My war with addiction began when I was 12 years old. After moving to Florida and hitting puberty I was faced with an onslaught of feelings and ailments I didn’t know had a name, let alone how to cope with them in daily life. I now know I was suffering from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and what is known as Gender Dysphoria. I started taking Xanax to medicate myself and coast through life and didn’t look back for 8 years.
My first experience in an institution, I was 15 years old. I was not living as my authentic self at that time and drifted in and out of the mental health care system and substance abuse programs for years. I felt like a ghost in a shell and wasn’t able to properly heal myself, not knowing who I was. When I was 21 I entered a treatment facility for the first time identifying as female. After an exasperated quarrel with both the facility and my insurance company they agreed to put me in a private room in the senior facility. The treatment center felt as though staying with my peers would be too high risk for me. I find that notion completely ridiculous. As if staying with a bunch of detoxing baby boomers in an isolated chamber would be a productive safety net? This unfortunately was the only half-assed measure taken to accommodate me as a transgender client. My time in treatment was not actually spent tackling my issues with addiction. I spent so much time explaining myself and who I was in the context of being Trans that I had no energy left and certainly didn’t have the trust needed to divulge any part of my wounded self in therapy. A facilitator even made a sidebar comment on how I could make more of an effort and put on makeup if I wanted to be addressed properly. I was in the midst of detoxing from opiates, benzodiazepines, amphetamines and alcohol. My insides and outsides were falling out and off. Make up wasn’t exactly a priority.
I developed an almost impenetrable set of defense mechanisms to tolerate constantly being pigeon holed and dehumanized. It came as no surprise that I relapsed shortly after being discharged and continued to downward spiral. Luckily I made it back and discovered Inspire Recovery, where I cultivated my longest period of sobriety. An LBGTQI focused environment allowed me to get the breathing space I desperately needed to get my shit together. The sense of community and acceptance was essential in healing. I could actually carry out conversations with people without a raised eyebrow or calling my entire being into question. It was truly a breath of fresh air and a blessing. I came to truly appreciate my experience there a year later after a brief relapse and stint in another facility.
And now, here’s what it was like at another facility. The residency there was enforced by a religious zealot who would lock me out of the bathroom and find other creative ways to degrade and silence me. I became unhinged and reactive. I smashed a dresser in my room. I subsequently was removed and committed to a lock-down psych unit where i was administered haldol without my consent and was taken off my hormone regiment. Thankfully due to the dedication of my family and sober supports I was rescued and sent to another LBGTQI oriented treatment center that could actually help me. This dark period really taught me not to take things for granted, especially my time at Inspire. The importance of education in gender studies and an all inclusive environment is completely vital to treating a case like me and I hope for a future where the marginalized of the marginalized can be less, well marginalized.