gAy A: The Queer Sober Hero Show

GSM: Freedom Is... ft. Landon

December 15, 2022 Steve Bennet-Martin Season 1 Episode 115
GSM: Freedom Is... ft. Landon
gAy A: The Queer Sober Hero Show
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gAy A: The Queer Sober Hero Show
GSM: Freedom Is... ft. Landon
Dec 15, 2022 Season 1 Episode 115
Steve Bennet-Martin

Steve welcomes back Landon to share their experiences with GSM, the Gay and Sober Men's Conference, discussing years past and what's to come this year.

Register for the conference today at www.gayandsober.org/registration

Thank you for listening. Please join our Patreon family for the post-show, along with more exclusive content at www.Patreon.com/gAyApodcast

Reach out to Landon at community@gayandsober.org or www.harlimmanor.com

If you are interested in sharing your story, getting involved with the show, or just saying hi, please e-mail me at gayapodcast@gmail.com

Listeners, I NEED YOUR HELP! This podcast is growing rapidly, and I want to make sure we can all grow together, so take this survey and let me know what I'm doing right and where I should focus my attentions going forward to provide the best podcast for YOU possible! CLICK HERE!

Support the Show.

Show Notes Transcript

Steve welcomes back Landon to share their experiences with GSM, the Gay and Sober Men's Conference, discussing years past and what's to come this year.

Register for the conference today at www.gayandsober.org/registration

Thank you for listening. Please join our Patreon family for the post-show, along with more exclusive content at www.Patreon.com/gAyApodcast

Reach out to Landon at community@gayandsober.org or www.harlimmanor.com

If you are interested in sharing your story, getting involved with the show, or just saying hi, please e-mail me at gayapodcast@gmail.com

Listeners, I NEED YOUR HELP! This podcast is growing rapidly, and I want to make sure we can all grow together, so take this survey and let me know what I'm doing right and where I should focus my attentions going forward to provide the best podcast for YOU possible! CLICK HERE!

Support the Show.

Steve:

Hi everyone, and welcome to gaa, a podcast about sobriety for the LGBT plus community and our allies. I'm your host, Steve Bennett. Martin. I am an alcoholic and I'm grateful for the new friends I've been making in the program. Like my new friend Ken. As of this recording, I am 540 days sober, and today we're welcoming back Landon to discuss the Gain Sober Men's conference. Welcome back, Landon. Thank you so much,

Landon:

Steve. It's great to be.

Steve:

Yes, it's great to have you back and I would definitely recommend anyone who missed last episode to go back and check it out, cuz it was amazing getting to know you. But for those just tuning in, do you want to give your yourself a brief introduction?

Landon:

Sure. I'm Landon, I'm an alcoholic and my sobriety date is February 5th, 2007. I always forget to say that, so I'm really happy to remember that today. I live in Knoxville, Tennessee with my husband Young. And we've been together since 1999 and so we lived together in active addiction and in recovery. And we both strongly prefer our, our sober life. Yes. Even though he's not an alki, he's a normy. But he's been very supportive of my, of my recovery. And so That's, that's pretty much it in a nutshell. Yeah. Glad to be here.

Steve:

It's glad to have you. And so now that we are more familiar with you, why don't you jump in and explain to us if someone's never heard of a gsm, what is it?

Landon:

Okay. So GSM stands for the Gay and Sober Men's Conference, and that is a yearly celebration on Pride Weekend, where we come together as sober gay. And as well as people who identify with the gay male sober community. And we have workshops, speaker meetings, parties, and we go to the Pride Parade. So we just have a big weekend of recovery and sober pride. And so Gay and Sober Men's Conference is. Underwritten by Gay and Sober, which is our organization, and I'm just reading off of our website. Our mission is to provide a safe fund and enriching experience to the sober LGBTQ community. Our primary purpose is to encourage unity and enhance one sobriety. So in addition to the GSM conference, we also. Sponsored the Pride Celebration on Pride Sunday, where we invite the entire sober LGBTQ community to join us. And so, and we do some other things throughout the year to promote unity in our community. Yeah, you.

Steve:

It certainly has enriched my life in sobriety and shown me that I could still have fun. So I was there last year. Can't wait for this year's. Yeah, same here. Now go. Going back in time, discuss what your first GSM experience was like.

Landon:

Okay. Sure. So, As I shared in last week's episode, it was 2016, and during the summer of 2016, my father got sick and died very quickly. It was, it was sudden. It was unexpected. I was unprepared for it. And so I was just in a really strange place personally and coping with the loss, working through my grief and just feeling. Alone, like in a way that I hadn't expected. I, I sort of felt like I had lost my best friend, even though that wasn't at all how I would've expected to, to frame that, that feeling. But that's, that's how I was feeling. And somewhere around I wanna say September or October of that year, I came across a posting on Facebook about the Gay and Sober men's conference. I saw the, the graphic I saw the, the wording. It, I was instantly attracted to it. At that moment in my life. The idea of spending a weekend with sober gay men just really appealed to me. So I started reaching out to some friends in the program and made a plan and got registered. And so in June of 2017, I attended my very first gsm. It. Not the greatest plan in the world, but my husband and I actually were in Italy on vacation for like, I don't know, two and a half weeks before, and we flew straight in to Newark and our, our luggage had gotten lost in Portugal. So my first gsm I spent the entire weekend wearing a very tight GSM, New York City shirt that I had bought from the. Merch table, and, and our luggage finally arrived on Sunday, but it didn't, it didn't slow me down at all. It, I just had the most amazing time. That was the first time I'd ever met Christian in person. And he's the, the CEO and founder of Gay and Sober. And just like with so many people, he instantly made me feel welcome. I did some service work. I attended the workshops and I believe our theme that year was dream with us. And so that's what I came to the conference as I was a dreamer. I, I really hadn't given any thought at all to what my future with GSM would be. I just knew that I wanted to be there, that. And and I was, and it was great. And before the weekend was over, I knew that I would be back. Yeah,

Steve:

for sure. And so you mentioned how, like in the future you got involved in all the planning committees. What's your experience doing service for GSM been like?

Landon:

So right that first year, I just I think I worked the, the merge table a couple of times and just kind of did some workshops. Somewhere around fall of that year, I got a call asking if I would serve as a delegate from Tennessee. And they explained to me that a delegate's job is mainly just to help promote GSM in my own local community and get other people registered, help raise money selling raffle tickets, et. So I signed on for that and attended my delegate calls. I think back then we did those on Sunday afternoon or something, and it gave me a chance to get to know other GSM delegates from all over the country. And so that was a great experience. And then going into the 2018 conference, I believe the theme 2018 was Find Your Tribe. And so I, I started to feel like. Sort of finding my tribe at that point and going in as a delegate just really enriched my experience as a conference attendee. Mm-hmm. And again, that was pretty much all I planned to do. I I thought that was a great little gig being a, a GSM delegate and I was happy to stay in that role. But then the next commitment that came along was program chair. I was working as an English teacher at the time, and so it seemed like a very good fit for my skill set because I knew that my job would be to, you know, curate some some workshops and also to help line up the speakers for the conference. And so that really appealed to me. And so in the, for the 2019 conference ro let. I'm thinking rocketed. Rocketed. That was our theme. Yeah. It's hard to believe. I, I almost forgot that because that was like the best theme ever. Rocketed. GSM 2019 rocketed. That was the year I was program chair, and I just absolutely loved that role. I, I worked so hard as a program chair and it was, it was so rewarding and exciting and so rocketed was our. And it was great. We were celebrating 50 years of Stonewall. It was also the 50 year anniversary of the landing on the moon. So with the, the, I got to write the theme statement that year as program chair. And so being able to kind of weave those two things together was just amazing. So so that was that. And then 2019 came and went and, 2020 came along and through a series of unexpected events, I was asked to be co-chair, and then leading into 2021 became conference chair. For the Varsity 2021, our first return after the pandemic. So and after that which was awesome. It, you know, it was a very challenging year, 2021. I'm still very proud of the conference that we were able to put on in spite of all the challenges that we faced. And then I was also very happy to move beyond that. And then in 2022 with the rock and roll theme, that was just so much fun and so great. And after, after leaving my role as conference chair, I moved into the role of executive secretary, which is a board position in charge of the community and some IT stuff. So, Long story short, maybe too late for that. But that's, that's the history of my service with gsm. Yeah,

Steve:

it's, it's great. I started, cuz I got sober May of 2021 and so I got to liketalk the, the conference for varsity on Facebook. And it was really inspiring seeing like people have fun, but it's also, that's when I discovered, so it's funny going back and hearing what the past themes and experiences were like as. Yeah.

Landon:

Awesome. That's so cool.

Steve:

Yeah. And how are you contributing to GSM this.

Landon:

So I'm still in my current role as executive secretary on the board. Mm-hmm. So I get to have some influence with the discussions on how the conference is gonna go. Although, you know, that's really Mario's job as chair. I'm hopefully able to provide assistance at where it's needed. And I'm also still a delegate, you know, for my local area. So I'm still promoting it with my local. Potential GSMs and I'm still selling raffle tickets. I'm not as successful at that as I would like to be, but so I'm doing that as well and looking forward to, to being there for the Freedom Is

Steve:

Conference. Yes. And speaking of freedom is can you tell me more about what that theme means, both for the conference and to you? Sure.

Landon:

So what, one of my favorite things about this year's theme, freedom. is simply the fact that it was Mario's idea. Mario is our conference chair for gsm 2023. Freedom is, and I think it's just really rich that the, the theme that that we're operating under was his conception. Mm-hmm. And I, I just really admire that and. I guess I'm also a little envious of it, although I loved the theme that I had to work with Varsity, but so freedom is, speaks to all of the options that being sober and in recovery gives us, which is really one of my absolute favorite things about being sober, other than being alive which I'm not sure I would be if I weren't, but, When I'm sober, I have a lot more options. Mm-hmm. when I was still drinking and using my life, became very, very small. Mm-hmm. and I didn't have any options. I, I had an existence that revolved around surviving the day, getting my supplies, going to the house, getting drunk until I passed out, and then waking up feeling like hell the next morning, scraping myself. Doing it all over again. The same old pattern of saying, I'm not gonna drink today, I'm not gonna drink today, and then drinking ultimately every single time. So freedom is, for me personally, just means that, that powerful reminder of what my sober life affords me, and I have options for how I spend my time, how I spend my resource. How I choose to express who I am and who I want to be. It's just incredible. You know, it's, it's like that. Deepak Sora is the, the man I was trying to think of last week, the seven spiritual laws, and the first is pure potentiality. And my understanding of that is just that there's really no limit to. My life on a spiritual path can, can bring me, you know, it's just any limits that I perceive are, are of my own creation. And and that's what freedom is means to me is just like this, this, all these limitless possibilities.

Steve:

Yeah. I'm, I'm sure a lot of our listeners can relate to that feeling of like, what not having freedom is like when we were, you know, a slave to the bottle or to the alcohol or drug of our choice. And Right. Yeah. Being at the conference when I like heard the, the next year's theme of Be Freedom is, I was like, that's perfect. Because I had been struggling like all weekend to find the words of like why this experience was so life changing. And it was like the freedom that I felt of just like being in my tribe and being with my people and living free. So it's perfect.

Landon:

Yeah. Awesome.

Steve:

And are there any big changes from last year's conference for US attorneys to look forward?

Landon:

So yeah, I think we've got some exciting changes for all of our attendees to look forward to. I should probably point out that we're still in planning mode and there's so many things beyond our control that could change between now and next year, but so far we've been planning. One of the fun activities that we've always had at GSM is the, the ride through the city and where they, you know, there's entertainment and they're pointing out all these little landmarks well, so we're gonna move that to the evening this year, and I'm excited about that just because, first of all, in the afternoon in New York City, it can be very, very hot and Also New York is such a fun place to be out at night. And, you know, I. Not everyone's gonna feel comfortable walking the streets at night, but maybe they'd be a lot more comfortable riding in a, in a bus. I mean, I actually, I've, I've walked the streets at night too, and it's really fun. It's just great to, to be out in the evening and see all the energy that just never, ever goes away. And then we also are having a. Last year there was a, a gear party mm-hmm. which I think a lot of people went to and really enjoyed. But it wasn't something that appeals to, to everyone for obvious reasons, not, it's just not everybody's bag. This year there's gonna be a, a, a costume party that hopefully will appeal to a broader range of people. I'm looking forward to that. It can be, you know, drag or gear or you know, whatever. You know, I'm probably. Take out one of my rock and roll wigs and, and wear it. So we've got that to look forward to. I think we've got some exciting surprises in the speaker department. Maybe a little something a little bit different from what we've had before. And probably that's all I can say about that. But stay tuned and. So I think that we'll bring back all of the things that have worked really well, but also bring in some new elements that that, that we're trying out and some things that are based on feedback that we've had from our former attendees. So, lots to look forward to.

Steve:

Yeah, I'm looking forward to it for sure. And one thing that I love about the program is that it also has a scholarship program and other options to help make it more affordable, cuz that's one of the. Factors is pride in New York City over the Pride Weekend is not always the, the cheapest or most affordable. So tell us more about these programs that we have that make it more accessible.

Landon:

So the scholarship program is currently open for application and so anyone who wants to attend GSM but is facing financial difficulty, which is completely understandable. It is New York City in June. So, By all means, go to our website, gaines pil.org and let's see. It's the I believe it's under, sorry, I should have been prepared for this. It's okay. If you look under support registration, it's somewhere here. Sorry, I don't have it in front of me now, but oh, it's

Steve:

okay.

Landon:

Oh, wait, yes, I do. I do. Here it is. It's it's under registration. There is a link for the scholarship program, scholarship information, gay and silver.org/registration. And that's where anyone can register. They can also get information on the delta discount we have for the airline. And there's a housing committee. Mm-hmm. Also be happy to help arrange roommates to help make the hotel situation more affordable.

Steve:

Yeah, I can advocate for that. I, I used the room sharing last year. Really funny though, like it's the way, it's such a, like my world opened up in sobriety, but in some ways it's also a small world because I was matched with someone from my home group. Oh wow. That I hadn't realized that they were planning on going. They didn't realize that I was planning on going and we were matched and you know, being in the rooms, I just knew their first name and last initial, but like within like one or two emails and switching to cell phone, I was like, wait, your number's already in my phone? How

Landon:

cool. I love that. I've heard a lot of people, you know, They end up making friends with their roommates and, and that's just another way to get connected.

Steve:

Yeah, for sure. And after a weekend long of, you know, meetings and events in the evenings we wrap up or the big grand finale is the Pride Parade and Dance on the River. Why don't you tell us more about those? Sure.

Landon:

So the Pride Parade is in the afternoon on Pride Sunday. for anyone who's never been it is like gay Christmas in New York. It is just amazing. The first two years of gsm, I actually went to the viewing social, which that's one option. And, and it was great, you know but it was 2019 when I was first in the actual parade and. I, I have to say that was an unforgettable experience. It was, like I said, it was like heaven, honestly. Yeah, because it was just this massive exchange of love. We were like going the parade route. I was on the, the bus cuz I wanted to be close to the music cuz I love to dance and I'm like waving at all these people along the parade route and they're waving back. Blowing kisses and making heart signs and saying, I love you, and, you know, happy pride. And that was just something that I, I, I had never experienced anything like it, and I knew that once was, just, didn't seem like enough. So I, I did it again. In 2021, we, the parade was actually very, very, But then in 2022, we were back and there it was again, all this love, every direction, just so many people. After, especially I'd say 20, 22, after everything we'd been through with the pandemic, to be back out with people like that, it was just, it was incredible. Yeah. So that's the the pride parade and it's not to be missed and then, On Sunday evening every year the conference we get on a boat and the circle line and we ride out to the Statue of Liberty and we just circle the harbor there, the over, and it's just like a big dance party. And it's just the best way to just blow it out after a weekend of recovery and celebration, you know, put on your dance and shoes and cut a rug. It was just, Every year. It's, it's, it's definitely the highlight for me, I think. Yeah, the conference

Steve:

between the parade and the dance on the river, that was like a one two punch of having like the best day ever.

Landon:

Right? Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah. Yeah.

Steve:

And one thing for all of our listeners that are listening is that I really liked how, you know, we had our three or four days for those that identify with the gay male lifestyle, but then for the Pride Parade and the dance on the river, that's open to everyone. Right

Landon:

on. Yeah, it sure is. And we'd love to see people join us. Yeah, for sure.

Steve:

So what are, how can people sign up for the conference or for the dance on the river? How can people, if they're listening and wanna pull the trigger, take advantage of? I know that the, the pricing is lower now, and it's going up on January 1st, right?

Landon:

That's correct. So now is the time to go to gay and sober.org. Mm-hmm. slash registration. You can also just go just to gay and sober.org and get information on all the events and all the information you could possibly need about Gay and sober the organization. Perfect.

Steve:

And if you register, make sure you note that you heard about it from Gay, a podcast or it Me specifically Steve Bennett Martin, so I can show him doing my delegate duties. Yeah.

Landon:

Or Landon Harless.

Steve:

Or Landon, yes. Okay. Yes. And what other resources besides the conference does GSM offer?

Landon:

So over the years we've, we've had different educational opportunities that have come and gone. Depending on what our community needs during the pandemic, we did a lot of online we actually on at 2021 instead of having the conference in person cuz it was not an option. We had something we called Super Saturday and that was kind of a virtual conference that we, we did. We've hosted meetings currently we still have our meeting finder also at Gay and Silver dot. And it's currently Chris, our meeting directory coordinator is working on a, a bit of a transformation there that will improve the accuracy of our meeting directory. So that is a, a, a resource that we're very proud of because we feel like we're shepherding people into the fellowships that will help them find the recovery they're looking for. So a lot of our we also have our. Information about our retreat, which we just started year before LA or last year, and then we did it again this year. The Smoking Mountains Retreat here in my beautiful state of Tennessee. We go up into the mountains and we hike, we go to Dollywood, and it's just another amazing weekend of fellowship. And we're, we're seeing a lot of interest in that growing. So we've got some different options and even. Hopefully what we like is to see everybody at gsm, but certainly the, the possibilities are growing for all the opportunities we have to, to be sober and in recovery together. Perfect.

Steve:

So everyone, I definitely recommend you go and check it out. In the meantime, if people wanted to contact you directly with any questions, what's the best way to, to find you?

Landon:

Sure. So community. Gay and sober.org is my email, so please feel free to reach out and. Email me there. That's probably the best way. Yeah. Perfect.

Steve:

Well, thank you so much. We're gonna stick around for a little bit in the post show to discuss some of your favorite memories of years past. But in the meantime, you listeners can join our patron family to head on over there and check out the episode. And if you're interested in sharing your story, getting involved with the show, or just saying hi, I'm an email away at gaya podcast gmail dot. Be sure to follow us wherever you're listing so you can get new episodes when they come out every Thursday. And until next time, stay sober friends.

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