Pride Month 2019 – Let’s Champion and Celebrate LGBT+ Addiction Recovery

June is Pride Month and this year marks the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall Uprising – widely seen as the defining moment of the modern LGBT+ rights movement. At Addiction Helper, we want all LGBT+ people who are suffering from addiction to have equal access to tailored addiction treatment. We know that health inequalities persist and there are still LGBT+ people who avoid treatment, fearing discrimination.

This year, Pride in London have themed their celebrations #PrideJubilee to mark 50 years of activism and victories. Back in June 1969, a police raid at the Stonewall Inn in New York targeted lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people. It triggered a series of demonstrations, which were the catalyst for modern LGBT+ activism, including the global Pride movement.

In this blog, we’ll take our inspiration from the #PrideJubilee theme, highlighting the lifetime achievements of three inspirational performers – Sir Elton John, Drew Barrymore and Fergie Duhamel. All three have publicly discussed their sexual orientation, as well as their recovery from serious addictive disorders. We’ll also highlight some of the available facts on LGBT+ addiction in Britain today to raise awareness of what still needs to be done to achieve equality.

Sir Elton Hercules John CBE – a Lifetime of Achievement and Almost 30 Years’ Sobriety

With songwriting, chart-topping, sell-out gigs, charitable fundraising, movie making musicals, talent management and chairing Watford FC, Elton John has a very long list of phenomenal achievements. His headline successes include:

  • Over 300 million records sold worldwide.
  • More than $300 million dollars raised by The Elton John AIDS Foundation.
  • Being the most successful male solo artist in the history of the American charts.
  • Song writing partnership with Bernie Taupin spanning over 50 years and resulting in more than 30 albums.
  • Being the creator and performer of Candle in the Wind 1977, dedicated to the late Diana, Princess of Wales, which is the biggest selling single of all time.
  • Receiving a knighthood in 1998 for his music and charitable achievements.

Of the lowest times of his addiction, Elton John said: ‘The self-loathing I had, walking around the house, not bathing for three or four days, staying up watching pornography all the time, drinking a bottle of scotch a day. And I was bulimic as well, so I wouldn’t eat for three days, then gorge on six bacon sandwiches and a pint of ice cream and throw it up. And then have a shower and start the whole procedure all over again.’

On sobriety, Elton John said: ‘I came out of rehab and, you know, it’s astonishing when you think of the chain of events. Everything came alive again. The hope. Everything. Music never left my side. Sobriety allows you to let things go. […] Since I got sober, nothing bad has happened to me. Things happen, you fall out with people, but I’ve been given the tools to deal with it.”

Drew Barrymore – Child Superstar, Teen in Rehab, Movie-Maker and Businesswoman Today

Drew Barrymore (15) during her Wogan show interview in 1990.

Drew Barrymore (15) during her Wogan show interview in 1990.

Drew Barrymore’s acting career began at 11 months old in TV commercials Just 6 years old, she starred in the movie blockbuster, E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial, directed by Steven Spielberg. With an acting career spanning over 40 years, Barrymore has performed in films including Poison Ivy, Scream, The Wedding Singer, Charlie’s Angels, Donnie Darko and Grey Gardens.

Barrymore went on to form her own production company in 1995, producing, directing and starring in even more films and television shows. She’s also developed ‘Flower by Drew’ – a collection of brands ranging from beauty products to glasses and home furnishings.

Drew had her first drink of alcohol at 9 at a Hollywood party. Only 10 years old, she was introduced to drugs by older friends and progressed rapidly to chaotic and destructive use. After going through rehab and learning how to stay well, a 15-year-old Drew Barrymore said of her first drink: ‘I got really drunk and it was such a scary, frightening feeling, yet it was such an escape from everything in the world – I had a liking to it.”

Referring to her drug use as a child, Barrymore said: ‘To me, it just seemed normal. All the people I was around did it. […] I was always with a very advanced, older crowd from when I was about six. It was that great escape that you look for when you’re younger – actually at any age in your lifetime. And when you do drugs, your problems in normal life seem so much bigger that you do more, just to get away from them. It’s a complete downhill cycle that you just get caught up into – either you make it our or you don’t. It’s very scary.’

Fergie Duhamel – Child Actor, Black Eyed Peas Singer and Recovering Crystal Meth Addict

Fergie during her interview about addiction and sobriety

Fergie during her interview about addiction and sobriety

Born in 1975, Fergie came to international fame as a rapper and singer in The Black Eyed Peas, but her performing career began in childhood. From 1984, she was doing voiceover work and appearing in television shows, later forming the girl band Wild Orchid.

Taking about her addiction, Fergie said: ‘I started going out and taking ecstasy. From ecstasy, it went to crystal meth. With any drugs, everything is great at the beginning – and then, slowly your life starts to spiral down. […] I was 90 pounds at one point. My brain had been playing a lot of tricks on me. I thought the FBI was after me. You’re kind of living in this alternate reality. I started getting really paranoid.’

She said that therapy was the key to recovering from addiction, helping her discover why she took drugs and how to change. ‘I dug deep as to why I got there. It’s the drug that’s addicting. But it’s why you start doing it in the first place that’s interesting. A lot of it was being a child actor, I learned to suppress feelings.’

LGBT+ Addiction in Britain Today – Essential Statistics

A Stonewall report published in November 2018 looked at the mental health and wellbeing of LGBT+ people in Britain today.  Based on YouGov research with 5000 lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender people across England, Scotland and Wales, the LGBT in Britain Health Report found:

  • One in ten LGBT people has experienced some form of addiction, in the year prior to the survey.
  • One in five disabled LGBT people has experienced some form of addiction in the last year.
  • One in six LGBT people said they drank alcohol almost every day over the last year.
  • One in eight LGBT people aged 18-24 took drugs at least once a month.
  • One in seven LGBT people has avoided treatment, fearing discrimination.

In 2014, the Home Office analysed Crime Survey drug misuse figures on the basis of sexual orientation – the first time they had done so since 2009. As reported in Pink News, the figures highlighted stark health inequalities, as compared to heterosexual people:

  • Drug use amongst gay and bisexual men was three times higher (33%) than use amongst heterosexual men (11.1%).
  • For lesbian and bisexual women, drug use is more than four times as high (22.9%) than for heterosexual women (5.1%).
  • 1 in 5 gay or bisexual men and 1 in 6 lesbian or bisexual women use cannabis, the most commonly used drug – twice the rate of heterosexual men and four times as high as heterosexual women.
  • Drugs including GBL/GBH, mephedrone and methamphetamine are higher amongst gay and bisexual men than heterosexuals, partly due to their association with chemsex

In terms of eating disorders, a YouGov survey commissioned by the eating disorder charity, BEAT found inequalities amongst prevalence and access to treatment:

  • LGBT+ people are at significantly higher risk of eating disorders.
  • 37% of lesbian, gay or bisexual respondents said they would not feel confident seeking help, compared to 24% of straight people.

Please reach out for confidential support with addiction today from Addiction Helper. We offer addiction assessments, in order to recommend the most effective treatment programmes for you. LGBT+ people are always welcome to call us, 24 hours a day, every day of the year. It’s completely up to you if you wish to talk about your sexual orientation – but we encourage you to tell us about specific concerns you have about inclusivity in addiction treatment. This way, we will be able to meet all of your healthcare and personal needs.

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