Let’s Walk the Road to Recovery Together
It was the most vulnerable experience I’d ever shared with someone I was dating and after all these years it remains one of the most impactful and meaningful. I am grateful that he chose to open up to me and bring me into his world. It helped me see the world differently thereafter.
We’d been spending time with each other on and off for a couple of months and I was growing suspicious. He had a pattern of not being available at specific times on certain days of the week. There was language that he’d use that sounded like things I’d hear from my uncle. Then one day I was at his apartment and noticed a book. Of course, people can have books in their home that don’t belong to them, that someone has left or that they’ve borrowed. Though in this case, I suspected that it was his book. I didn’t mention it because I didn’t want him to think I was snooping or perhaps the bigger reason was that I just didn’t feel comfortable asking. Either way, I said nothing.
Not long after that day, he called me around one of the same times he’d typically go silent. I was surprised by the call and even more amazed when he asked if I was busy and if I weren’t, would I go somewhere with him. I jumped at the invitation and within 15 minutes he was pulling up to my apartment to pick me up.
Once I got in the car, he confirmed what I had been thinking. That pattern that I’d noticed around him being exceptionally quiet was aligned with his calendar of 12-Step program meetings. The book I noticed belonged to him. He was in recovery. This day, he wanted to not only share with me that he was in recovery, but to bring me to one of his meetings. It was a privilege.
In my teenage years I’d gone to a couple of my uncle’s anniversary celebrations. I was so proud of him. On his recovery journey he’d gone back to finish college, earned a graduate degree, become an addiction counselor, and chaired the board of a substance abuse and treatment center for low-income individuals providing culturally competent programs and services with great dignity and care. What I recalled most about those anniversary gatherings and meetings I attended alongside him was the sense of community that permeated the space and every interaction.
That afternoon, when I walked into the room with the guy I was seeing, that feeling of community rushed over me again. I’m sure to overcome substance abuse and addiction—of any form—community is essential. I think our LGBTQ+ community can continue to do a better job of being more inclusive and thoughtful about our brothers and sisters in recovery. There are opportunities all around us to normalize and socialize language and behaviors that don’t stigmatize, shame, or isolate.
How many times have you heard someone insist that another person have a (another) drink? How often do you find yourself asking someone out for a drink as the default for a date? When groups you’re a member of are planning social events and fundraisers, are you intentional about pushing for venues that aren’t always bars or clubs? Do you spend as much time thinking about the mocktail menu as the cocktail menu? Have you considered why on dating apps you always swipe left on the people who say they lead sober lifestyles? Have you challenged people when you’ve heard them say they don’t enjoy hanging around people who aren’t drinking because they aren’t ‘fun’ anymore?
September is National Recovery Month and this year’s theme is Recovery Is for Everyone: Every Person, Every Family, Every Community. Alcohol and drug addiction affects our community. I invite you to spend some time over the next few weeks doing some self-reflection and consider how you can make a difference in your family, our community, or your own life, on the road to recovery. ▼
Clarence J. Fluker is a public affairs and social impact strategist. Since 2008, he’s also been a contributing writer for Swerv, a lifestyle periodical celebrating African American LGBTQ+ culture and community. Follow him on Twitter: @CJFluker or Instagram: Mr_CJFluker