Steve welcomes Chris to share their experience, strength, and hope with you, along with advice on getting and staying sober.
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Hi everyone. And welcome to gay. A podcast about sobriety for the LGBT plus community and our allies. I'm your host, Steve Bennet-Martin. I am an alcoholic and I am grateful for the unconditional love. I get from my dog. Remy. As of this recording, I am 342 days sober. And today we're welcoming a guest to share their experience, wisdom and hope with you. Welcome to the show, Chris.Chris:
good to have you here. Why don't you introduce yourself to the list?Chris:
All right. My name is Chris. My pronouns. Are they them theirs. I am an addict. And as of this recording I have on the 28th, I had a 81 months. So just a little over six years, nine months. Congratulations. Wow,Steve:
huge. Thank you. Yeah, it is. Unfathomable on most days, I just, yeah. But also feels very right at the same time, you know?Steve:
Yeah. Yeah. I hear that. Well, why don't you, we then just dive in deep with what your journey with alcohol and addiction was like,Chris:
oh gosh. Okay. Where to even begin. So I. Grew up. First and foremost, I primarily identify as a crystal meth addict. That being said, that's my drug of choice. That being said, you put it in front of me. I'm going to do it. But like, if Crystal's in that mix, I'm going to grab her first and then go for the other things. Right. And so, you know, I grew up in the Pacific Northwest in a predominantly white neighborhood. We were the only black family in my neighborhood. And from the very beginning I was othered. And I was other than a way that I think a lot of queer folks can experience that. Like y'all knew it before I knew it. And you made sure to tell me that. And so I just like That kind of shakes you a little bit, you know, you're like, wait, I'm different from everyone else. I'm not, I don't just fit in, you know, I don't immediately belong here. And like, apart from the visual things, it was you know, I was very, very, very feminine and so growing up, I was called faggot and nigger on a almost daily basis. And it's Give me the opportunity to get some skills, right. And the skills that I really gained out of that, or people pleasing and perfectionism. And so those are my first sort of like addictions, where I would manipulate you by being perfect and being exactly what you wanted so that you wouldn't be able to tease me. Right. And that worked for a very long time. And that sort of gave me this false sense of belonging. You know, I would like adapt to myself to be whoever you wanted me to be. And therefore I fit in, right. It didn't really ever belonged. I just fit in and As I, as I got older, I started to realized how soul sucking that was. And so I looked for connection and other ways. And I'm of the age where the internet sort of came around along, you know I'm an older millennial and the internet sort of like, we all got those CD rom drives of AOL, like a thousand free hours of internet. And. And they came even weekly, which is always like strange to me. Like how much money were they spending on postage if there was any of these things like weekly to every house in America? Anyway, so I, I hopped on the internet and I sort of found a tribe, you know, sort of really my first connection with other queer people was on the internet and I just would spend hours you know, I just would disappear on to the. And it sort of allowed me an opportunity to explore who I was and sort of find my voice in terms of like my humor and my, like my red parte and like all that stuff. Like I was able to find it there and ways that I wasn't able to do with my peers and my classmates, because they just don't know. I just feel like queer folks are funnier, you know, like, you know what I mean? Like I just feel like there's a sense of humor and a wit that just comes with our experience that like my straight counterparts couldn't keep up with. And so like a lot of, I feel like a lot of my jokes and things were like, just going above their heads. I should look into that, but. Yeah, I really just got to be who I was and sort of try on different things about my personality that sort of worked in that digital space. And so I immediately was spending until four or five in the morning on the internet and my mom would get these phone bills and be like, what are you doing? You know? And I would be lying through my teeth, but she knew, she knows she was an attorney. She wasn't dumb. She could like put the things together. And so that was sort of my first. For Ray and unmanageability, you know fast forward that sort of progressed to finding there was a Korean newspaper and, and, and Portland where I grew up and in the backup at there were these bone line numbers. Connect with guys now. And I started connecting there. You know, I started lying about my age and connecting with men who were not age appropriate. And those were sort of my first sexual experiences. And that really is how I started using crystal. You know, I was 15 years old and I had met someone on one of these phone lines and we'd had a relationship for about two years and I really felt taken care of for this person, you know, in a lot of ways it's sort of like. They taught me how to shave that, like all these things that I was sort of missing in my single parent household, like they gave that to me. And then there was the sex on top of it. And so I really sort of like idolized this person. I don't know if that's the right word, but I sort of really looked up to this person and was thankful for what they were bringing to my life that were sort of missing in my household. Right. One day he just like brought up these things as perf Analia and was like, I don't want you ever to do this. This has sort of been destroying my life for 20 years. But I'm going to do this before we have sex. Right. And I just sort of like spent the next month trying to figure out what it was that he was doing, why he thought it was okay to do it in front of me, but then told me it was his during his life. And, you know, I. Quickly found because I am resourceful. I quickly found it and I remember the first time getting high and just experiencing this level of tranquility. My body released all of the tension that I've been holding, which I didn't really realize it was there until it was. And I remember thinking that this is it. I finally have peace and you couple that with the sex aspect of it and the way that, like, I was physically having responses to it. And I was like, this is really, yeah. Like I have found my thing and yeah. For the next, you know, four years while I was in high school, three years, really? I was in high school. I just sort of sought out crystal meth, you know, and at the time my friends were drinking and smoking pot, like that was sort of, the thing to do in Portland is like you drank, you know, Mike's hard lemonade or Smirnoff ices, and you smoked weed and. I was like, yeah, that's cute. And all. And I was like hanging out with my friends and do that. And then I would call that person and be like, let's get fucked up really, you know, let's really enjoy it. And I I sort of was really started living this double life where I was a really great student. I was training professionally to be a dancer. I was doing all of that. But then I had this flip side of the coin where I was. Out three, four or five nights a week, engaging with people. I had no business engaging with you know, I, I was okay with it. Because for a very brief moment and every night, eight, there was this moment of relaxation that came with this moment of euphoria and that was worth it for me, you know? My senior year, things got a little bit crazy in terms of the unmanageability. I really, really started to become dependent on the drug and really couldn't stop. And it was starting to effect my schoolwork. It was starting to affect my. And I got the opportunity to move to New York, to the train for dance. And I told myself that like, I was willing to move here and I was going to get started over, you know, I was going to leave that behind and really step into who I was meant to be, which was like this queer person living in New York and dancing professionally. And so I moved to New York. I left everything behind and Life was good. I was training at this prestigious damn school and things were going really well. I was, seemed to be well liked there by my, by my teachers. And two weeks into it, I ran out of money and I didn't know how to ask for help. And. I had done some sex work in high school there, I had experienced them almost at some point, and I had used sex work as always to sort of pay for my things and keep up appearances at school. So that folks wouldn't know that this is what was going on. And so I. Run out of money and I didn't feel comfortable asking my mom for money. And I started to freak out. I started to panic. I started to think that maybe I was a fraud, maybe this wasn't for me. And maybe I'd made, made a mistake. And you know, I got on the internet and I, and I did that thing with, I always did, you know and I got high and. That was sort of my cycle for the next 10 plus years. You know, things would be really great. I'd make these really great advancements in my life and my career and my relationships and a feeling would happen, or I would get a, no at an audition. Or I had a director who was really nasty with me and I would run to drugs and. Without foveal before I did anything else, like my brain was like, this thing will take it away. If not, if, if nothing else for 15 minutes. Right. And that will just sort of like erase all of the thoughts around this thing, the problem will disappear and Whatever the consequences are. You're really good at fixing it after the fact. So it doesn't matter. Just go do the thing. And that was just my life, you know fixing and destroying, fixing, and destroying, fixing industry growing and really just running from all of my problems and using drugs and alcohol as a way to sort of, to, to mitigate those feelings. And You know, like many people, you know, I know I'm not unique in this. It just stops working after a while. And if I'm truly honest, it stopped working when I moved to New York. So it stopped working in 2004 and I didn't get sober until 2015. So in that time I am really just. Understanding that there's a problem, not knowing how to stay stopped and didn't know that there was a solution. Right. And so I would. Do what I think a lot of people do in this situation. I bargain with myself, I substitute one for another, you know? So maybe I'll stop doing crystal, but I am drinking alcoholically in ways that I've never drank before I'm doing pot in ways that I never have done before I'm seeking out, you know, barbiturates and the pills and all the other things to keep me away from my drug of choice and everything, just the sound right. You know in that, in those like 10 years, I disintegrated all of my relationships with my friends and family. I blew up my career in the sense that lie. I wasn't present there in the spaces and I sort of like stopped training. Seriously. I stopped auditioning seriously. For a few reasons. One, the nos are really hard and I took them really personally, but two, I didn't care anymore. You know, I was really so in the grips of my addiction, that was really about just like, how do I get high today? You know? And you know, I think about what ha I think about like the moments in which I realized that like something had to change. First time it really happened was in 2012, I had gotten married and my best friend and my husband were really just terrified for me. And I could see it every time I'd come home from a run. I could just see it on their faces, just like. They didn't know how to help me. And they knew that I was killing myself and they just were waiting for me to make the decision on my own. Like they had done a number of research and they knew that, like this wasn't somebody that they were going to convince me was an issue that I had to convince it of my own, or I had to come up to it on my own. And I remember every time I came home from a run, it would always be raining. It was just like, the universe was just like set up this way. But I, I remember I was coming home one. October morning and it was raining. And I I was like, I gotta do something different. And so I it's a Saturday and I'm calling all of these like numbers on Google it's rehabs. Like I gotta go now I gotta go. Now I gotta go now. And they're like, you have to wait until Monday. And I was like, I'm not gonna make it to Monday. Like, I'm just not going to make it. I have to go now. And. I remember after like the fourth phone call, I was like being on hold and waiting and like, you know what? We've got something for Monday. I just, you know, I, I called my best friend and I said, listen, I, I don't want you to make this a big deal, but I'm ready to go to rehab. I just, I've been trying to call and they won't let me come in until Monday. I just need you to be on the phone with me for a little bit. So like, get like, figure out what I'm going to do until Monday. And he said, hope. I thought I'm on the other line. Hold that thought, but where are you specifically? Where are you? And I told him where I was at and it gets back to coming to the phone, we're talking whatever. And then I noticed my husband walking up. And he met me there and that night they had been setting up for me to go to rehab that day because they knew my cycle. It was like three days. They just, like, they knew it. They knew I'd become a hump to say, and they just like set it up. And I was ready, you know, I packed up my things I to re and It was a pretty horrible experience in the sense that like, I, it was like a psych ward. It was like three hours from my house. And we. We didn't have the program that we should have had because hurricane Sandy happened and they were really close to the water. So a bunch of trees fell down and we lost power for three days. And we basically were just like camping out in this rehab for a week. And. I never got the message. I just was able to still up for a little bit and met a couple of people. And I went to outpatient directly following, and that was really powerful. I learned about my feelings. I learned that I learned how to identify my feelings and like how to label them and like what was coming up in my body. And I got on psych meds and I felt really good about life and They ended up just to going to 12 step meetings. And I said, absolutely not. I'm like, absolutely not. I'm not doing that. There's God there it's a cold. No, this is working fine. I feel great. You know, and in that time I started auditioning again and I started booking some really big jobs and my relationship was getting better. I was like, I'm good doing just this I'll be good. And so then I graduated and life was really good. And then life happened. You know, and I didn't have people and I did what I always do. You know, it wasn't meth, it was alcohol, it was pot, but it was like immediately blackout drinking, immediately pot all day. Like he immediately and then four months later, I, you know, I was using in ways I had never used before. And then I disappeared for two years. It's almost like a black, like I just don't, I don't really remember what happened. All I know is like two years went by and I. Another moment of grace, where I just like looked at myself in the mirror and decided I wanted something different. Decided that. I was worth more. And I knew a person who had gone to rehab with the same insurance as me. My husband's best friend's husband also is an addict. And we both had been in our like individual struggles at the same time. And they both were able to commiserate around that. And He had gone to this really amazing rehab and I called them and I said, I'm ready. You know? And I didn't tell anybody what's was going. I came home from my using buddy's house and, you know, told my husband, Hey, I need you to take me to the airport. I'm going to rehab. And the look on his face. It's one, I'll never forget, you know, it just was, there was a sense of relief and joy and like Yeah, just like hope. And I went to the rehab and at first I didn't really hear much, you know, there was a lot going on. I didn't really hear much. And I was in, you know, it was in Dallas, Texas, and I was surrounded by a bunch of straight white men. And I really don't identify as any of those things. And there was a bunch of alcoholics and didn't really understand that language either. Like But a couple of days in, I just started to listen and hear things differently. You know, I heard consequences that sounded like mine. I heard heard feelings that sounded like mine. I heard this joy and hope, and these people had like changed their relationships with their families. And like I wanted that, you know? And so I did what they told me. You know, we went to a meeting every day. I raised my hand. I was observers, you know, I'm came back to New York and I went to immediate and meeting immediately. Like I dropped my luggage to off. I already had the meeting set on my phone and I went and, you know, I, I, I remember as a very small meeting. You're in Brooklyn called covenants. It's actually one of my home groups. And I raised my hand and I said, you know, I'm Chris, I just got out of rehab. I've got 34 days. And I just want to stay sober, you know? And in that meeting, I saw another black queer person who was also a dancer who had a couple of years of sobriety. And it's all that I needed to come back to the next. I just needed to see someone who had a story that was slimmer to mine that looked like me, who could do this. And I came back the next day and I just sort of kept doing that. I was in every meeting for the first, like two or three years. Like I was really lucky. I was in a situation where I could do that. Just throw myself into the program. I can get connected to people. And I had six service commitments right off the bat. Like I was that girl because I had a desire not to be the person that I was when I came in, you know? And so I just did the things uncomfortable or not. I just did the things I went to fellowship and I just got a fruit salad. Cause it was $7 and it was just enough, you know, like to be there and to be eating something, but like not too expensive cause I wasn't working. And it has changed my life. You know, I just, it just really has given me things I never thought were possible for myself and none of them are cash and prizes. All of it is how I feel and how I see the world, like full stop. That's it? So yeah, you know, I'm celebrating seven years in July and that's, that's really just been it. That's sort of my story. Wow.Steve:
Wow. What a story. It is. Thank you so much for sharing. And what would you say some of the positive changes in your life have been since getting clean and staying sober?Chris:
Oh gosh. First and foremost, people having a sense of true belonging and community. I am. What are the things that was always missing from my life is connection with black folks by Chris folks specifically, I never grew up around black people. And sobriety has offered me that I have connection with most of the people in our life today are black. Mind blowing to me because I always struggled with that connection. I also. I have self-worth I understand my value. I have agency, these are all things that just were sort of missing, you know, for the longest time being black and queer. And that those intersections I had been told that like, I don't matter, I don't have value. I should not have agency. I cannot ask for what I deserve all of these things and sobriety assault me that that's bullshit. Right. That's bullshit. Take up space. You deserve to be here as much as the next person. And if someone is telling you that that's not true, then those are not your people. That's not a place that you need to be in, you know? And so I don't, I don't go to those spaces where people don't value who I am and all the things that I have to offer, because fuck them. They don't get to, they don't get to experience all of this. You know what I mean? Like for free? No, absolutely not. Absolutely not. Absolutely not. I think that that's, those are really the big ones for me, you know, just like how has he in myself and how I see the world and my connections to other people, you know, that's that, that's, that's a gift. Cause I think that's all we're looking for. It's just connection with other people and feeling like who we are.Steve:
Yeah. And speaking of connection, I mean, you talked a little bit about during your share, like how your sexuality played a role in your addictions on the flip side, how would you say your sexuality has played a role in your recovery?Chris:
Oh, gosh, you know, I live in New York and I'm in Simi, New York and that is primarily a queer re fellowship. You know, none of our meetings are queer specific. You just go into one and you, I mean, good luck trying to find you know a straight person and, and New York and CMA, just like it doesn't happen often. And when they do show up, they aren't totally. They don't feel welcome all the time, which is another topic for another conversation. But I think that it I'm grateful for that. I'm grateful that I'm getting sober, that I got sober in New York and this fellowship specifically, although it has been difficult, it has been a godsend. My outpatient was not queer friendly. Queer friendly. Our patients here in New York city, I didn't know they existed when I was in rehab. There just wasn't enough research done. We're sort of like IDC to find a place. This place is close to my apartment and I went there. But you know, I. It gives us sort of the shorthand language and experience, you know, I can talk about being the phone lines and be on the internet. And like, there's a, there's a nodding that happens automatically that there isn't like a questioning or like what, what are you talking about? Like, there's this, that happens. And so that has been super, super, super helpful. I will say. Identify as trans non binary. And so like that has been sort of a new things sort of that is, I don't want to say struggling, but it's sort of been a new challenge to find those spaces where those folks are accepted in CMA. I think that a lot of times CIS gay men love the idea of us, but when it comes to like sharing space with us, they don't know how. And so they're very standoffish. And so yeah, I just think that, that it's, it's. There's more work to be done. I'll say that.Steve:
Yes. Well what would you say are some of the practices you use in your daily life to help keep you sober and clean?Chris:
Oh gosh, there are so many. And I think, you know, it's interesting that you're asking me the question now because I, as I have a couple of days under my belt and so You know, what, what are the things that I do now at six years, nine months that I, that are still the same as I did when I was counting days. The only people in my life are so rare people except other than the people that are. Not addicts the normies, so to speak. That was huge. I try to make a meeting every day. You know, if you look at my calendar on my phone or whatever, like there's a meeting listed for every single day. So no matter what is going on, I always know there's someplace that I can get you. And that's some of the better sort of starters in the beginning of my sobriety. And I say it with all my sponsees, just make a list for the. Put a meeting on every single day of the calendar, because you never know what's going to come up. And when, and just having that thing there. Has saved my ass so many times just knowing, okay. If I could just make it to six 30, I can go to a place and I can talk about my shit. I can just hear something, you know, that daily reprieve, we sort of talk about like, that's it. And it's scheduled on my day, every single day. Gratitude lists are huge for me. I started my gratitude practice in 2018 or 2019, and it has transformed my life. I sort of started it as a way to. I wanted to be able to find the silver lining quote unquote, in every situation, even the situations that don't go my way, you know, there's a teachable moment in there and that's the silver lining. So yeah. So that's a thing that I do serving. No, I do a lot of service. I'm currently gone. This is a grazing. I'm currently the chair on a four planning committee for a silver retreat that happens annually. We just had a retreat last weekend and it was amazing. We had 193 people present. 95 of them were first-timers. It was the most inclusive retreat that we've ever had. I think that that's just work that myself and other people on the committee have really committed to. And that is, it's a large amount of service. It's a huge undertaking what we do. But it is so fulfilling and it gets me right in the middle of the hurt, you know, I don't. And that is, yeah, those are sort of the things that I do that are things that I did in the beginning that I'm still doing now. You know, also things like therapy I've been super helpful. Psych moments were a thing in the beginning. I'm no longer on them now, but just like all the other things that can supplement the work that I'm doing with my sponsor and the steps and going to meetings I need all the things I needed, all the things to get high. I need it just as many things to stay sober, like, and that's just how I look at it, you know? And it's been working, you know, and if something changes, I'll do something.Steve:
Yeah. Well, thank you for that advice. Yeah. If you could give one piece of advice to someone who's newly sober, sober, curious, what would it be?Chris:
Oh, I have two answers for that because they're different for someone who's newly sober. I heard this in a podcast I was listening to the other day. The light at the end of the tunnel is quicker or is closer than you think it is. And as I think about. My beginnings and sobriety. The light at the end of the tunnel is so much closer than I thought it was going to be. And it's not the big, bright light. It's a small little things that we accumulate along the way. It's relationships with people. It is it is a little bit more self worth by doing this T-Mobile acts. It is a morning practice. They just making my bed like all that stuff. Builds up into a bigger thing. Right. And for someone who's sober, curious, I guess the same answer there, but just try it. Yeah.Steve:
That's a good one. And it's that simple. Really? It's just giving it if you don'tChris:
have anything to lose. Yeah. You know, it's like, it's just give, give it a whirl. Doesn't work. It doesn't work. You know that it's here or you tried it, like there will still be people there that were there when you first come in. I mean, I see that all the time people come, they try it. It's not for them. And a couple of years later, two weeks later, a month later, they're back. And we're still there. I remember a lot of these people Yeah, we'll be here when you're ready. Don't worry about it.Steve:
And in recovery, we generally love our steps, traditions, and sayings. Do you have a favorite mantra or quote that you like to try and live by?Chris:
Good God girl, get a grip. No No, I don't. I love them all. I think that they are all important and relevant and they change their meaning every day. And the impact on our lives, I guess, I guess I will say, I remember hearing the promises for the first time and hearing, we will intuitively know how to handle situations, which used to baffle us and just being like. Are you sure are you sure? And very quickly, you know, those signs that promises. True pretty quickly. Like you don't unnecessarily have to work the ninth step for them to becoming true. And that was my experience. And that was really when I started to experience some of those things when I was like, okay, this shit fucking works. Yeah. I'm going to keep at it. I'm going to keep at it. I'm going to keep out it, no matter how difficult, because. I can see that the payoff for it is so much greater than the discomfort. You know, the discomfort will not last, but the things that I'm getting in return for walking through that discomfort so much greater. So like, just keep goingSteve:
for sure. Thank you for that. And if Melissa listeners wanted to connect or get in touch with you, how can they.Chris:
They can find me on the internet. They can find me on Instagram at CPR gives you life. CPR gives you life like the active CPR, but those are also my initials. So it's a play on words there. I thought it was really clever with that one. And then also my sponsor and I have started a nonprofit for Black queer folks in recovery called the black yard collective also on Instagram. We are going to be up and running, coming the summer. So yeah, black yard collective for the organization, and then CPR gives you life for my personalSteve:
perfect. I'll be sure to link over to them, both in the show notes. So listeners, you can just scroll on up and click on over at the ATS. Thank you so much for joining us, Chris. It was a pleasure getting to knowChris:
you better. So I thank you. Thank you. Thank you. Thank you for having me.Steve:
Yeah. And thank you listeners for tuning into another episode of Gaye, please rate and review. If you found this information helpful. And if you're interested in sharing your story, you can email email@example.com or at me on Instagram at gay podcast, and be sure to follow us wherever you're listening. So you get new episodes when they come out every Monday and Thursday. And so next time stay sober friends.