Steve is back from his time at the Gay and Sober Men's Conference 2022 and is ready to share all about it!
In this episode I touch on highlights from the daytime parts of the conference, including:
Want to know all the fun that I got up to in the after hours event? Check out the post-show on Patreon @ www.patreon.com/gayapodcast
Get involved with the show or just reach out to connect at firstname.lastname@example.org or on Instagram @ happylifepod
Stay sober, friends!
Hello everyone. And welcome to GA a, a podcast about sobriety for the LGBT plus community and our allies. I'm your host, Steve Ben Martin. I am an alcoholic and I am grateful for all the amazing experiences I got to have at this year's GSM 2022. and yes, we as of this recording, I am 397 days sober. And we're gonna take a brief break from having guests on the show for today so that I can share a little bit about some of my key takeaways during my experience at the conference this week, because it truly, truly was life changing. I know that a lot of our episodes recently have been kind of leading up to it, talking with Mitch about what was going on, as well as my just saying how excited I was for what it might be like. But being my first conference, it certainly was more than I had ever hoped. It could be. I don't know about you, but I know that when I was drinking, my experience was always more of a stay at home drinker than a going out and clubbing and partying drinker. And so this experience was like, the biggest thing was that I was just around like four to 500 other gay and sober men. And I felt like I truly like found my tribe, found my community, found my place in the world, even if it was just for four days. and the amazing experiences that gay and sober set up for us also helped make it what it was I got in and on Thursday. And we started with orientation, which was a great way to kind of get to know what to expect for the weekend before our welcome meeting, where we got to hear a speaker talk about their experience, strength and. And then we had a rooftop social, which was also fun. That's where I got to meet my first batch of friends that ultimately ended up helping me through the weekend. But the biggest game changers in terms of the conference itself during the day were the panels. I know that I started off my Friday morning with a traditions workshop. Which was really important for me. I know that when I started this podcast, I didn't know anything about the traditions in my program. And I probably made some really big slipups at first, but I also didn't know at the time. And the important thing to learn about sobriety is that knowledge is power. And since then, I've learned a lot about, you know, the way that the traditions work for those not familiar. The metaphor that I heard in the workshop that really resonated with me was that if. You are the fish and the steps of your program are the water in the fishbowl. The traditions itself are the, the fishbowl itself that keeps it all contained and organized and keeps you floating in that water safe and sound. And I, I truly agree. Being my beginner's meeting, doesn't normally go into the traditions. I got to learn a lot and just have some great conversations about, you know, dos and don'ts of. You know, sobriety and social media you know, things that I can say, things that I can't say while respecting the programs that are giving so much back to me. So if you've listened to the very first handful of episodes and you're frustrated that I didn't know anything about the traditions or that I was breaking them, I am sorry, but I am happy to say that I am following them now. And then in the afternoon, we had a workshop called from shame and strength or from shame and stigma to strengthen. That was led by the Hazelden Betty Ford foundation. And that was really interesting. Just talking about the, the shame and stigma, especially us in the LGBT community, get at a very young age you know, words affect us, especially then as we grow, not only do we get slurs spoken against us about our gender identity or our sexuality. But then we also end up getting slurs and comments made about our drinking habits or our drug habits, or, you know, any of our unhealthy habits. You know, you get things like drunk, alcoholics, donor you know, booze hound, messy, sloppy. You know, and while a lot of those words like do fit what I was like for me before they also, you know, they all have negative connotations that we internalize and really make us not feel great about ourselves. And so the ability of getting sober, getting clean and starting this journey it's very hard for us to like, go of. Stigmas that we've attached to ourselves and all that shame that we have. And so it was talking about ways to kind of retell your story or reframe it about the strength and the. I know that it, it was an important reminder that not everything leading up to my getting sober was horrible. I did have some good times typically not involving drinking or using, but it is very hard to say like, oh, my life was horrible. Every single day, every single moment until I got sober, I certainly had good times and made great friends and met my husband and started a great relationship with him. You know? There were good times before getting sober. It's just hard to see sometimes when you, when you look back on it, because things are just so much better now that you're clearheaded and, you know, free from those binds that previously were dulling my reality and taking me away from being present in my situation. Then I did miss the ageism and body dysmorphia workshop. So I could fellowship with our previous guest, which was amazing. But I did hear from people about it, just how amazing it was. I know that body dysmorphia is something that is very rampant in our community. It's something that I've struggled with since getting sober. As I might have discussed in the past. I know when I got sober, I took the advice of avoid feeling hungry, angry, lonely, and tired seriously, but none of them, I took more seriously than avoid feeling hungry. I replaced my alcohol with sugars in a big way, and it took me some time before I realized I needed to cut back. It took me about 50 pounds of weight gain before I realized it. And with that 50 pounds, obviously that changed the way that my body looks. And it changed the way that I feel about my body. And I have been. Very insecure about how I look since getting sober while I emotionally and spiritually. And, you know, I feel healthier than I ever have before. You know, I look at the mirror and it's not the body that I'm used to. And you know, I added into the shame and stigma that I've already had on myself as, you know, a gay man who was always, you know, larger frame built now that I had the weight to go with it. You know, just not feeling very attractive, not feeling really good about myself. And this, you know, weekend really helped me change that. Even though I missed the workshop on it just being able to be around so many other people that have those similar issues and that were talking about it it was really smart of them to do that before the pool party that night. But it was, it was a really good workshop from what I hear. And it's an important topic for our community to talk about. The following morning, I did something, a workshop on the fourth step. That was fun. They turned it into a jeopardy game. Nothing gets me going like a game where there's a chance that I might be able to win something. And I did not win, but I did participate. And that was really amazing because. I was able to learn more about the fourth step in a way that I didn't, when I was going through it with my sponsor. I know that I kind of wrote out all of the resentments, which you can hear back. When you go back to the episode on the fourth step, I did a couple episodes on my sex inventory, on my resentments, on my fears. And all of that. But it was very much as, as you'll hear in those episodes, very surface level, they were things that I was very presently holding onto very consciously being affected by, you know, work stuff, life stuff that's happening right now, and then obvious stuff for my childhood. But I didn't really get into as deep as I've heard other people go in the past when I would hear people mention that they. Pages and pages or hundreds and hundreds of line items on their resentment, spheres and sex inventory. It, I felt somewhat insecure about the, the way that I was doing mine and it kind of reinspired me to reexamine that as I have now finished my 12th step, getting it ready to kind of restart. I think that I might request to kind of rereview it, or do it again with my sponsor because. you know, there are things that while they don't trigger me on a daily basis or while I don't resent them on a daily basis, you know, if you were to bring up the bullies that bullied me in high school, I will certainly feel bitter about it. You know, if you bring up, you know, issues from, you know, even from middle school or from grade school, like I didn't do a lot of that kind of work going back into small conflicts of, you know, friendships burned when I was younger or you know, things that. Actively affect me on a daily basis, but still definitely something that whenever I am forced to revisit it, I feel bad about, or feel resentful about or feel heard about. So I definitely was good to have that inspiration to go a little bit deeper. You know, the, the deeper you dig into your step work, the, the better the program works. And so it was a really huge inspiration for. Then I probably had my favorite workshop of all Saturday afternoon, which was the sex wor workshop. We had some amazing presenters that really knew their stuff, talking about pitfalls and successes of sex and sobriety and the entire. Group was just so active in questions. They were so informative with their answers, but also just sharing all of our experiences. I know that even being, you know, married and in a relationship while getting sober, it certainly changed the way that I look at sex. I know we talked about sex and great deal in my episode with Dave a week or two ago. And I would definitely recommend checking that out, but it's just, again, just interesting to be in a community, in a room filled with other gay men that are actively being open and vulnerable about their sexual insecurities, while also then sharing their successes with sex, you know, learning how to be able to enjoy it and be present in the moment you know, whatever that means for you in your relationship or your sexual lifestyle. The keynote speaker was also great. It was the founder of blue tiger recovery and they were a very powerful stare storyteller in terms of the way that they talked about what it was like, that was kind of the focus of their talk is what it was like. There wasn't too much about what it was like now or what happened that got in there, but it, it certainly was powerful storytelling. And speaking of powerful storytelling the big meeting at the hard rock cafe in New York city was amazing. Spencer, that the speaker there I'm gonna have to try and track down, get them on an episode because it was just so amazing hearing his experience, strength and hope it was the perfect venue for it. And it was that perfect mix of talking about what it was like, what happened and what it was like now with just. Earnestness for sobriety and genuineness and being able to laugh at some of the crazier shit that we did, because let let's face it. When we look back on all of the stuff that we did, we didn't think like normal people, we didn't do normal things. And even if they weren't rock bottoms, there are certainly still stories now that when you're talking to your friends, that aren't addicts or that aren't sober and don't have issues with drinking or alcohol or. You know, and they talk about that one night in college, where, where they blacked out and how embarrassing it was waking up with, you know, a, a penis drawn on their forehead, you know? And then you reply back with your stories that we've all gone through as a group. It, it just pales in comparison and least to this kind of shock and awe in the other person's face. When you share openly. And, you know, you just have to be able to laugh at the stuff that we've did because it's one way that we're able to kind of get past it. And he was a really great example of. and I was followed up with the big raffle with Logan hardcore, who was previously on our episode sobriety. And it was amazing getting to meet them in person. And she is one of the funniest drag Queens that I've seen in a long time. And it was just great, even though I didn't win the raffle. And again, you know, bummed when I don't win things, I'm still glad I was able to stay for the entire thing, because she was just hysterical with the way that she was. Presenting and talking and MCing that raffle party. I really appreciated it. So if you're listening, thank you, Logan. And then that, that was the, kind of the big end for the meetings themselves. But on Sunday we had pride. In New York city. And it was so amazing getting to walk in the parade with the gay and sober group, not having to worry about the booze that were, you know, everywhere. I looked left side and right side, you know, everyone was drinking, but then we had our little group of, you know, hundreds of gay men in the middle that were all sober and living their best lives and walking in the parade. And there was just something so free. Again, it's just about being surrounded by community and support and love and kindness. I never, would've seen myself, you know, dancing down blocks and avenues of the city in short shorts and my shirt off with nothing but a harness on, but I did it and it was an amazing experience. And I I'm like, I know I keep saying amazing experience, but there's no other, you know, there's only so many other ways to say that this weekend was just so. Life changing in the way that it made me feel about myself. I felt this freedom that I don't remember ever feeling before. And I know that in some ways it's the freedom of sobriety in some ways, it's the freedom of being part, you know, around other people within your, your community that identify, you know, as L G B T plus you know, being out of my home town where I didn't have to worry what the, you know, the people that I work with or run into on a daily basis, think of me. You know, there were so many factors, but this experience was just. So amazing and so much fun. I've already gotten my tickets for next year, and I really am just kind of touching the tip of the surface in terms of the amazing experiences and fun that I had. I'm talking in this episode about all the things that happened during the day. but trust me and believe that the fund did not stop at five or six or eight o'clock. Whenever these talks went, the parties went on and to hear more about that, you'll have to check out the after show on our Patreon page. You can do that by joining and pledging as little as $5 a month to help keep this podcast going and growing. You can do that at patreon.com/gaa podcast. Meanwhile, if you're interested in sharing your story, getting involved with the show or joining our free monthly newsletter that I'll be starting in July. Please email me at GAA podcast, gmail.com and be sure to follow us wherever you're listening so you can get new episodes when they come out every Thursday and follow me on Instagram at GAA podcast to engage with not only me, but also our community. And until next time stay sober friends.