Pride weekend is a time for the LGBTQ community in Vancouver to show the world their true colours and celebrate who they are. It’s joyous and the jubilance in the air can’t be denied – but with this powerful energy comes partying, with alcohol flowing freely and recreational drugs widely available.
For an addict, this time of year can be especially difficult to stay on the straight and narrow, and that’s where Clean, Sober and Proud comes in.
The organization has been around since 2008 helping the LGBTQ community by creating a safe space where people can celebrate Pride sober.
For Eric Taylor, this past year marks the end of a decade-long cycle of addiction.
“For me, it became clear pretty quickly that I didn’t party the way other people did. I didn’t have an off switch,” Taylor tells Vancity Buzz.
“My addiction was really progressive, really fast. I spent ten years in addiction.”
Taylor said he doesn’t follow typical patterns of people with addiction problems. He grew up in West Vancouver and had what he says is every opportunity presented to him – scholarships, a supportive family – but ultimately had low self-esteem.
It started out with casual drug use at parties in his teens; however, his addiction continued to spiral out of control until one day he found himself using street drugs on the Downtown Eastside.
“[I was] using in the Downtown Eastside and selling my body and ripping people off – that was my world.”
Taylor says he wanted to stop using every single day.
“I wasn’t sleeping, I wasn’t eating, I’d go to sleep wherever – I was sleeping in a bush once every two weeks. Then I’d wake up and my first thought would be ‘ok, I’m alive’ and I’d draw a sober breath. And then my second thought would be ‘how do I get loaded?’ It was hell.”
Finally, he called a detox centre on Canada Day of last year. They asked if he could be there at 9 a.m. the next day.
“I had a pocket full of dope and I was sitting at Woodwards and I just burst into tears. I felt sober in that moment. I said ‘yes, I can be there at 9 a.m.,'” says Taylor.
After spending two days in detox, Taylor called Last Door, which is the addiction centre that funds Clean, Sober, and Proud, and he was in treatment within a few days.
Now that he’s been sober for a year, Taylor says it’s that much more important to have a safe space to be able to celebrate Pride free from the temptations of alcohol and drugs.
This year’s Clean, Sober, and Proud event “Untoxicated” will feature Alaska Thunderf#ck 5000, a Rupaul’s Drag Race season five alumnus. She’s currently touring the world and was inspired to participate after struggling with her own addiction issues.
“It was only after cutting alcohol out of my life and reevaluating my relationship with this substance that I was able to find my inner strength and voice as an entertainer and as an artist. At this stage in my life I never take the stage under the influence of drugs or alcohol- which makes playing sober events fun and fulfilling for me,” she said in a statement.
So if you want or need a safe space to celebrate Pride sober, “Untoxicated” might be the place for you.