09.19.19 Publisher’s Desk

By : Rick Claggett
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During the life of this issue, Mother Nature will officially unleash fall. Some of us mark the start of fall with the return of pumpkin spice everything. For others it’s designated by cooler temperatures, orange and brown decor or new episodes of their favorite stories. For me fall brings with it a special anniversary of sorts: sobriety.

Oct. 1 will mark four years since I stopped drinking. Fitting in a way, as Oct. 1 also launches LGBTQ history month. I am a history fan, always have been. Perhaps that’s why I find my career path so fascinating. At Watermark we share stories, mark truths and archive them so we can look back to see whether we improve; whether we learn from where we came from. I often say we need our past to understand our future. That is true as a community and as an individual.

For this reason, I’ve decided every year around Oct. 1 I will revisit the circumstances that drove me to sobriety. It’s hard to think about, even four years later, the pain that the extent of my drinking caused some and the money that was wasted to get me wasted. So many embarrassing memories come to mind now that my clear mind can see the past.

It’s a hard subject for some to approach. Especially when our leaders suffer complications from drinking—nobody wants to talk about it for fear it will tarnish their reputation. For me it’s a must; and since I am telling my story it gets to happen.

I have this page in every other issue to talk about whatever I want. Sometimes I rant, sometimes I try to be funny, but this time I just want to put this story out there in case there is someone right now who needs to hear it.

Alcohol controlled my life for 15 years. I am always amazed at what I was able to achieve in that time, but somewhat regretful at how much more I could have done if I wasn’t drunk for 90% of it. I drank like it was my job, and part of me actually felt like it was.

Many events that I attended to represent work happened in bars or had a bar featured in it. Often times the first drink was free or all of them were. Don’t get me wrong, although I feel alcohol plays too big a role in society in general—especially in the LGBTQ community—I do not blame bars or LGBTQ events for my alcoholism. That I blame on myself and my insecurity. In fact, my roommate would often ask me why I didn’t just go to the events and not drink. I would usually get mad at her for the suggestion as if it was a rule that you had to get drunk where there was a bar. In retrospect, she was right. I love my partnerships with local bars and support them fully, one energy drink or club soda at a time.

My problem was I thought I needed alcohol to fit in. I needed to drink or I would lose my job because I wouldn’t be cool or get to hang out with the “A gays.” As alcohol is a progressive problem, my drinking got worse and worse. Not much mattered in the end other than drinking and hooking up with people to feel special or needed. If I had one beer, I had to have all of them.

I’d like to say I snapped out of it one day and made a change on my own, but that’s not the case. On Memorial Day Weekend 2015 I was pulled over at 2:30 a.m. I had been drinking since 5 p.m. the night before. A rational personal might have taken an Uber, but my rational days were about a year in the past.

The day after I got out of jail I went to the bar, drinking even heavier the next two to three months. The DMV and the court saw fit that I enter counseling and a program of peers to analyze my life. I was petrified to sit in a room of alcoholics and to be considered one of them. The stigma surrounding alcoholics is as unfair and useless as it is surrounding those with HIV/AIDS and mental health issues. There is no type, no litmus test.

Alcoholism is nothing to be ashamed of but needs to be addressed. If you feel alcohol negatively impacts your life and it is getting out of control, please reach out for help. There are so many organizations and types of groups you can try out. Getting sober changed my life and I couldn’t do it on my own. It’s so hard to see a way out when you’re stuck inside your own head.

In this issue of Watermark we take a look at the 30th anniversary of TIGLIFF with an in depth look at which films you can expect at this year’s festival. We also bring back our Last Page, but this time we start to feature champions in the LGBTQ community. Starting things off is award-winning LGBTQ realtor David Dorman. In the news, Central Florida’s Boyd Lindsley is set to chair Planned Parenthood and Pasco Pride expands for their second event.

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

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