present and enjoy yourself, then get your wristband and go nuts.
- PLAY THE TAPE THROUGH. I know that making the choice to not attend certain events where all your non-sober friends will be enjoying themselves can cause some serious FOMO. I have felt that feeling so many times in early sobriety. For me, the perfect antidote for that FOMO is the guilt and shame I would feel towards myself if I drank and once again ended up making a mess of my life. Knowing I would let down my friends, family and myself keeps me in check.
- SOBER FRIENDS. Bring a sober friend or friends. Tons of people who are sober still attend Pride and parties, clubs, celebrations where alcohol or drugs are being used by others. Getting sober does not mean that you should live in fear of being around drugs or alcohol. There are obvious limits to this. Going to weddings, birthday parties, concerts, pride parades, etc. is still something you should get to enjoy once your sobriety is established and strong. So find out what sober friends of yours will be attending and go with them. It is always much easier to stay sober when you are surrounded by sober people than if you are with people who are drinking/using.
- EXIT PLAN. Remember that you can leave at anytime. Pride basically goes on for an entire weekend. You do not need to stay for the entirety of the celebration. If at any time you begin to feel uncomfortable, it is perfectly fine to just leave. You do not owe anyone an explanation. Your sobriety and your wellbeing must come first. If anyone does not respect and understand that, then they are likely not the kind of people you should be spending time with in the first place. I tend to put time limits on certain things if I feel uneasy going into a situation. For example, I will say I am going to an event for an hour and then reassess. Or just go for one part of a large event like Pride. There are many options you can get creative when it comes to scheduling to further ensure your safety.
- HAVE FUN. Going to a celebration like pride is all about expressing ourselves in a safe way. That was why pride was so important in the first place. It was a safe place for LGBTQ people to express themselves authentically. It is difficult to honor that tradition of authentic self-expression if you are under the influence of drugs or alcohol. In fact we do the opposite of that when we drink or use. We are suffocating who we really are, and we are doing damage to ourselves in mind, body and spirit. That is not a safe or authentic expression of anything true about you. You are worth so much more than that.