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Recovering with Pride

By: Jeff Zacharias

Jeff Zacharias is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker, Certified Alcohol and Other Drug Abuse Counselor and Registered Dual Disorder Professional with several years of clinical experience in both the mental health and addictions field. As a therapist, Jeff offers a safe, supportive, non-judgmental environment in order to explore individual needs with a commitment to placing the highest priority on your care. Owner of New Hope Recovery Center in Chicago, his areas of expertise include all forms of addiction, interventions, gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender, and intersex issues, self-injury, eating disorders, trauma and more. Click here to learn more about Jeff.

Don't let someone's else's issue become your shame

Apr 02, 2013

Unless you live in Siberia, you’ve no doubt heard about what’s going on in the Supreme Court concerning gay rights.

Times are changing and there’s heated language from both sides of the debate. Much of that language has been divisive and if you’re a member of the LGBT community, it can have a deep impact both mentally and emotionally.  

How do you feel if you’re called any number of derogatory names and what’s the long-term impact on your well-being? For individuals who are not only LGB,T but also impacted by addiction -- in recovery or not -- there is likely an increase in the level of shame they hold due to the impact of these issues.  

“I’m not only LGBT, but an addict and/or alcoholic as well," they may tell themselves. "I must really be a terrible person! Who could possibly care about me?”

A word of advice if this resonates with you: You don’t have to own anyone else’s thoughts, feelings or words! Yes you are gay and also dealing with an addiction; yet you’re no more or no less than anyone else.

Now, this is easier said than done, I understand. But again, don’t personalize, don’t own someone else’s stuff. It’s enough just to carry your own shame about what you’ve done,particularly when in active addiction, but shame is a silent killer. It wants you to believe that you’re somehow flawed deeply in your core; that you’re not good enough; that you’re not worthy. For someone who’s both LGBT and dealing with an addiction, you get a double whammy.
 
Addiction often stems from someone trying to manage his or her feelings of guilt and shame, some of which may be partly due to being LGBT. Being under the influence makes it so you don’t have to look at what’s going on inside, nor examine feelings related to who you are at the core. The deceiving part of addiction is that when you sober up, guess what’s waiting on you?: the original feelings of shame, most likely compounded by even more shame for things that you may have done while in your addiction which leads to twice as much shame. The cycle continues and worsens but there is hope. It is possible to be LGBT, clean, sober and lead the amazing life you’ve dreamed about.      

The amazing thing is that being LGBT is more widely accepted now than ever before. Additionally (and unfortunately), there is addiction in every single family, so people are becoming more aware of, and more sensitive to, it. There are tons of people out there who will love and accept you, just as you are. There are lots of LGBT individuals in recovery: All you have to do is look around and ask for help, love, support and acceptance. It exists and the possibilities are endless for LGBT individuals to gain acceptance on all levels for who they are – LGBT and dealing with addiction.

How to deal with New Year expectations

Jan 04, 2013

“What are you doing New Year’s - New Year’s Eve?”  

This song was recently playing in a store and served as a reminder that the new year is upon us. 2013 is here and with it comes new and exciting possibilities. More often than not, along with the making of these plans, comes a myriad of feelings which seem to be more prevalent this time of year rather than other times. Anxiety, depression, loneliness and the list goes on.  

New Year ExpectationsFurther complications arise with the making of the often-dreaded New Year’s Resolutions—those expectations of things that will be different in the coming year.  For me, expectations are a dirty word that add a layer to the difficulties of every day life and most certainly complicate things if you’re in recovery from some type of addiction.

A key approach to managing the new year with success is to see the world from a different perspective, one without expectations.  Expectations imply something that may or may not happen in the future—I will find the perfect partner, I will get that dream job, I will lose weight, I will be accepted by my family for being LGBT.  However, if you’re in recovery, a key thought process is to live in the moment; be right here right now.  

Things are just as they are supposed to be in this very moment however comfortable or uncomfortable. Expectations do not allow us to experience that deep sense of just being. We end up somewhere down the proverbial road. That can often seem unmanageable when trying to make it “just for today” without giving into those addictions that hopefully has sent us into the process of recovery.  

Now this isn’t to say it’s not important for us to have goals. Having a road map for what you want to achieve in life is great. It gives us something to shoot for.  

If you want that perfect job, the perfect partner, a healthy body, then believe it to be so without wishing for absolute perfection. It just does not exist. Where goals can help us to manage anxiety or depression by giving us a true focus, they can also fuel those very thought processes we are trying to manage and further spiral us down the rabbit hole.  Don’t confuse expectations with goals.  If we expect something to be a certain way and it doesn’t turn out that way, it’s often too difficult to handle and herein returns our addictions.  If we learn to recognize when we’re in that place of expecting something and shift our thought processes to just today, life becomes much more manageable and we set ourselves up for good things happening down the road.  

If you find yourself dealing with feelings/emotions that you can’t make sense out of, utilize your support system as a barometer of how you’re viewing things—your sponsor, your support group, your partner, your family, the LGBT community.  Give them permission to let you know when you’re operating from an expectations framework and remember:  we truly only have today. So, how do you want to define it and if you open yourself up to what the universe has for you, you just may get all those fantastic goals you’ve been shooting for.

Sometimes, we must create our own family

Nov 29, 2012

FamilyThe holidays are quickly approaching. Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanza and many other traditions are just around the corner.  You know what else approaching— stress, and for many, increased anxiety and depression. 

The traditions associated with the holidays often stem from our families of origin and are passed down over time from generation to generation.  It all sounds a bit 1950s Norman Rockwell-ish, but the reality of what constitutes a family in 2012 is much different than that of 50 years ago. Nowhere is this difference more evident than in the LGBT community where families often look much different than that of our heterosexual counterparts.

Due to a myriad of issues—homophobia, rejection of family members due to being gay, religious ideology—many members of the LGBT community have been shunned from their families of origin. 

The sting of rejection, while tough any time of the year, can be most profound during the holidays.  What’s one to do when such emphasis is placed on being with family during the holidays, yet your family may have rejected you for being honest about this integral piece of yourself? Further confounding the difficulties is what to do if you’re struggling with addiction/alcoholism and may or not be in recovery. 

How about reinventing your concept of family? Who says things have to be the way they’ve always been?

The idea of a family needn’t be defined by blood alone. Blood signifies relatives—something given with no choice.  Family can signify anything we want it to be—it implies choice. Choice is a beautiful word for anyone, but has special significance especially for those in the recovery community. It’s an opportunity to set the intention for what your life will look like.   

If you’re not getting what you want and need in your life, go out and seek it—redefine what your family will look like. Unconditional love, trust, healthy communication, compassion, and loyalty—these are some of the characteristics that define what a family should look like. The opportunity to be transparent without the fear of judgment or critique is the cornerstone of what it means to be in a family. 

There are people in the world that will love you and accept you for being LGBT.  There are people in the world that will love and accept for you being in recovery.  It’s a double bonus if you find both! Set a new tradition this holiday season and move forward by painting a new picture of what your family will look like.   

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