Guest Blog from Raymond Hobbs
I am a 33-year-old gay male born into a dysfunctional family system fraught with alcoholism. At 14-years-old I discovered my homosexual orientation and a diagnosis of dyspraxia. At 22-years-old I was on a path of self-destruction, self-hatred, and internally homophobic. What could possibly be next? Trying to gain a better understanding of myself and life, I embarked on a personal journey seeking to find my true self in a sometimes confusing, chaotic, lonely, frightening and sometimes distant family, community and world. Feel free to come along for the ride, as I share this part of my life's journey with you.
Born and raised in a middle-class suburban community in New Jersey (within close proximity to New York City) I am the youngest child of five older male siblings. Being reared in a household of devout Methodists who often expressed their disdain and religious intolerance toward homosexuality, and viewed a homosexual orientation as sinful, disordered and dysfunctional, impacted me greatly.
As a child, my home environment was a confusing, daunting and sometimes scary place which lacked organization, intimacy, cohesiveness and a sense of personal connection. I always sensed that my family didn't function as a "traditional" family, based on my childhood observations and comparisons with my peers. I knew something was amiss from an early age, which interfered with my ability in initiating friendships. I was overwhelmed with embarrassment that one day I would need to invite friends to my home, which would create panic. I can't let others see how my family functions. How do I explain this mess to others? Due to parental dysfunction rooted in alcoholism, this addiction affected every facet of my and my sibling's lives, and as I would soon discover, this trauma would follow me into adulthood and wreak havoc in future interpersonal relationships.
I knew something was amiss from an early age, which interfered with my ability in initiating friendships.
I experienced a relatively "normal" childhood, or so I thought, as I was active in youth baseball, swimming and community events offered through my church. At 13-years-old I started developing a strong sexual interest in the opposite sex as my peers and I would indulge in "boy talk" about girls, and often brag about prospective sexual exploits, as you would expect "normal" teens boys to do. I couldn't be happier that my peers and I were now engaging in social circles with the opposite sex. Perhaps, this would provide an opportunity for a potential girlfriend. Awesome!
Approximately one year after engaging in these male/female social events, I began to feel a sexual attraction and interest in my male peers. This began as a gradual progression and eventually intensified into a full transition from heterosexuality to homosexuality. I was overwhelmed with fear, confusion, uncertainty, anxiety and loss, as I was being robbed of my heterosexuality. Why is this happening to me? How can I possibly share these awkward, sinful, sick and weird feelings with anyone? Those closest to me wouldn't understand, neither would my peers. Shit, I don't even understand! I decided to keep this dreadful condition to myself as I exercised great caution with the outside world in pretending I had female interest.
I was overwhelmed with fear, confusion, uncertainty, anxiety and loss...
During my high school years, these feelings would often consume most of my mental energy as I was becoming more interested in my male peers. Damn, that boy is hot! So is that one, and, yep that one too! These feelings wouldn't abate as I started experiencing self-hatred. After scoping out the boys after phys ed class in the locker room, I quietly berated myself with a string of derogatory comments....you freakin' homo, queer, faggot, what the hell is wrong with you scoping out those boys like that? Talk about being hard on oneself, I was ruthless. This self-verbal abuse continued into my late teens.
Fast forward to my early twenties when I finally accepted my sexual orientation and gave myself permission not to fear these feelings with the assistance of alcohol. I believed alcohol would serve as the cure-all as it would numb my pain, soothe some of the unwanted feelings, and make social encounters more manageable. I soon developed a chronic addiction to alcohol as my life spiraled out of control. I attempted to stop the addiction without success. After living with this chronic condition for a few more years, I decided I had enough and sought professional treatment.
I sought a LGBT-affirming therapist who specialized in recovery. The first step was the most difficult for me as I would need to confront my ugly family history, my self-hatred and the embarrassment relating to my true sexual orientation. I still had trouble revealing this orientation to others, a member of the LGBT community or not. I managed to get those words out during my initial intake as I could finally sigh a breath of relief. Wow! After a few sessions the therapist and I focused on unhealed childhood trauma and recommended a trauma integrated addiction treatment plan. I complied. During the course of treatment we addressed my struggle for intimacy, loss of self, fear of abandonment, guilt and shame, and finally validation. All these experiences/feelings were rooted in my dysfunctional family system. I was attempting to manage my pain with alcohol and repair my unhealed childhood trauma through self-medicating.
I can finally say that through this experience I got to know myself and I like what I see.
This therapeutic encounter enlightened and empowered me beyond my expectations. I have now been proud and sober for five-years, and encourage those experiencing similar life events to reach out, you deserve it!
If you're ready to take the first step on the road to healing, send an email to firstname.lastname@example.org today - Subject Line: I'm ready for therapy! Our therapy is LGBTQ-affirming, trauma-informed care (including EMDR) and available on a sliding scale based on your income.