Dealing With Addiction in the Transgender Community
My closest encounter with addiction was being married to an alcoholic and an occasional substance user for thirteen years. I cannot speak about what it is like to live addicted to a substance or alcohol, thank my lucky stars, I can only tell you what it is like on the outside looking in. It is a horrific and terrifying experience. Like being glued into a chair with your arms and legs bound to witness someone you care deeply about slowly commit suicide. You wake up everyday in panic mode, terrified. Unsure if the day will be full of sadness and apologies or anger, rage, and fear. I was living in a hypersensitive environment; all while trying to maintain what might look like a normal existence. You lose all senses of reality and begin pleading with the addict, as if someone has a gun to your head, you just want them to admit that there is a problem and go get help.
For my ex, everything he did whether it was subconscious or not, was dangerous. As if it would be easier for me to bury him after an accident instead of having to tell people that his addiction killed him. If you ask my children, they will tell you that the word "promise" is not a part of my vocabulary. However, I promised him whatever he wanted me to, if he would just go and see an alcohol abuse counselor, but he refused. I did not understand it, but I could see how miserable he truly was. No matter what I said, or what I did, I could not fix him. Eventually I sought out counseling. I made up my mind that this violent environment was no place to raise my children, and I got up the courage to leave. I buried him two and a half years later due to a car accident.
Becoming an ally in the transgender community brought addiction back into my life. Listening to other partners on my online support groups talk about their experiences of having an addicted partner brought all of those old emotions back. I had no idea how prevalent addiction was in the transgender and gender non-conforming community. Then, it arrived at my front door as my wife and I run a weekly support group in our area for transgender folks, their partners, and families. Once again I am left feeling helpless against this miserable disease. I am feeling as if I am just an observer to a few more slow and painful roads to suicide.
"PERHAPS IF THERE WERE PROPER RESOURCES TO HELP THESE FOLKS TO WORK THROUGH THEIR GENDER ISSUES, OR MORE ACCURATELY THE ISSUES THAT SOCIETY CREATES FOR THEM ABOUT GENDER, ADDICTION WOULD NOT BE AN ISSUE."
I can only imagine what it must be like to live with your true identity trapped inside your head. Having no resources to help you to navigate the confusion that dysphoria plants inside your brain. To feel so helpless that escaping into drugs and alcohol is the only way to cope. There is such a need for therapists who specialize in gender in this country. Perhaps if there were proper resources to help these folks to work through their gender issues, or more accurately the issues that society creates for them about gender, addiction would not be an issue. Or if once and for all we did away with the old stereotypical gender roles so every person was free to express their gender in whatever way they wanted. So that every little person being raised right now knows that acceptance of their gender identity and expression was a certainty, and not a crapshoot.
I am sitting here and writing this only a week after having been involved in a friend's intervention. My hope is that he will commit to the program and get the help he so desperately needs. You cannot outrun addiction. It is faster and stronger than you alone. It is only with help and support from the right resources that you stand a chance to beat it. In my experience you need to be brutally honest and committed to the work to be successful. I hope my friend will be triumphant and come back home a healthy person. It amazes me that in the year 2017, the experts are still debating addiction. Some calling it a disease while others call it a true mental illness or mental disorder. Whatever you want to call it, it is an epidemic and desperately needs to be addressed. With the holidays upon us addiction can be heightened. So if you or someone you know needs help please reach out.
Here are some helpful resources for anyone who is in crisis:
1-800-662-HELP Drug and Alcohol Hotline for Rehab/Treatment Referral Service
Alcoholics Anonymous 24 hour helplines by zip code
1-800-356-9996 Al-Anon & Alateen crisis line
1-800-COCAINE National Cocaine Hotline, 24-hour counseling and referral
1-800-9-HEROIN National Heroin Hotline
1-888-MARIJUA National Marijuana Hotline
1-800-273-TALK National Suicide Prevention Lifeline
1-800-WORKPLACE Drug-Free Workplace Help
Trans Lifeline: 1-877-565-8860