UK: Rehab is a lonely place for a gay man like me

Mark Prest is founder of Portraits of Recovery (PORe), a UK based, international visual arts charity to support people and communities affected by and in recovery from substance misuse to open up new ways of knowing and looking at the subject by working with contemporary visual art and artists.

[excerpt] After six long months I left rehab. My queer and recovery identities were at odds and even now, nine years on, I still feel conflicted.

Recovery values such as an abstinence-based lifestyle, honesty, personal responsibility and the need for healthy, loving relationships don’t rub well with quick-fix Grindr hook-ups and a hedonistic LGBT+ objectified world.

With recovery, if we do as we’ve always done, it will always be the same. It is harder to achieve when, like me, you’re from the recovery community’s wider margins. It feels like there are no places or access to people who have had similar experiences, services or other agencies that can advise and help. There’s a sense of homelessness – where do I belong?

I left treatment full of fear and trepidation. There were no inclusive, non-judgmental, sober options where I might safely meet or connect with like-minded people within the LGBT+ community.

It doesn’t help when the 2017 government drug strategy fragments and minimises the issue by focusing on chemsex rather than the wider LGBT+ community as a whole.

The statistics are alarming. According to Stonewall research in 2014, 52% of young LGBT people report that they have self-harmed; a staggering 44% have considered suicide; 42% have sought medical help for mental distress. Alcohol and drug abuse are often damaging forms of self-medication to deal with this underlying distress. A recent study by the LGBT Foundation found that drug use among LGBT people is seven times higher than in the general population, binge drinking is twice as common among gay and bisexual men, and substance dependency is significantly higher.

Recovery for me is about freedom. Where is the freedom when services are not representative and fail to meet people’s needs? Tailored, more inclusive approaches to recovery are critical, and a civil and human right. Read more via the Guardian