Pride Month Is Nearly Over & I’m Still Sober

It’s June 28th and I still know where my keys are.

It’s June 28th and I still know who I texted last night.

It’s June 28th and I still know what I did this summer, Jennifer Love Hewitt.

It’s June 28th and Pride month is almost over but I’m still sober.

Yeah, I know lots of people celebrate Pride without drinking or without using drugs or without hooking up with a stranger in a West Hollywood bathroom. But I’m not lots of people. I am one of those people — one of the letters — LGBTQ- who celebrates Pride. I call myself a “G” not in a Doctor Dre way but inna I am a gay man sort of way. I also happen to be a gay man who is sober, a unicorn inside of a unicorn. A incepticorn. We are a rare and special beast, we gay men who do not drink or do drugs. Snap a picture of us if you see us in the wild.

See, my people are festive. Alright maybe not all of them. But I sure the fuck am. I am a good time in search of a good time and willing to create my own good time, 24 hours a day. This inherent festiveness, whether it comes from being gay or some weird Martha Stewart-Paris Hilton gene hybrid, works terrifically with alcoholism. I can turn anything into a party, “Come over! We’re watching the Golden Globes!,” I used to slur into the phone to my friends. Come over! It’s my birthday! Come over! We’re celebrating a so-and-so getting fired! Come over! It’s Tuesday and I’m doing my laundry and I don’t want to drink alone! So Pride was no different. In fact, to me and my friends, Pride was a guest pass to get as wasted as humanly possible, all in the name of celebrating our people.

“There’s the guy again with the dirty ass,” some shirtless twink said as I strolled by with my hammered friends at West Hollywood pride the summer of 1997. We heard it and busted out laughing. It was, after all, true. I was wearing light blue corduroys and a disco t shirt. My aesthetic back then was early 80’s Olivia Newton John meets trashy glam 90s all highlighted by copious amounts of glitter. We had been sitting in the dirt drinking and checking out boys and the famous dirty ass was born. We thought it was hysterical. It served as punk rock evidence of how drunk we were and how little of a fuck we actually gave. I was 24 and despite already coming out of the other side with a scary summer of doing meth, I was convinced that I could continue being the life of the party. I just needed to be in a different city, darling and things would be different. They weren’t but at least I went to my first Prides and a lot of them. LA, San Francisco, Long Beach. All fabulous, all centered around drinking, all one dirty ass away from being a total mess. When you are as committed to being as fucked up as I was (7 days a week! No days off!) the sustainability of being festive, however, is not realistic. This full time job quickly slides from the guest list to the dive bar to the couch with a bottle of discount vodka. And so my appearances at Pride became less and less too.

The insanity of me, a person despite the sparkling conversations and even sparklier body glitter, celebrating Pride is irony of the top shelf variety. I mean I fucking hated myself. I was always too weird, too queer and too much for the world at large to deal with. After hearing this message from others as a child and not letting go it as an adult, I couldn’t stand myself. I hid behind being festive so I could get wasted and not deal with the fact I hated myself so much. The ease at which this statement flows out of me is clearly the result of having worked through this shit several times, by the way. But I yeah I hated myself. So perpetrating that I was proud and filled with pride was a total sham. Like “Yay! I’m proud and I’m gay! But also? I kind of wanna die.” Unable to latch on to a deeper, after-school special “So that’s what gay pride means to me” moment, I clung to the part that resonated — getting fucked up with shirtless men. This other part about being proud to be gay and being proud of who I am? Honeychild, that didn’t happen until I stopped drinking and using drugs.

Sorry, Captain Kirk but when it comes to Pride for me, space ain’t the final frontier. It’s self-esteem and I found mine when I stopped drinking and using over 8 years ago. I did all of the stuff sober people are supposed to do to stay sober and most of it I did begrudgingly and with attitude. But I did all that stuff. I continue to do that stuff. And whaddya know? I don’t hate myself. I, in a non-Madonna song way, actually learned to love myself. I like all the parts of myself which in addition to being gay and sober also include mental illness and being HIV positive as well as being a sarcastic pain in the ass. A lifetime of feeling like an alien, like I was never enough has slowly dissolved the more I stay sober. I’m now honest with myself and I like who I am when I walk by a mirror. And to me this is maybe what gay pride should feel like. We shouldn’t want to die on a regular basis. We shouldn’t have to drink because we don’t fit into the mold of what other boys and girls look like. We shouldn’t feel alone.

It’s June 28th and all month long I’ve walked through my neighborhood dotted with rainbow flags, old leather queens in harnesses and beautiful trans people riding their bikes in sundresses. Although I did not celebrate with the masses by watching the parade or going to the festival, because the clarity of sobriety has also made me realize I kind of hate the heat and large crowds of people, I felt it. I felt Pride everywhere. I felt proud of my people, of my sobriety and finally of myself.