Michael Streifler, a rainbow clinician at Community Alcohol and Drug Services (CADS), shares his thoughts on growing up and living life “rainbow”.
I’m sure that most of us would agree that growing up, becoming aware of our sexual or gender identity and living life as a “rainbow” person (ie anyone who is not heterosexual) has not been an easy journey.
Many of us have felt or feel confused about our identity, wondering whether or not we will be accepted and whether or not we should or could tell others. This may have led to holding onto secrets, experiencing feelings of guilt, inadequacy and shame or struggling with depression or repressed anger. We also live in a society where being heterosexual is considered “normal” and being bi, gay, lesbian or trans “abnormal”. Many of us live in families that don’t look like man, wife and 2.5 children or whatever “normal” is supposed to look like.
Some of us have found that we are more fully accepted within the bar and nightclub scene or when we are using alcohol and drugs. Some of us use alcohol or drugs when we are with our friends, when we explore the saunas or when we hook up online. We may have used alcohol or drugs to enhance our sexual experiences or to help us cope with negative feelings associated with our sexual or gender identity.
Some of us will have concerns about another person’s use of alcohol or other drugs. This could be a friend, partner, parent or other family member. This can be very stressful as we spend a lot of our own lives focussing on them and their problems – in the meantime getting ourselves totally strung out!
I know both from personal experience and from other people’s stories that when we have sought health care assistance for different issues throughout our lives many of us have experienced difficulties in either disclosing or discussing the issues that are really important to us or getting treatment that takes into account all aspects of our lives.
I take comfort in knowing that at CADS we allow people to be fully open about who they are and the way that they choose to live their life. CADS offers both individual counselling and support groups that assist people to minimise the risks associated with alcohol and drugs or help you achieve a drug and alcohol free lifestyle (if that’s what you want). We also have other groups that can teach you the skills to manage stress and anxiety or give you skills to better manage your mood. There are groups specifically for family members and friends if you are concerned about another person’s use of alcohol or other drugs.
You can request to be seen by a rainbow clinician who will not only be fully accepting of who you are but who is skilled in responding to the needs of people exploring (or struggling with) their sexuality, gender identity and/or alcohol or drug use.
| Michael Streifler
When you’re ready to talk about your alcohol or other drug use, or you’re concerned about someone else contact CADS on 09 845 1818 or www.cads.org.nz. If you live outside Auckland contact the Alcohol and Drug Helpline 0800 787 797.