DDN Sept_2022 September 2022 | Page 6



Darren Lacey describes how the homophobia he experienced in his childhood impacted his later substance use issues , and how understanding his own problems has allowed him to help other LGBTQ + people in their recovery today

Iam a proud gay man . I can say that today but it wasn ’ t always that way . I used to feel so much shame , guilt and angst – the list of negative emotions is endless . I knew from primary school that I was different somehow , but I couldn ’ t put my finger on it . I was born in 1978 and witnessed the AIDS crisis of the 1980s as a child . It scared the hell out of me – who can forget those horrific adverts telling us that being gay was a death sentence ? I bore the brunt of Section 28 – which banned schools and councils from ‘ the promotion of homosexuality ’ – meaning if I was to go to a teacher and tell them I thought I was gay , they were not allowed to talk to me in any way about it . Doing so could mean them losing their job .

My experience of this
institutionalised homophobia is something I would later realise had a hugely negative impact on so many elements in my life – from my mental health to my sense of identity and belonging , and ultimately contributing to my experience of addiction and eventual recovery .
On 18 February this year I celebrated three years sober . In those three years , I have learned so much about myself , about my sexuality and how to be proud of who I am . I was lucky enough to get support for my addiction through The Forward Trust , where I completed a community detox . I discovered more about myself in those 13 weeks than in the past 40 years .
About 18 months into my recovery , I was asked to speak at an online meeting . I don ’ t attend Fellowship meetings ( though I know
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