Perhaps there’s a good reason it took me until late June, LGBT Pride Month, to write this blog.
The fact is, as a gay man in 2017, I don’t feel proud; I feel anxious. As both a clinician and a consumer of behavioral health services, I’m in a unique position to appreciate why LGBT folks are increasingly nervous today.
So often when we speak about mental illness and substance use disorders, we talk about numbers: the number of people who have died from overdoses; the number of people who take antidepressants; the cost of mental health to society at large.
However, at the Kennedy Forum Illinois in December, keynote speakers put a face and soul to addiction.
Almost a century has passed, but these words continue to ring true and speak to our current tragic opiate crisis.
This crisis has touched almost everyone I have met and has spared no demographic group. The silver lining in this cloudy sky is the mobilization and alignment of legislators, medical professionals, the public and the insurance industry on wiping out this epidemic. Fortunately, changes have occurred rapidly that foretell a positive direction.
Being a part of the Awesome Beacon Bike Ride has been an incredible privilege, filled with many unexpected gifts.
I have lived in Florida for 17 years, but it was only when planning our routes and then actually pedaling down the road, that I discovered a treasure of scenic towns, spectacular views and parts of the state I did not know or appreciate.
Now that segments 16 and 17 of the ride have concluded, it is a pleasure to look back and consider the monumental task that was accomplished by the great many exceptional people involved in seeing this through.
The word “Awesome” describes it well in a variety of ways. I’ll admit that I was one of those among us who, at first, simply allowed those earliest Beacon bike ride emails to go right on by unnoticed.
Camaraderie, Advocacy, Health. What an apt set of objectives, though truth be told, I hadn’t fully processed their meanings before the ride.
However, staring at those words on the back of someone’s jersey while pedaling down the road stimulated a number of thoughts. Over the course of two days and part of a third, I not only thought about those words, I had the opportunity to experience them.
As a Beacon Health Options Peer Support Specialist raising a child with multiple disabilities, I never fully grasped that recovery is an inside job – until I had to recover myself.
Many Beacon locations employ peers, people with lived experience of mental illness or substance use disorder, to empower the individuals we serve to live their lives to the fullest potential. We might help them to navigate the health care system, or to define their own paths to recovery.
As a young person, whenever I saw a “coming of age” movie like “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off” or “The Breakfast Club” or even “Footloose,” I would become angry rather than entertained.
I never knew why. I now believe it was because, as a young, closeted gay person living with a newly divorced mother, nothing could have been more inconceivable than the idea I would one day “come of age” and live my own life.
One of the main reasons I love my job is to have the privilege of being involved in all of the fun happenings at my company, Beacon Health Options. Don’t get me wrong; there is a LOT of blood, sweat and tears that go into each event, but I’m lucky to be part of it all. The Awesome Beacon Bike Ride is a perfect example.
I first planned to ride the Awesome Beacon Bike Ride from Woburn to Boston.
I know well the bustling roads the route would take – where a rider would have to negotiate cars, rotaries, and the obstacles found riding busy city streets. As much as I wanted to clip in and ride, I determined that supporting the riders by leading them as a safety driver was my best contribution.