Fall is in full swing here in the northern hemisphere – there were even some snow flurries this morning, reminding me that New England winter is a reality I’ll have to face soon. But, fear not! Here’s another We’re Here, We’re Queer! to keep us all warm and cozy this November.
This month’s contributor is someone you’ll definitely want to get to know better. Beth is a young person in recovery who, at just 21, has already been sober for a couple of years. She’s been working on cultivating connections with other young and queer folks in recovery and I just love seeing her voice become stronger and clearer over time. But, in the words of LeVar Burton: you don’t have to take my word for it!
As I wake up at 1:00pm on a Sunday, because I didn’t go to bed until 5:00am, I sit here wondering what being young and sober is supposed to look like. I ask myself: Is it supposed to look like waking up with a caffeine hangover and burning lungs from how much nicotine I ingested the night before? Is it supposed to look like going out to parties and bars and being the only one sober? Is it supposed to look like hidden panic attacks at these events when no one is watching? Is it supposed to look like hating myself for putting myself in these situations, but hating myself more if I decide to be “lame” and not go? Is this the cool way to be sober at such a young age? Because I’m really trying here.
I’m 21, gay and sober. I got sober at 19, and at the time it was a pretty clear choice: get sober or die. So I chose sobriety. I’ve always been in the party scene, from the age of 14, I was known as the party girl. I was the life of the party, whether that meant being the fun one making everyone dance, or the sad girl throwing up in the middle of the living room. But when I got sober, I had a choice: Was I going to let this shatter my party girl identity, or was I going to somehow make both work? I decided to try and make both work. I had, and still have, this need to be liked and looked at as cool. It’s not something I love about myself, and it’s something I’m actively working on changing, but for right now it is a part of me. I was and still am terrified that if I lose my cool party girl image that people won’t like me anymore. So, I get my Red Bulls and my nicotine and I continue to party soberly. I remember around my one year sober mark I had a friend actually say to me after a night out, “Wow, I’m so glad you’re still fun, I was worried you would change and not be able to have fun anymore, but you’re just as crazy and fun as drunk Beth, you just don’t drink now.” I really don’t think the intention behind this statement was bad, but it still hit me like a ton of bricks. It confirmed my fear that people won’t like me if I change.
In our society being young is often associated with getting fucked up. Almost everything looked at as “fun” and “cool” for young people surrounds alcohol. It is similar in the LGBT+ community. So many of the things catered towards my identities involve alcohol and partying. I don’t want to stop being young and fun and I don’t want to stop meeting other queer people. But, how do you meet other young queer people without going to a gay bar? How do you stay young and fun without going out until 3am? Even more importantly, how do you meet other young sober people? I’m really asking these questions, because I don’t have any good answers. I think it’s a major problem. The only potential solution I have come up with so far is to just talk about it. So that’s what I’m doing. I’m sharing bits and pieces of my story, hoping it will reach other people with similar thoughts and feelings, and maybe, eventually, there will be more places for young sober people and queer sober people to connect. Because I’m so fucking sick and tired of trying to be cool in my sobriety. I’m tired of holding on to my party girl image just to be liked. I’m tired of waking up at 1:00pm on a Sunday feeling like shit, just to stay relevant in my communities. And, lastly, I am very fucking tired of giving my time, money and energy to a lifestyle I don’t want to live anymore. I’m a young, gay and sober person, and I fucking love everything about those parts of me. I am all three of those things, all the time, and I will not give up any one of those identities for another, I just won’t.
Beth Holden is a gay lady who lives in Knoxville, Tennessee. You can find her on Instagram @sober__bitch where she talks about her experience as a young, sober, gay person. And, if you’re a young, sober person looking for connection, she’s your gal!