There are so many things in life that can be hard. We humans naturally want to make what is stressful less so and therefore seek different paths in attempting to accomplish this goal. We will choose the best, most healthy avenue when it is available. There are many reasons this better avenue may not always be possible and other choices are made. Alcohol and other substances may be one of these choices.

The initial inclination to seek the help of substances is understandable. When a person is around others who use, it is a feasible route. In fact, in some circles, socializing centers on the use of substances. Using then, becomes a way of life. For others, turning to drugs and alcohol is a hope for relief from stress, pain or some untenable situation in that person’s life. When things are not going well, when a person is suffering and/or when those around that person use, substances make sense.

The initial high and relief soon becomes a need to rely on that substance in order to feel better. Shortly after that, it may become a regular part of life. Daily routine may very well begin to center around ones drug of choice and before long that drug has control over the person who first turned to that substance in order to gain more control. While first motivated by a healthy need to reduce suffering, dependence on alcohol and drugs, will eventually increase suffering. While studies showing the incidence of alcoholism and drug use within the gay, lesbian, queer and transsexual populations inconclusive, it is commonly believed that it is higher than that of heterosexual people. This is easy to understand given the homophobia and transphobia in our culture. How a lesbian, gay, queer or transgender person feels about their gender or sexual orientation, how openly that person can live and how much support someone has will greatly influence the GLBT person’s likelihood of developing problems with substances.

Deciding to become sober is a hard choice. However staying drunk or otherwise intoxicated is harder. Little by little a person who is dependent on drugs or alcohol finds that the good things in their lives fall away. As a substance becomes more important in ones life, other people, other interests, and career become less important. People often loose things that were once central tothem. At the very least dependence or addiction to drugs and alcohol will reduce one’s vitality and potential fulfillment. Drugs and alcohol can also ruin people’s lives.

Becoming sober can involve many things. Twelve step programs offer a wonderful structure for sobriety as well as enormous support. Various types of rehabilitation programs offer a safe and structured environment that can support the initial phases of sobriety. Garnering support from family and friends, when available, is important. Therapy helps people come to understand the role that their drug of choice has provided. It can help people find new ways of coping with stress. Counseling can help people make better choices, find other, more adaptable ways of feeling better and finding solutions to life’s problems and pain. Good psychotherapy will also help a person relate better with themselves and others. Therapists with experience in working with drug and alcohol dependence understand this journey. Becoming sober is not easy. But ask someone who has been through it and they will surely say that has given them new life.

Tetty Gorfine, LMHC