10.04.18 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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I like beer. This month marks 3 years since I stopped drinking. I talk about it all the time because I think it’s not talked about enough in our community.  Not talking about it perpetuates a stigma about alcoholics that is false. Since truth is now my everything, I talk about it. I like beer.

It is weird to me, turning terrible behavior into something to celebrate. Congratulations, Rick, on three years of doing something you should have been doing all along. Although, it is a celebration of sorts: It’s like coming out. It’s about owning who you are and choosing an honest path.  It’s about taking bad life choices and turning them into good, or at least attempting to. This is why every year in the month of October, I share my story. I don’t do it so I get likes on Facebook or some pat on the back. I do it so people can see how addiction affected my life, as well as those around me. I do it so people who might see similarities in their lives can know there is a better way.

I didn’t drink until I was twenty-one. That’s how I remember it anyway. I might have been twenty. I used to be the kid who would leave high school parties when others started drinking. Nancy Reagan said I would be a junkie if I stayed, so I just said “No” and left. At some point in college I ended up at a cast party and had my first taste of Jungle Juice, an appropriately named vodka and grape juice medley. That changed my life. I didn’t like the taste of it, but I liked what it did to me. I was cool. I was funny. I was hooked.

I have vague memories of the years to follow, thinking to this day that I didn’t have a drinking problem back then. Maybe it’s because it’s not clear in my mind. I’m pretty sure though, I was the drunken one of my friends every night we hung out. It wasn’t until I was around 25 years old that I started drinking like a champ. I had finally developed a taste for beer, and as the saying goes, I like beer. Beer gave me courage to network and make small talk, to easily talk to people and make friends. I was addicted to that feeling, and since beer gave me that feeling, I was addicted to beer. The more I drank the more I chased that feeling, regardless of who I hurt along the way. I spent a lot of time apologizing for bad behavior, but beer made everything feel good. That is until it didn’t.

Memorial Day weekend 2015 I was picked up on the suspicion of a DUI. As unbelievable as it may seem, both headlights in my car burned out and it appeared as though I had not turned them on. Driving with no lights at 3 a.m. is a great way to get pulled over, but so is drinking for 9 hours solid and trying to get home on your own. I spent 7 hours in handcuffs. As I sat there I thought my life was over. I was humiliated and embarrassed. It felt like the connections and reputation I worked to build and protect was about to come crashing down.

I continued to drink after I posted bail, but that good-time feeling never came back. I would get hammered and sit in my room and cry while my friends were swimming in my pool. I didn’t want to keep drinking like that, but I felt I was in too deep and didn’t know how to stop. I was afraid to stop. I didn’t want to lose everything.

Soon after, I met a group of people who showed me a better way. They told me their stories and how they got better. They helped me get better. I still like beer, I just know now that I can’t drink it.

I’m reminded of those days — right before I got sober — when I watch Brett Kavanaugh speak. I was angry and I was defensive. Yes, I liked beer and so did all of my friends — men and women. No, I never blacked out and I may have had a few too many a couple of times; nothing more than the charts say, though. I was lying. I’m glad I live in truth now, I’m glad I have the opportunity to do good things now and I am thankful for those who have helped me come to this realization.

In this issue we take a look at another life altering moment, the murder of Matthew Shepard. As the twenty year mark of his death approaches, Watermark looks at his impact on the gay rights movement and hate crimes legislation.   In our news sections we dive into pride celebrations: Central Florida’s Come Out With Pride and Tampa Bay’s Come OUT St. Pete. Our Arts & Entertainment pages bring you Betty Who and the art project “The Gay Rub.”

We strive to bring you a variety of stories, your stories. I hope you enjoy this latest issue.

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