We’re Here, We’re Queer – Shayna’s Story

We’re Here, We’re Queer – Shayna’s Story

This month is the first installment of a new series I’m doing called We’re Here, We’re Queer! The series will be a way for me to spotlight a different queer or trans member of the recovery community on the 15th of each month by giving them a space to tell their own recovery story. The stories can and will be a mix of mediums: writing, photography, visual art, poetry, etc. Some will be anonymous, some will not. Some will be a “work in progress” as people are working their way to/through recovery and some will be from people who have been in recovery for years. There will be one common thread – they are all part of the LGBTQIA+ community.

I am really excited to share this first contribution to We’re Here, We’re Queer! I feel so lucky to be able to share Shayna’s story of both her journey to sobriety and accepting her sexuality. I could probably write an entire post about how much I love her story but, I think I’ll just let you read it for yourself:

 

Like many, my recovery story began long before I stopped drinking. When I was 20 years old I had my first “break down” and took a leave of absence for a few months from my coffee shop job. I was always hungover (or still drunk) when I went to work, constantly late, and sometimes I just didn’t show up at all. I had just discovered cocaine, which made my depression and anxiety a million times worse. One day in January 2013 I was taken to the doctors and prescribed anti-depressant/anxiety medication and was told to take some time to focus on myself. I started seeing a counselor, reading spiritual/self-help books, doing yoga, and changing my eating habits. All these things changed my life and started me on this path, but I still continued to drink and do drugs. I didn’t even realize that they were an issue at this point because the lifestyle was so normalized.
I knew I was gay since, well forever. I’ve always just loved women. It wasn’t until around age 11 that I thought there might be something wrong with that, that people might not accept this part of me. When I realized this, I buried my heart as deep as I could in hopes that no one would ever see it. When I started drinking alcohol it allowed me to detach from myself. I could be whoever I wanted to be and keep my heart buried. With the help of alcohol, I built a new persona. One that liked to kiss boys and be loud and wild and crazy. I did it because I thought that’s what people liked, and I wanted to be liked more than anything. It got me pretty far, I must say. I had lots of friends and kissed lots of boys and I completely forgot about the heart that I had buried so deep. I didn’t remember it again until that day in 2013.
Once I remembered it, I couldn’t forget it. I got curious and I began to dig it up. But it was so neglected and scared of the big bright world that I had to use alcohol to help me coax it out. So, while I had started all this new self-care, I was also becoming increasingly dependent on alcohol and drugs. Self-care and self-harm are not very compatible, and this caused major dissonance. My heart was at the surface again, but I didn’t know how to love it. I had never learned. Instead, I found someone that I wanted to love it for me, but she didn’t. That’s when “break down” number two occurred.
I was starting to notice a pattern. Alcohol was doing me more harm than good. It was the fuel for the fire that was raging inside of me. It led me to spend a night in the psychiatric ward at the hospital in 2015. It was a harrowing experience. Part of me felt like I was exactly where I belonged, among other people that the world was too much for. In the morning when breakfast was delivered, I noticed the note stuck to the top of the tray, “plastic utensils only.” It was then I realized that I wanted to live, that I could live—a life so much greater than I had been. I didn’t know where to start, but I was referred to an addictions counselor and I went every other week for a couple of months. I told her most things, but not everything. I was drinking the whole time I was seeing her, but I was still learning and gathering up tools for my tool box.
At this point my drinking shifted ever so slightly. I became a little less reckless and stopped doing drugs. I started kissing girls but didn’t stop kissing boys. I took a break from trying to label myself. Things got better on the inside, I was happier than I was before, but I was still wasting full days in bed nursing hangovers and violating myself by sleeping with strangers that I didn’t want to sleep with. I thought it was okay. I was fine. Not great, but fine.
Then one weekend in October 2016 I attended a yoga and life coaching retreat hungover as hell. I told myself I wouldn’t drink the night before, and I couldn’t keep my promise, which led me to feeling like a major fuck up. I met the most amazing women that weekend and was guided to Gabby Bernstein’s work—and then A Course in Miracles. Gabby has been sober for over ten years and she is the first sober person I could see myself in. I wanted to do what she was doing, and she said something that suddenly made everything make sense. Alcohol has no place on a spiritual path, it is taking you away from your truth—or something like that. After this seed was planted I attempted not to drink for the month of November with a friend. I drank more than ever that month…and lied about it. I watched Gabby’s lectures on every break at work. I started meditating. I blacked out and woke up with a fractured finger…and lied about it. This was my tipping point. The people in my life didn’t know me as a party girl, it was too embarrassing to tell my coworkers that I don’t know how I hurt my hand. I finally decided didn’t want to occupy two vastly different worlds anymore.
I didn’t drink for a month, and then on St. Patrick’s Day 2017 I was invited to go out with friends. I played out the night in my head beforehand, trying to turn a vision of a night of moderation into reality. I worked the next morning, I wouldn’t drink that much. It’s a holiday. I went out that night and didn’t black out, didn’t go home with a stranger, didn’t injure myself. I went out that night and I witnessed. I witnessed what I would miss if I stopped drinking. I witnessed the previously nonexistent enthusiasm enter me only as I swallowed the wine. I witnessed the tears that bubbled up out of nowhere. This was it. I wasn’t going to miss anything.
I went to work the next day hungover and had to excuse myself to go to the bathroom. I felt guilty and fucked up and sad and loved and supported all at the same time. I wanted to run away, but I didn’t. On my knees, on the floor next to the public toilet, I knew this was my first day of freedom; the beginning of my life.
I had my last drink on March 17, 2017. Today I am almost one year sober, and I’ve just come out as gay to everyone I know. I always questioned my relationship with alcohol, just like I always questioned my sexuality. I didn’t want to be an alcoholic and I didn’t want to be a lesbian, but I am here and I’m so proud. I fought these things for a long, long time. Getting sober showed me that being on the outside and living your truth is worth so much more than living your life to fit in. On the outside, I live for myself. I’m happier and healthier and more fulfilled than I’ve ever been, and most importantly, my heart is back where it belongs. Now, I can love harder than I’ve ever loved, platonically, romantically, and globally—with no restraints.


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Shayna lives on Vancouver Island in British Columbia, Canada. I am eternally grateful that she agreed to be the first person to share in this series. You can find her on Instagram as @spoystila to wish her a happy soberversary on March 18th!!

If you are interested in being part of We’re Here, We’re Queer, contact me at LGBTteetotaler@gmail.com 

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. I love this! Thank you!

    1. Thank YOU! I’m really excited to see where all of this goes.

  2. Thank you so much for sharing. I am three years sober and have been married to my wife for almost six years. Life is beautiful and amazing and crazy and sad and there is so much suffering all around us but being sober through it all is one of the most beautiful gifts that I have ever been given. Congrats on ONE year, you bad ass sober chick!

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