While much has improved, being gay is still hard. Even if you’re out, shame can still linger deep in your heart. Maybe mom still doesn’t know, some friends, your colleagues…? Shame can manifest as low self-esteem, emotional distress, increased suicide risk, and physical problems. Avoiding underlying issues, many men self-sooth, comforting themselves in pleasurable ways, self-medicating the pain. Unsafe sex, excessive: alcohol, drugs, sexual compulsivity, porn, Internet, exercise, food, shopping, work, the list goes on and on. How much is too much? Where’s the line between what’s healthy and unhealthy? Break free from an isolating cycle that may be spiraling downward. Explore healthy ways to cope that aren’t self-destructive.
Consider this letter.
I am struggling with an addiction. Do you think getting into recovery is really worth the effort? I mean isn’t forgetting about things the point.
Signed, Party Boy
Dear Party Boy,
Gay men have higher levels of addiction than the majority of the population. In part, addiction is an attempt to sooth some unbearable emotional reality. But the fixes don’t work, that’s why we have to keep repeating them.
While some “girls” may “just want to have fun,” you can’t dodge your problems and emotional anguish by partying. It will catch up with you. Being gay is hard in a heterosexist, homophobic society. You have to face your demons in order to heal, restoring a sense of inner joy and peace. The only way out is through. When we face our fear head on, we’re able to take the steps necessary for change.
Recovery comes from the depth of your soul and requires, as great psychiatrist and psychologist Carl Jung said, “legitimate suffering.” Recovery from many wounds has brought me some of the most incredible emotional pain I’ve ever known. But facing this pain head on is the most wonderful thing I have ever done for myself, growing through it in order to move forward to the other side. My pain has great meaning for me, as it has helped me to be a good therapist, giving me the know-how to tenderly usher others through the process toward healing. Pain isn’t the enemy. The fear of passing through it is. That’s what keeps you stuck, hurting. I believe you can stand your pain to free yourself from it. I have great faith in you, after all, your pain is not you, and you can tolerate it. Holocaust survivor, Victor Frankl, a preeminent psychiatrist and psychologist said,
“For tears bore witness that a man had the greatest of courage, the courage to suffer.”
You already have what it takes, as demonstrated by being a gay man in predominately anti-gay culture. While you are strong and resilient, get extra support by joining a 12-step program and finding a psychotherapist. It’s possible to thrive happily as a gay man. But nothing will change until you change.
All The Best, Angelo.