Annie Grace heads to New York City for today’s interview with Greg! Listen in as Annie and Greg discuss their thoughts on the effect alcohol has on the social fabric of NYC, as well as the disproportionate impact that drugs and alcohol have on the gay community. Greg shares the reasons HE stopped drinking and gives us a unique perspective on his new-found freedom and the joy he finds in being productive and energetic instead of hungover in a city that never sleeps!
I grew up in a very Catholic family, and to be clear, I think that that was actually massively beneficial. There’s a lot of hatred towards religion in modern society where people don’t recognize the benefits of it. I’m not ungrateful that I grew up in such a way, but I’m a gay man, and so during my youth, there was a lot of sort of internalized hatred that occurred. It’s just natural when you’re in a religious community and it’s sort of rejecting you. I was definitely like the pray away the gay kind of kid.
Gay and Athletic
What was even more interesting, I would argue, is that I was an athlete. I still am an athlete. I ran track in college and I was captain of two sports teams in high school, so I actually had a lot of pressure of fitting in. You hear about a lot of gay kids that get bullied, you know, getting thrown into a locker. I wasn’t getting thrown into any lockers, if anything I was throwing other people into lockers, but I felt all the social pressures to act and be a certain way.
I would say when I was about 16 or 17 when I first dabbled in alcohol, because you know, it’s high school. People eventually start experimenting with drinking at a certain point. I think during those first situations when I was drinking, it was a bit like first love, in that I finally found something that let me turn my brain off. At the time, I really just felt a great amount of social anxiety. Outwardly, I feel like I was accepted. I think, I’m pretty sure I was even in the senior superlatives in high school for most popular, but people only sort of knew me. Half my life was a complete façade.
14 years ago would be the beginning of high school not to date myself, but that’s … The world has changed a good bit in that time. I just wasn’t ready, but when I went away to college, to a liberal arts school. There I did find a world where people were able to accept me and I was able to come out and things, but that being said, I had already formed I think a general habit of, “Okay, I work hard during the week, I get to my weekend, this is how I let go.”
I loved college and I don’t regret any of the heavy drinking or partying that I did, because I think when you’re younger it’s kind of cute. For me it was at least. I was having a great time and I was still getting good grades and doing well, but university culture in this country encourages an absolutely insane amount of drinking.
During college a lot of people think, “I’ll never drink this much again. This is not gonna happen again, so I better just get everything out of it while I can.” No. When you move to New York, you’ll just keep upping the ante, just really keep going with it. I had my first real relationship with a wonderful man that I loved. Things got toxic and I ended up breaking up with him, and then ensued the moment where drinking started to turn on me.
LGBT Alcohol Use
The LGBT experience, gay people are disproportionately impacted by alcohol and drug use. This is something that we know statistically. I don’t think that anyone would be super surprised by that. You grow up in a world that shames you and people are naturally going to turn to various coping mechanisms. A lot of them are chemical. That’s just reality. I think I’m one of those people, especially with the booze, but any case, that’s still not an atypical experience. I think a lot of people in some way have to temper, moderate, figure out what to do with this somewhere in their adult life, especially if they’re a part of that community.
Where things may differ a little bit for me, is that about a year and a half ago, I started to get some strange symptoms going on with my health. I lost a bunch of weight, not like a bunch, but 15 or 20 pounds. I had this constant unrelenting thirst, and when I tell you, just at any point of the day, no matter how much water you drink, you’re still thirsty. Always. Never stopping. Peeing every 30, 40 minutes, it’s very uncomfortable, especially in New York where they’re like, “No, we don’t have a bathroom.” I’m like, “I see it. It’s right there. Can I please use it? No? Okay.” Always. It’s happened to me so many times. I complained about this to doctors for a long time, and eventually they finally listened to me.
The point is that I actually had an untreated metabolic disorder. It’s pretty rare. It’s called Diabetes insipidus and it means that my kidneys don’t hold water because of a hormone that’s not getting released.
I just had to go be social and drinking was part of my social life. But because I had that compulsion to keep picking up drinks, I would just drink faster. The summer before I was getting diagnosed, or I finally got diagnosed, it got messy. Nothing too overwhelmingly scary, but there were just a couple days where I was like, “I have no idea what happened,” multiple times that summer. That had only happened a few times in my life. There were a few times that summer, so I was like, “Okay, I’m gonna take a break from this.” I did about a month and a half, and then they found the tumor that I was talking about. I started to feel better, and I was tricked into thinking that alcohol still would make me feel good.
Gay and Alcohol Free
“Okay. I’m better now. I can do this again.”
I started to drink again and I realized the same thing happened, a little microcosm of the first, what, seven eight years of my drinking, just happened in a period of four months. It started by just having a couple because I knew that it would make me feel poorly and not achieve my goals in the coming days. That happened over a period of a few months and I was right back to where I was. Then I woke up one day and I was like, “We’re done here.” So it’s been 114 days.
About two weeks in, I found your book. The goal was to really push myself and make myself uncomfortable intentionally by confronting different topics. I just wanted to learn things and jump down rabbit holes. One of the rabbit holes I jumped down was alcohol. There were just certain moments at it that I seriously was about to cry because it felt like someone finally was hitting on how I felt about everything where I didn’t feel like I was drinking more or less than my peers, so why did I feel so much worse? Why was I so interested in stopping, but nobody ever talked about it? Why do I feel like this is injected into everything and I need it all the time even though I should be able to enjoy things without it?
Listen to the complete podcast to hear more from Greg on what it is like to be gay and alcohol free in New York.
Special music thank you to the Kevin MacLeod Funkorama (incompetech.com)
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