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4 Tips for Navigating Pride When in Addiction Recovery

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Editor's Note

If you or a loved one is affected by addiction, the following post could be triggering. You can contact SAMHSA’s hotline at 1-800-662-4357.

I haven’t missed a Pride Parade since 2000. Well, except for the summer of COVID-19 of course. I was 20 years old when I attended my first one, and I wasn’t out yet so I went by myself. It was in Manhattan — the summer I interned at a music magazine — and I didn’t yet have a problem with addiction

The parade in New York, where I spent my twenties with fellow friends who worked in creative fields, is a mostly cordial affair that starts in Midtown and takes over all of the West Side downtown, ending in Greenwich Village at the famous Stonewall Inn — where the modern-day gay rights movement began.

I used to go to the parade with my NYC gay posse and we always had lunch at a nice restaurant afterwards. There was no heavy drinking involved. And in general, observing the crowd at the parade, there wasn’t really much drinking to speak of. Not noticeably anyway. Sure, the gay bars on Christopher Street and further uptown in Chelsea were packed more than any time of year, but people were civilized about their drinking. It was sophisticated.

 This is in stark contrast to my hometown of Chicago, where the Pride Parade can be drowning in drunken behavior. I never drank during the parade in New York, where it’s not so much of a drunk fest as it is in Chicago.

 After getting laid off from my cushy role as a television producer at MTV News in Times Square, I moved back to Chicago in 2009 because I couldn’t afford New York anymore, and it was there that I got into trouble.

Navigating Pride with an addiction is quite the dilemma. Here are some survival tips.

 1. Beware of beer-guzzling hooligans

Stake out a spot on the parade route away from the gayborhood. That may be where the action is, but you can have a much more enjoyable experience watching the parade in a quieter section of town. When I go to my hometown of Chicago, I like to watch the parade from Uptown, where the parade begins. It’s less crowded, family-friendly and if you’re short like me, you might even get a decent view because it’s less crowded.

 2. Don’t go to a bar unless you’re 100% sure you won’t drink 

Gay bars during Pride are overflowing and overrated anyways. Do yourself a favor and avoid drinking establishments. There’s no shame in not drinking. Hit up a house party instead.

 3. BYO non-alcoholic B 

Pride means party time. The biggest parties of the summer sometimes happen on Pride weekend. If you’re invited to a party, you can’t have alcohol, smoke weed or do coke, but that doesn’t mean you can’t have something special.

Mix yourself a zero-proof cocktail. Try a virgin Moscow Mule. Bring some ginger beer (not ginger ale), which has a stronger, more fervent taste, and some lime. To transform the ginger beer into a virgin Moscow Mule, leave out the vodka and add a lot of freshly squeezed lime juice.  Fresh is key. Share the ingredients for people who might want to make a Moscow Mule with vodka.

For a break from the sweetness, have a highball of some Italian sparkling water like San Pellegrino. I like mine over ice with a lime or lemon wedge.

Alternatively, you can bring some craft soda. There are lots of options you can find, many of which come in glass bottles at a specialty or even neighborhood grocery store from fancy root beers to exotic sodas to flavored seltzers and more.

4. Plan an exit strategy

If things get to be too much and you just can’t cope, there are a number of excuses you could come up with — stomach ache, dizzy spell, early-morning commitment — but the one that seems to be the least innocuous is to feign a migraine. Twelve percent of people worldwide, including children, experience migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. So it’s not as if it’s uncommon.

I found myself at an after-party one year and the host had rented a slushie machine to make frozen alcoholic drinks. I was sitting on the couch watching the machine churn round and round frozen blue raspberry and cherry slushies. I wanted one, so I left.

If a craving hits, get the hell out of there.

So instead of avoiding Pride altogether, follow the tips above and have a happy Pride. And pat yourself on the back when you’ve survived the parade or party. You’ve made it!

Photo by Tristan Billet on Unsplash

Originally published: June 4, 2021
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