We Can Do Better With Diversity and Inclusion in Recovery This Pride
Recovery has a diversity and inclusion problem. Throughout the recovery world, we have what seems to be no meetings for the BIPOC population (none that I could find, and I really looked). Recovery is overwhelmingly white and straight from this Queer man’s perspective. At LifeRing, we have two meetings for women and two meetings for the LGBTQIA+ community. Some of these populations, specifically LGBTQ, have a high prevalence of drug and alcohol abuse--twice that of their heterosexual counterparts. This Pride, I’m going to ask you just two simple questions: Couldn’t we do better? Couldn’t we try?
LifeRing offers as many as ten online meetings a day. In a week: 4 meetings focus on marginalized groups; 2 for Queer people. And I’m bummed. When my Saturday LGBTQ meeting returns to in-person meetings, there will be no meetings for me if they don’t choose to use Zoom (and they haven’t decided).
My above dilemma brings up one problem with diversity and inclusion in recovery. I can’t attend the Sunday 4:00pm LGBTQIA+ meeting due to a conflict, so if I miss my Saturday meeting for any reason, there will be no more identity-specific meetings for me. I imagine ther Queer people are having similar scheduling problems. Safe spaces in recovery are invaluable for any marginalized group, for the simple reason that all marginalized groups face issues unique to them in life and in recovery.
And Queer people really need these meetings. Being Queer in recovery comes with its own unique set of challenges. Being Queer is not a dual diagnosis, but I can understand how it could feel as such. According to the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), “Some LBGTQ clients will need to address their feelings about their sexual orientation and gender identity as part of their recovery process. For some LGBTQ clients, this will include addressing the effects of internalized homophobia. Clinicians sometimes see relapses in LGBTQ persons with lingering negative feelings about their sexual orientation or gender identity.”
Quotes and stats are great, but maybe it would help to hear from a Queer person. Well, keep reading, because this Queer person has something to say. I can vouch for the phenomenon. I had and sometimes still have highly internalized homophobia. I think the most common way this bubbles up is in thinking something is “wrong” with you. We learn this at a very young age, especially those of us even tangentially involved in a church community. Religion class is where I learned that it’s not okay to be Queer. I am still unlearning it (shout out to Ms. Hackerd).
This is why the LGBTQ meeting has been such a gift to me. Just by being with people who are also Queer, I learn that I am whole, I am human, and I deserve everything that comes along with that. I see other queer people in recovery and I say, “Oh. There’s nothing wrong with them, these Queer people are awesome. Maybe I’m awesome, too.” I watch, and I grow from watching, just as I grow from participating. I just wish LGBTQ people had more meetings, more days of the week, at more times.
I have to add a note about recovery in general. So, I asked LifeRing to expand its specific subgroup meetings at the beginning of this article. But diversity and inclusion is a problem in recovery in general. I surveyed the meetings lists of multiple national recovery organizations. They are in our same boat, perhaps even lagging behind us. Outside of LifeRing and women’s recovery pathways, I found zero secular meetings for women, BIPOC, or LGBTQ populations. I’m not a research team, but I did take my time in my search.
I’ve spent this whole article posing questions. If you do one thing for Queer people this Pride, think about those questions and answer them. I love LifeRing. But it seems we could do more for women, more for BIPOC, more for the suffering LGBTQ community within our little microcosm of the recovery world. All it would take would be to set aside a few more meetings for those of us who need our own spaces to truly grow. And that would be the best way I can think of for this wonderful organization to celebrate Pride.
I have to add a footnote to this article. LifeRing’s response was not, “hey, don’t call this out”, it was, verbatim, “Bring me an LGBTQIA+ convenor and I’ll get you a meeting!” And if a response as swift as that is not proactive, empathetic and engendering of Pride, I don’t know what is.
This article is contributed by LifeRing Blog Writer Vince Martellacci
|LifeRing Secular Recovery is launching a nationwide outreach project in August 2021. Our goal is to introduce LifeRing to underrepresented communities and to caregivers who work within these communities.|
LifeRing meeting attendance has escalated 583% since this time last year. There is an obvious need for new convenors and new meetings to support diversity and the exponential growth of the LifeRing Community.
If you are active in LifeRing with 6 months continuous sobriety, please consider bringing your experience to others searching for a safe and nonjudgmental space to explore their recovery pathway.
LifeRing has hands-on, in-meeting, co-convenor opportunities available now. For more information, please reach out to your convenor directly or contact firstname.lastname@example.org. You can find details about starting a new meeting and the role of a convenor on the LifeRing Convenor webpage.