A Hilarious comment? Or a worrying insight into the gay community’s dependence and abuse of alcohol?
Undoubtedly, one of the most attractive elements to the gay scene in Florida is the unrivalled plethora of bars and clubs catering for everything from the neighbourhood bar, through to leather and strip joints. No matter your position in gay life there is a hot place for you with a killer drinks special! When I first came to Florida I rode the ‘specials’ wave and was shown the prevalence of alcoholism within the gay lifestyle. When do we ask where the line between a good time and a problem is?
Research has demonstrated, that at least two million gay men and lesbians abuse alcohol and as many as 30 per cent will need drug addiction treatment at some point in their lives. That is three times the odds facing
the general population. The bars are full of guys who seem to have lost so much as a result of excessive drinking; their looks, interests, hopes and dreams. Florida is undoubtedly the worlds gay playground, and within moderation or as a tourist that’s fine. However living here and pushing it too far, as I see so many gay people continue to do, only leads down one road; you will alienate friends and work colleagues and will become like so many of the lost souls here, who find that all they can do is turn to their barman, who they now consider their only friend, for a ‘Whiskey Lullaby’. Is this not a worrying status quo that needs addressing?
It’s very frightening that for a great many gay men and lesbians in Florida that line between a social drink and a regular drunken Tuesday has blurred into very dangerous territory. Alcoholism is going both untreated and ignored in the community. When looking at national statistics it is not surprising that gay men and lesbians are at risk of abusing alcohol or becoming dependent. Key social groups identified by the medical research board found those must likely to develop dangerous drinking habits include those; with easy access to alcohol (Fort Liquordale anyone?), low self-esteem or problems with relationships and those who live in a culture where there is a high social acceptance of alcohol.
Much of the lifestyle for gay people revolves around bars and clubs and with drinking being so very cheap here, as well as having a free pour society, many might not realise how close they are to the line of danger.
There is a school of thought that would blame the bars, another that would blame society for ‘forcing’ gay people to only feel comfortable at bars. The reality of course is sure, cheap drinks make it economically easier for people to drink more heavily than they would. Would you have as many cocktails at a bar if they cost $14 as they do in London? Society also has a influence in the fact that many gay people still feel they can only ‘belong’ in a gay bar.
However, unquestionably the responsibility lies at your door. Alcohol is one of the most addictive drugs on the planet and it seems the dangers are hugely ignored here in Florida. There are the obvious health risks and the psychological effects. You must also consider other dangers, if you are a drinker, you will agree that we have all done or said things we regret while under the influence, been belligerent in a bar, or engaged in dangerous practices. I have also seen the incidence of drunk driving here is astronomical. I recently was informed that if you get a DUI it will set you back a minimum of $10,000 and a night in jail! That’s provided you don’t cause an accident or worse a fatality. Is that worth an extra shot, or shelling out for a taxi?
We have to take responsibility for ourselves, blaming the ‘scene’ is not acceptable. We will say no to crack and many other substances and practices that are dangerous for us, but booze is just not one of them. We have to ask ourselves hard questions as to why we drink so excessively, life style is one answer. Internalised homophobia is something to consider. Insecurity, confidence, hiding, even drinking the pain of a lost love are all logical and prevalent causes. All of these need to be addressed. A community can easily come undone while an undercurrent of alcohol abuse and dependency is rife. In reading the questions asked by medical professionals below, I personally identified with some of them, and as a result I will be examining and undoubtedly changing my habits, perhaps you or a friend need to do the same.
Just remember excessive drinking and signs of likely dependence and abuse, is defined for men, as exceeding fifteen drinks per week and for women, exceeding twelve. Anyone who has had more than five drinks on one occasion in the last week is at risk as well. (One drink is equal to a 5oz glass of wine, 1 ½ shot of liquor or a 12oz beer) If we are honest we know that isn’t as much as it sounds on paper when you add it all up, and we have all exceeded the amounts, both in measures of alcohol and in quantities of drink.
Fortunately in Florida there are a great many resources for GLBT community, including the Pride Center at Equality Park who offer AA meetings. If you are worried about your drinking they offer an amazing range of services in a confidential and safe environment. For example on Thursdays they offer a ‘Smart Recovery Program’ for all addicitve behavior. This is a facilitated alternative to the twelve step program. If you visit their website you will see all meetings shown on the community calendar. You don’t have to do this alone.
This Presidents Day weekend, go to the bars, drink and celebrate, but do it in moderation and responsibly. The morning is always better without a hangover!
Alex Vaughn, is the Editor in
Chief of the Florida Agenda.
Alex can be reached at
The following questions are used by the National Institute on Alcohol Abuse
and Alcoholism to screen for alcohol abuse or dependence:
• Do you ever drive when you have
• Do you have to drink more than
before to get drunk or feel the desired
• Have you felt that you should cut
down on your drinking?
• Have you ever had any blackouts
• Have you ever missed work or lost a
job because of drinking?
• Is someone in your family worried
about your drinking?