As Storm struggled with addiction, she also struggled with her sexual orientation. It wasn’t until she got sober that she was able to come out as a lesbian.
Her story, unfortunately, is one that is all too familiar for many gay and lesbian youth. Which, in part, is why she wrote the book. Jennifer says, “We have to start creating alternatives to partying for queer youth. Lesbians in our community need to take an interest in the younger generations and mentor them by creating safe places for them to grow freely in their sexuality. In general there need to be alternative spaces for lesbians to meet and socialize that don’t always revolve around alcohol.”
She continues, “I’m not saying that drinking must be abandoned at all costs as it is a valid social outlet for many social drinkers. There just need to be more options for those of us who can’t socially drink or that just don’t desire to do so. It is such a big issue in our community that I would also like to see more resources for lesbians in recovery. More meetings, trips, retreats etc. where we can all come together and socialize.
I had the opportunity to have an email interview with Jennifer Storm about her story, lesbians and addiction and the connection between sexual orientation and drug/alcohol abuse.
The first time you ever took a drink, you blacked out and were sexually assaulted. Yet, you continued to drink. And most times when you drank and did drugs, bad things happened to you. How can you explain that to someone who doesn’t have a drinking problem?I think that is indicative of the disease of addiction right there. The definition of insanity is repeating the same thing over and over again but expecting a different result. To me drinking and drugging were my personal solutions to the pain I felt and at that time there was no way I was able to look at those as a problem. My father or others would try and point out the fact that when I drank and drugged bad things happened and in my twisted way of thinking, I thought I drank and drugged to deal with the bad things that happened.
In addition to drinking and smoking crack, you used to cut yourself to ease the pain. I’ve heard of other young queer kids doing this. How did you get to the point where you could stop this behavior?I learned early on in recovery that my secrets would keep me sick. I drank and drugged over my secrets so I had to find productive ways to process my feelings and to deal with my past in non-destructive ways. This was really hard for me because I was so use to stuffing all my emotions and would act out when the pain go to heavy. I would cut myself or harm myself in other ways. I had to learn how to channel those emotions appropriately and to actually feel them. I had to begin to talk, write, exercise, scream, cry—emote in some way to cleanse myself in a healthy manner. When I began to do that than the desire to harm myself went away because I wasn’t all stuffed up with pain.
How much do you think your addiction was due to your budding sexuality?A lot, because it was yet another thing I had to keep secret and didn’t know how to deal with. It just fueled my desire to escape even more. I knew at such an early age where my attractions were but then I had all these societal messages that influenced me and no one I could trust enough to talk to about things. I tried to play the game and act straight because that is what I thought I was supposed to do and it was a lot easier to engage in straight behaviors drunk or high.
Gays and lesbians have a higher percentage of addiction than the rest of the population. Why do you think that is?I think because we are so often ostracized from our families, friends and communities that the pain of that is so great we need something to turn to. There is a great deal of isolation and loneliness for some many queer people who cannot live there lives openly and again it goes back to that keeping secrets thing, they will make you sick in some way. It is not healthy to deny your natural urges and desires. I think it is actually toxic to the mind, body and spirit to try and live a life that you know is a lie. It eats away at you daily. Drugs and alcohol are such common crutches for us to reach for to help mask that pain.
Unfortunately so many activities in the queer community revolved around alcohol and parting that it doesn’t help for those just seeking community, many young queers start using for the same reasons their straight peers do—to fit in, be cool and general peer pressure.