29 Jun Phil’s Recovery Story
In honor of June being Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Pride Month, Recovery is Beautiful is highlighting Phil’s story below. Recovery Is Beautiful originally came upon this story last year through SAMHSA’s National Addiction Recovery Month.
My name is Phil. I’m a gay man in long term recovery from alcohol, tobacco, and drugs. I am proud of being gay and sober, but that wasn’t always the situation. In 1971 when I was 14, a man from a self-help group came to speak to my church youth group. I said to a friend on the way home, “I think I might be an alcoholic,” but I quickly talked myself out of my concern. Sometimes when my father drank he was verbally, emotionally, and physically abusive. Nobody knew the internal turmoil I felt. My only goal was to leave home as soon as I could. I was dating a young woman who suggested we get married. I saw this as a way out so I agreed, and a year after high school graduation in 1975, we married. I tried to hide my true sexual identity from everyone, but I couldn’t hide it from myself.
I was married, depressed, and struggling with my sexuality. I asked our family doctor, “How would someone know if they are gay?” His reply had a very negative impact on me, he said that’s a very sad and lonely life, and I needed help. He then wrote an Rx for tranquilizers, which was all the assistance he offered. He advised I not drink when taking medication—I ignored him. Eventually, I left the marriage and accepted myself as a gay man. Unfortunately, I started to spend all my free time in gay bars where my drinking escalated and I started using drugs including crystal meth.
In 1980, my father went to treatment; I participated in the Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) program. I remember the family counselor warned me that I was a potential alcoholic based on my family history. Those words meant nothing at the time. I continued going to meetings to see my father celebrate his anniversary. Slowly, I started to understand more about alcoholism and recovery. In 1983, I quit a two-pack-a-day smoking habit, saying, “one day at a time, and not taking the first cigarette,” to anyone who asked how I would quit. I hit my own bottom with alcohol in March 1984 and had my last drink. I didn’t go to meetings then because I thought that going to meetings was what my father needed, not me. In February 1985, feeling very alone, I went to a meeting, 11 months after my last drink. At the time, I was still using drugs but I told others I was sober. In April 1985, I hit another bottom and I began to see drugs were controlling my life just like the alcohol. I began recovery and used for the last time on April 10, 1985.
My life today is beyond my wildest dreams. Today, I work as an educator at a university. I train others on cultural competencies working with Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender individuals. I train addiction professionals, social workers, psychologist, nurses, and physicians. I volunteer my time to LGBT communities. I mentor others entering into the health education field. The Governor of New Jersey appointed me to the licensure board of Social Work Examiners. I also serve as the President of NALGAP the Association of Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender Addiction Professionals and Their Allies. I continue with my recovery program, I go to meetings and help others.