01.10.19 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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Everything I need know about drugs I learned from Nancy Reagan. Don’t smoke cigarettes as a kid or you’ll end up a homeless junkie scrounging for next dime bag of crack.

Don’t smoke pot or you’ll end up dead on the street with a needle in your arm. Don’t drink underage or you’ll find yourself pushing everything you own around in a shopping cart, dumpster diving for food and keeping warm with trash can fires. Of course, she never really said any of these things. All Nancy Reagan really said in her 1980s campaign was “Just Say No.” I completed her slogan with “or else…” myself – given her terrifying stories of cocaine-addicted babies having strokes at one month old. I followed Nancy’s rules growing up, albeit with a few un-inhaled cigarettes in elementary school. I would be offered pot by my cousin from time to time and I would just say no, I wouldn’t smoke with the drama students in the parking lot during intermission at the high school plays and I would leave every high school party the second a wine cooler was in sight, a Zima was opened or a joint was passed around. I followed the rules until I was an adult and at the legal drinking age of a legal substance, but that didn’t save me from addiction.

Watching Nancy Reagan, coupled with D.A.R.E.’s “To Keep Kids Off Drugs,” helped form my early impression of addiction and addicts. Addicts were awful people. They lacked self control. Their selfishness ruined their lives and took down people around them. They were homeless thieves who just took from the world and offered nothing in return but pain. In all fairness these drug-free programs may not have intended to paint such a harsh picture, but they certainly seared these images into my young brain. I knew I was not going to be an addict.

As I aged, I gained a distant compassion for addicts. I was obsessed with the drama of “Intervention,” although still under the misguided belief that these people were in control of their lives and simply making poor choices. Of course I thought they were in control, because I thought I was in control.

At 40, I found myself handcuffed to a wall at the 33rd Street jail. Although drinking landed me there, I didn’t feel like I was an alcoholic. I didn’t fit the profile Nancy Reagan talked about. I wasn’t like the people on “Intervention,” clutching mouthwash to keep buzzed. I was functioning, normal. The day after I left 33rd Street I went right to the bar. I figured I needed to jump right back on that horse because I might be too afraid to drink if I waited. Smart, I know.

The next four months were different. I kept drinking heavily, but I wasn’t enjoying it as much. I would bargain with myself, trying to curb the amount I would drink or the number of days in a week I would go out.

All attempts to slow down failed. I would often find myself sitting in my room at 3 a.m. crying while people were hanging out in my pool. I was disappointed and ashamed, and that is what kept me from getting help.

Finally, I met some people who helped show me that I had an addiction. They didn’t tell me directly; they showed me by sharing their stories. I could easily see just how much like them I was. These dramatic impressions we are taught as children do more harm than good. Addiction isn’t picky. It doesn’t care if you are rich or poor, a rocket scientist or a high school dropout. Addiction can claim anyone.

In this issue we focus on addiction as best we can in the space allotted. Each of these brave individuals sharing their experience could easily fill a 300-page autobiography, but hopefully we are able to shed light on the addiction issues that face our LGBTQ community. Some of the people are not able to share their full names and faces. This is not because they are ashamed, but because the traditions of the path they chose to improve their lives asks that they don’t reveal their identity.

If you are struggling with addiction, please use the resources in these pages to get help. You will be surprised to see what good company you are in. If you know someone struggling with addiction, encourage them to get help. Let’s do away with the misguided judgement of “Just Say No” and find real solutions.

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

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