Windy City Media Group Frontpage News
Celebrating 30 Years of Gay Lesbian Bisexual and Trans News
home search facebook twitter join
Gay News Sponsor Windy City Times 2019-09-18
About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage



Addict learns to overcome obstacles, thanks to foundation
by Ariel Parrella-Aureli

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

When Spencer was 11, he came out to his family as gay. However, his family took the news as a shock and thought it was just a phase, so Spencer ( who requested we not use his last name to protect his privacy ) went back into the closet, convinced it was just that—a phase that would go away.

But it did not feel that way. To cope with suppressing his identity and the overwhelming thoughts in his head, Spencer began to drink alcohol and abuse drugs. When he was in high school, he began smoking marijuana, which led him to cocaine and, later, heroin.

"Lying to yourself is an eternal pain [and a] dark rabbit hole," Spencer, now 29, said looking back on his adolescent years.

He tried to fill the hole with alcohol and drugs but after almost 10 years of substance abuse, he decided to seek help and stop living a lie in his head. He went to rehab at 20—and that was when he embraced his true identity.

"I wasn't scared to say I was gay anymore so when I got out of rehab I was practically wearing a unicorn suit," Spencer said.

Substance abuse in the LGBTQ community is higher than the general population, according to the Center for American Progress. In a 2012 study, an estimated 20-30 percent of gay and transgender people have a substance abuse disorder, compared to 9 percent of the non-LGBTQ population. The study indicated that stress from daily battles with discrimination and stigma is a principle driver of these higher substance use rates.

Spencer experienced this first-hand and, after rehab, he worked to change his lifestyle and stay clean from alcohol and drugs, but it was not an easy path. During a visit to the ER, he was handed a flyer about Gateway Foundation, a Chicagoland addiction recovery organization. He decided to check out its services in 2017, and it has since remained a constant resource in his life and helped him on his path to recovery.

He said the local organization attracted him because it has a volleyball league, which Spencer loves. It is also a great way to connect with other people who have suffered from substance abuse and learn from them, he said.

"Gateway helps me by seeing people [and it] sponsors different meetings and activities," Spencer said. "Whether you're being held accountable or preaching something that you need to hear yourself, it helps you more than the person you are helping [by] giving back."

Gateway, which has been helping with addiction for over 50 years, will be expanding its LGBTQ services to Lake Villa in September with a residential treatment unit. This effort will better help the health organization grow with new research, reach vulnerable populations and support the LGBTQ community, said Karen Wolownik Albert, executive director of Gateway Foundation Lake County Services.

"We look at this population as one significantly in need of specialized services," Wolownik Albert said.

Wolownik Albert, who has been with Gateway for nine years, said more resources like the residential unit will help the progress of the LGBTQ community, which still faces inequitable healthcare challenges compared to other groups and is more likely to suffer from substance abuse because of discriminatory practices from family, in the workplace or their own doctors

"Patients are not willing to come forward because they are worried about some of the stigma and biases they may encounter from their own doctors and other healthcare professionals," she said. "It's important to look at practices that are inclusive and knowledgeable of unique needs of all populations."

Gateway's 14 Chicago-area locations aim to help with withdrawal management, partial hospitalization, intensive rehab centers, medication-assisted treatment and an alumni/aftercare component, of which which Spencer is a part. Wolownik Albert said the foundation helped serve about 6,000 residents in the Chicagoland just last year.

Spencer said he was sober for two years after joining Gateway but recently relapsed in March. Now he has been sober for three months and is working to stay strong, though he recognizes that relapse is part of the addiction and healing process.

In addition to finding a support system, Spencer said he regularly goes to the gym and found faith; he now prays every day.

"I always thought I was going to burst into a ball of fire if you spoke the word faith," he said.

This year, Pride means something different to Spencer since he is clean. Formerly, he admits it used to be a time to "get obliterated, get lost and go on adventures," but now it represents a stronger tie to his identity and an appreciation for the LGBTQ community's history.

"Now it's showing a huge group coming together no matter what they look like—black, white, purple—they are all coming together for a common thing: love," he said. "I love that it's growing and becoming more acceptable."

Looking back on how far he has come since he was a teenager, he remembers feeling alone and isolated. Gateway taught him that was false, and he wants to remind others struggling with substance abuse or acceptance from family and friends that they are not alone.

"Because I am more butch than normal gay people, I guess I thought I was unique but sadly not," he said with a laugh. "I thought there was no one like me and I ended up finding someone just like me and now I'm getting married to him."

And the future for Spencer looks bright. For example, he and his fiance are getting married in July—with a mini-German Shepherd as the ring bearer and a Great Dane as the best man.

Gateway Foundation can be reached at its 24-hour hotline at 877-505-4673, or at .

facebook twitter pin it google +1 reddit email

Windy City Media Group does not approve or necessarily agree with the views posted below.
Please do not post letters to the editor here. Please also be civil in your dialogue.
If you need to be mean, just know that the longer you stay on this page, the more you help us.


Gay News

Panelists to discuss LGBTQ activism Oct. 12 2019-09-19 - Chicago Public Library's Pride Heritage Committee and Brave Space Alliance will present "LGBTQ Activism's Past, Present and Future in Chicago" on Saturday, Oct. ...

Gay News

Holocaust Museum's Soiree Sept. 19 2019-09-19 - In the Illinois Holocaust Museum's 10th Anniversary year, the Women's Leadership Committee is hosting "Soiree" on Thursday, Sept. 19, 6-9 p.m., at Morgan ...

Gay News

Report shatters stereotypes of lives of LGBT people of color in rural areas 2019-09-18 - ( September 19, 2019 ) Des Moines, IA—Media coverage often portrays rural America as singularly white, conservative and working-class. Yet at least 10 ...

Gay News

Candace Gingrich joins cannabis 'Revolution' 2019-09-18 - In July, medical cannabis provider Revolution Enterprises appointed LGBTQ+ activist Candace Gingrich as Vice President of Business Relations for the company's Florida operation. ...

Gay News

Panelists discuss trans physician cultural competency 2019-09-18 - A panel of Chicagoans—all of them members of the city's transgender community—gathered at Malcom X College Sept. 13 to discuss the availability and ...

Gay News

LGBTQ center kicks off local chapter with economic justice summit 2019-09-18 - With a vision to build a queer and trans movement for economic justice, the National LGBTQ Workers Center organized Chicago's LGBTQ Economic Justice ...

Gay News

LGBTQ ally Amy Armstrong talks cancer, giving back, 'Amy and Freddy' 2019-09-18 - When LGBTQ ally Amy Armstrong was growing up in Detroit and later Camden, Michigan she dreamed of becoming a performer. Since graduating from ...

Gay News

South Side workshop for survivors of sexual harm 2019-09-17 - The Surviving the Mic Writing Workshop series is designed for survivors of sexual harm. The two-hour workshop will present written and/or performance ...

Gay News

La Primera Parada (The First Parade), Chicago's Stonewall Moments 2019-09-13 - ( Chicago, IL ) The Puerto Rican Arts Alliance joins the nation and the world in commemorating 50 Years of Stonewall with the ...

Gay News

Champaign center reveals Pride theme 2019-09-12 - The UP Center of Champaign County has announced the theme for the 10th annual C-U Pride Parade and Fest: 50/10: "Queer History, Our ...


Copyright © 2019 Windy City Media Group. All rights reserved.
Reprint by permission only. PDFs for back issues are downloadable from
our online archives. Single copies of back issues in print form are
available for $4 per issue, older than one month for $6 if available,
by check to the mailing address listed below.

Return postage must accompany all manuscripts, drawings, and
photographs submitted if they are to be returned, and no
responsibility may be assumed for unsolicited materials.
All rights to letters, art and photos sent to Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago
Gay and Lesbian News and Feature Publication) will be treated
as unconditionally assigned for publication purposes and as such,
subject to editing and comment. The opinions expressed by the
columnists, cartoonists, letter writers, and commentators are
their own and do not necessarily reflect the position of Nightspots
(Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay,
Lesbian, Bisexual and Transegender News and Feature Publication).

The appearance of a name, image or photo of a person or group in
Nightspots (Chicago GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times
(a Chicago Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Transgender News and Feature
Publication) does not indicate the sexual orientation of such
individuals or groups. While we encourage readers to support the
advertisers who make this newspaper possible, Nightspots (Chicago
GLBT Nightlife News) and Windy City Times (a Chicago Gay, Lesbian
News and Feature Publication) cannot accept responsibility for
any advertising claims or promotions.







About WCMG Publications News Index  Entertainment Features Bars & Clubs Calendar Videos Advertisers OUT! Guide    Marriage

About WCMG      Contact Us      Online Front  Page      Windy City  Times      Nightspots      OUT! Guide     
Identity      BLACKlines      En La Vida      Archives      Subscriptions      Distribution      Windy City Queercast     
Queercast Archives      Advertising  Rates      Deadlines      Advanced Search     
Press  Releases      Event Photos      Join WCMG  Email List      Email Blast     
Upcoming Events      Todays Events      Ongoing Events      Post an Event      Bar Guide      Community Groups      In Memoriam      Outguide Categories      Outguide Advertisers      Search Outguide      Travel      Dining Out      Blogs      Spotlight  Video     
Classifieds      Real Estate      Place a  Classified     

Windy City Media Group publishes Windy City Times,
The Bi-Weekly Voice of the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual and Trans Community.
5315 N. Clark St. #192, Chicago, IL 60640-2113 • PH (773) 871-7610 • FAX (773) 871-7609.