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Watch: LGBTQ+ Stigma, Addiction, and Finding Strength to Come Out

by Matthew Wexler

EDGE Media Network Contributor

Monday October 11, 2021
Originally published on October 9, 2021

Samantha G., Recovery Unplugged
Samantha G., Recovery Unplugged  (Source:Matthew Wexler)

It's been 34 years since the first National Coming Out Day, an event inspired by the 1987 march for LGBTQ+ rights in Washington, DC. Activists Rob Eichberg and Jean O'Leary led the efforts, enlisting legendary artist Keith Haring to create the logo. A generation later, queer people of all ages have found the strength and resilience to live as their authentic selves. Still, stigma and addiction can become so overwhelming that coming out feels like an impossible feat.

Some think of "coming out" as only relevant to queer youth, but the reality is that systemic marginalization, particularly in the workplace, often keeps people in the closet, despite the Supreme Court's 2020 civil rights ruling that says otherwise.

"As a result of these and other stressors, sexual minorities are at increased risk for various behavioral health issues," reports the National Institute on Drug Abuse (NIDA). As an example, opioid use is over twice as high among LGBTQ+ people as our heterosexual counterparts. Complicating the issue is that most treatment centers aren't adequately trained to handle queer clients. "Current research suggests that treatment should address unique factors in these patients' lives that may include homophobia/transphobia, family problems, violence, and social isolation," suggests NIDA.

Recovery Unplugged is breaking the mold both in its treatment modalities and approach to LGBTQ+ clients. With locations in Florida, Texas, Tennessee, and Virginia (which features a unique non-gender sober living space), Recovery Unplugged harnesses the power of music as an entry point to examine the complex causes of addiction.

Are you or someone you love struggling with drugs or alcohol? Recovery Unplugged offers LGBTQ-welcoming substance abuse treatment. Visit recoveryunplugged.com or call 855-909-8818.

But the "why" is only the first step. Creating an inclusive community provides a framework for long-term sobriety. The delicate balance of acknowledging those who feel terminally unique ("You don't understand how hard this is for me. How can I get sober when I can't even come out?") begins with something that we all have in common — music. Whether it's a lyric that resonates with a client's own story or a driving beat that helps one's body release dopamine, music can be a profoundly powerful tool to get — and stay — clean.

Recovery Unplugged has documented some of the success stories of its LGBTQ+ clients to let others know that sobriety isn't just a dream. It's not uncommon for clients to come to Recovery Unplugged after several unsuccessful attempts at other treatment centers. From its intake staff to therapists and medical supervisors, Recovery Unplugged creates an environment of inclusivity, where any day can be Coming Out Day.

Samantha's is one such story. Watch her journey:


Matthew Wexler is EDGE's Senior Editor, Features & Branded Content. More of his writing can be found at www.wexlerwrites.com. Follow him on Twitter and Instagram at @wexlerwrites.

How Music Medicine Heals

This story is part of our special report titled How Music Medicine Heals. Want to read more? Here's the full list.