It’s no secret that there’s an addiction issue in the queer community, with those identifying as LGBTQ+ more likely to experience an addiction.
And there are different theories about why this is – LGBTQ+ people are more likely to experience early emotional trauma, which means they’re more likely to experience a mental health problem, and there can also be additional barriers to accessing support. But, one of the big reasons, and one of the things I’m sure you’ve heard before, is that our community spaces are often centred on drinking and drug-taking, which means there’s an added exposure and, some would say, pressure.
Which brings us to this episode’s guest – Dillan Gay (yes, that is his actual surname!), is the co-host of The Sober Gay, a podcast about being sober in the LGBTQIA+ community. In our chat we talk a lot about his alcohol addiction, how queer spaces (specifically Stonewall in Allentown, Pennsylvania) intersected with that, and his experiences with recovery…
But, that makes it sound like this is a really heavy episode – it’s not! Although we cover a lot of serious topics in our chat there are giggles aplenty! I promise!
Dillan Gay 00:00
I think a lot of gay people go through that. That’s why we seem people always like, Oh, you’re so grown up for your age of two, a lot of gay people, because we’ve had that trauma experience that pushed us to grow up faster.
K Anderson 00:11
Hello, I am K Anderson, and you are listening to lost spaces, the podcast that mourns the death of queer nightlife. Every episode, I talk to a different person about a venue from their past, the memories that they created there, and the people that they used to know. So it is no secret that there is an addiction issue in the queer community with those identifying as LGBTQ i A plus or any combination of those particular letters, more likely to have experience of an addiction. And there are kind of different theories about why this is like queer people are more likely to experience early emotional trauma, which means that they are more likely to experience a mental health problem. And on top of that, there can also be additional barriers to accessing support at an early stage. But one of the big reasons and one of the things that I’m sure you’re already aware of is that our community spaces the places where we come together, happen to be centred most times around drinking and drug taking, which means that there is this added exposure, and some would say pressure to take part. Which brings us to today’s guest, Dylan gay. And yes, he wants me to point out that that is his actual surname is the co host of the sober gay, a podcast, which is all about being sober in the LGBT Qi A plus community. In our chat, we talk a lot about his experience with alcohol addiction, how queer spaces and in particular Stonewall, which was in Allentown, Pennsylvania, intersected with that experience, and his experience with recovery. But before we get going, I just want to acknowledge that that makes it sound like this is a really heavy episode. And I want to reassure you that it isn’t. Yes, we do cover a lot of very serious topics. But well, you know, me like my bad sense of humour can’t help but shine through even at the most inopportune moment. So luckily, Dylan played ball and rolled with all of my bad, the timed interjections, and I think we had a really lovely conversation, I will leave him to come in on whether or not he agrees. But for the time being, I have rambled on a bit too much. So let’s get into it.
Dillan Gay 03:59
You ever ever tried to go to like a big amusement park with a bunch of people it never possible like everyone’s the main character, their story, they want to have their own singular experience?
K Anderson 04:07
And amusement park? How often do you go to amusement
Dillan Gay 04:11
parks, I’m actually I was a really big amusement park person in 2019. Right before the pandemic started, I had a season pass to E Liches, which is a Amusement Park in downtown Denver here. And I would just use that when I was bored, I’d go and ride some roller coasters. Is that not common?
K Anderson 04:31
Once it’s kind of foreign to me, sorry, theory. It’s probably a very common thing. I’m just Yeah, being judgmental or judgmental in here. But what you mean is when you go to a theme park with a bunch of friends, they all just want to go and do their own thing or come along and do their thing with them
Dillan Gay 04:52
a mixture of both. It’s like every time you go somewhere to like one of those places. It’s very exciting and fun. You’re of course want to do what you want to do. You and if it doesn’t align with the group, then it’s like, oh, we can’t split up the group or whatever it may be. And you know, tensions arise and
K Anderson 05:11
your friends just need to learn how to compromise more, I think, right? Well,
Dillan Gay 05:15
that’s why I’m such an introvert. I guess I just, I’m like, Okay,
K Anderson 05:20
I’m not compromising. See you later.
Dillan Gay 05:23
I want to do.
K Anderson 05:26
Okay, may I mean,
Dillan Gay 05:27
maybe this analogy would work better for this show. If we talked about going to a nightclub with a bunch of friends? Yes. Oh, have you ever done that? Yes. And I always lose everyone, intentionally or because there were a bunch of slags I was the slide Oh, tell me because I, like I said, was an alcoholic. I got over 10 years under my belt of an alcoholic. So I would always be the one that would stray off it get that little like dark look in my eyes and be like, I’ll be right back. And then just who knows where I would go. And I was always the one that would get lost. And people would spend the night looking for me because I’m the drunk one that’s like outside of the pizza place across the street from the club. That’s actually happened a couple times where I would like just leave the club but to go get food and not tell anyone.
K Anderson 06:16
Are you? I mean, I know you have a podcast all about this. But I want to ask anyway, are you okay with us talking about alcohol addiction? Yeah, absolutely. Okay. So, I have never drank alcohol. So I don’t know what it’s like,
Dillan Gay 06:33
wow, I’m, hold on. I need a moment to just take that. That’s insane. That is so crazy. That’s cool. Not crazy. I shouldn’t say crazy.
K Anderson 06:43
I don’t know what to say now. But so I don’t really like understand what it’s like to be drunk. And what happens when you get drunk? Are you able to talk to me about what that’s like for you?
Dillan Gay 07:01
It comes in stages. So the first stage of drinking the first glass is always like the invitation. And it’s like, the Hello, it’s the warm hug. It’s the embrace, you feel you know, just like that feeling of someone hugging you almost inside. So it is definitely like something you would love to feel a talk about a lot with people in recovery about chasing that first glass feeling. It happens a lot because by the second glass, you don’t have that same feeling. The second glass is not that warm, inviting Hello warm embrace. The second is you’re starting to really alter yourself and it just only goes downhill from there with you know, everything’s being altered and it literally something else is taking over your body by the end of the bottle and like you know, four glasses in. But what the problem is, like I said is constantly chasing that first glass feeling. Okay, and it’s you can never replicate it until you’ve sobered up and you get that first glass again. Yeah, but it’s so hard with you know, addiction you just want to keep going to try and you know, get that feeling back because once it starts to fade away after that first class is ending or you finish the first class. It’s like okay, now I’m starting to get anxiety, everything that warm feeling is going away. I’m starting to get back to the reality No, no, don’t want to do that. I want to get that first class. We’re gonna keep drink another one. So if I had to explain literally what being drunk feels like, I think the best way I could explain that is if you’ve ever like when you were a kid spun around really fast, and then try to like stop yourself and you kind of have that like, whoa, the room is still spinning. That’s kind of like what it’s like after a lot of drinks but with much more lowered inhibitions and things like that.
K Anderson 08:47
And so what happens to you do you become super friendly? Do you become cranky? Do you become a third thing I can’t think of
Dillan Gay 08:55
I would say friendly. Okay. I was always very very happy drunk life of the party. I would dance around I would start doing pull out the old Britney Spears choreography that I had learned which song Oops, I did it again or slave for you choreography. I would either do those two. Can I see a little now? Let’s see. The slave is always like this one. And she does.
K Anderson 09:17
Oh, yeah. That’s coming back to me.
Dillan Gay 09:20
Yeah, you remember that? Right? Yeah, yeah, I’m
K Anderson 09:23
with ya. So you got friendly,
Dillan Gay 09:26
friendly? Yeah, I was I was a friendly drunk. I was very friendly. That was never promiscuous though. I know a lot of people got like drunk and very horny and go out and like fuck all these people. I’m like, no, no, no, I need to go home and sleep and eat I’m going to eat Yes, exactly. I would run out and go to the pizza place. Get my to go pizza to go home and watch TV till I passed out.
K Anderson 09:48
And so like without trying to sound like I’m psychoanalyse him or anything like that tells me just to shut up if I’m asking the wrong line of questions. But do you see your alcoholism Thanks to your introversion.
Dillan Gay 10:02
Yes, I do. And I didn’t make that connection until I would say maybe like a year into sobriety of like being completely clean off of it. And I didn’t realise how much of a crutch I was using that to be social. But when I look back, every wedding, every, everything is surrounded by alcohol. And even like, my friend giving birth, for the first time I showed up to the hospital with champagne. I think back to moments like that. And I’m like, I really need to show up at the hospital at midnight with champagne. Like, literally no one wanted the glass, but me and like, I’m literally just like, Alright, I guess I’ll finish the bottle while everyone’s like, Googling over this brand new baby in the room. And I’m just like, Okay, who wants to go out for a cigarette?
K Anderson 10:46
So So one that were there people around you that told you that you might have an alcohol problem? Or were you able to?
Dillan Gay 10:57
What’s the word mascot
K Anderson 10:59
functioning? What were you functioning? That’s what that’s functioning.
Dillan Gay 11:02
I was very functioning. I would still pay the bills late, but I still pay them. I’d still go to work. I’d still do all those things. I would still show up. If there was an event. I was never the drunk that was like, Oh, he’s not here. He’s drunk. It was more like he’s here. He’s probably a little lit. But he’s here. But I would never like how do I say this? Like I said earlier, I was like, always a mess. And people were looking for me, but I would never make the night ruined. I don’t know how to say that. Yeah, but yeah, I wouldn’t be like, go off and like screaming and yelling and throwing things. It wasn’t that kind of ruin. I would more just disappear. And that’s what ruined, like.
K Anderson 11:40
So then that brings us to the Stonewall. Yeah. Or is it just Stonewall, not the Stonewall. I
Dillan Gay 11:46
think, Stonewall, I think if we always just call it Stonewall,
K Anderson 11:49
and it’s not Stonewall, in its Stonewall and it’s not in New York City, it’s in Allentown. It’s in Allentown, Pennsylvania. It was it was so how did you end up in Allentown.
Dillan Gay 11:59
So I never lived in Allentown. I was in western New Jersey, very close, it was only about maybe a 3040 minute drive. And at the time, that was the closest gay bar around. I started going there when I was 18. Because they had on Thursday nights specifically, it was under 21 night. So you could go in to Stonewall and hang out you couldn’t drink but I think it was cool that my first experience in any gay club was actually being sober, and I didn’t even realise it. But those would be like the best times in a gay community space that I’d ever have. And like the time from 18 to 21, because after 21 It just all turned into centralising just the alcohol. But before that, I think the first time I stepped into Stonewall when I was 18, you know, with my friends, I was just like, Whoa, this is gay people like kissing each other and not looking over their shoulder and not like, is someone gonna punch me or is someone gonna hate crime me or it was just people dancing around. And it was so foreign and new to me. And I was just like, this is cool. And it wasn’t even like a couple of weeks until I had like an amateur under 21 Drag night. And I was like, oh, okay, this is me theatre kid. I’m around all these gay people. Now I want to do this. And I did the amateur drag night literally putting on like eyeliner in the car on the way to Stonewall. So I did not have a beat face. It was literally just like a little light rouge on the eyes and maybe some lipstick and I know I didn’t think so either. I did hold it against me by Britney Spears.
K Anderson 13:41
Piece of real Britney thing here we are you just really into Britney. Yeah. Is it an existing thing as well? Or is it? Yeah, yeah, that’s
Dillan Gay 13:51
always since the beginning. And that’s another thing we could jump into.
K Anderson 13:55
Let’s not but are you anti Christina? Because you’re a pro. Okay, so they can both exist in the world.
Dillan Gay 14:04
Yeah, I was never warned that wanted to shit on other people, because I liked one thing better than the rest.
K Anderson 14:10
Okay, well, that’s all I need to do. So have you had any desire to be a drag queen before this? Or was it just like, oh, there’s a competition out there. Right?
Dillan Gay 14:19
Yeah, honestly, it was a competition. I’ll do it. I went to a theatre arts academy for high school. So it was like, I had already had all the wanting to dress up and play different roles under my belt. So I was like, naturally, I just wanted to drag and see what that’s like. So I did Stonewall for the first time, like did that Britney Spears song I had, I had props. I had my friend come out with a chair. And he sat in the chair while I like danced around and do all these Britney moves and like I was wearing a freaking outfit from like, Deb or something. Do you remember Deb I don’t know if Deb’s overseas is that. It’s just like it was like a 90s 2000s like fashion women’s fashion store.
K Anderson 14:58
Why would you call it Deb Okay,
Dillan Gay 15:00
I think I’m like, Damn, you couldn’t Deb? They call it
K Anderson 15:07
sorry if there’s anyone called Deb who’s listening. Yeah, sorry,
Dillan Gay 15:09
Deb’s Deb and I like, put some leggings over it. And that was my outfit with a little wig. And I did my thing and it was very awkward. I came out for like, the curtain call not wearing the wig. That was very weird. Oh, that
K Anderson 15:23
is weird. But so then this. I’m just going to take a moment to compose myself. This dance that you did with your friend in a chair. Was that not just like the most awkward thing ever?
Dillan Gay 15:36
Looking back now? Yes, it was extremely awkward, especially because he was so nervous that he didn’t hit any of the cues that I had taught him. Like in my kitchen dancing, the
K Anderson 15:46
one swipe I haven’t yet. Literally,
Dillan Gay 15:49
literally, we went through it maybe like two times plastered. And I’m like, Okay, we’re doing this at Stonewall live Thursday night. Are you ready for this? And all he had to do was really like sit in the chair. And at one point, I sat on him and he had to like grab me by the waist. And there’s a part of the song that goes like, bah, bah, bah, bah. And he had to just go up and down with the Baba, bah, bah. Like He’s wagging your torso, kind of but I was kind of like bouncing while he did it. It kind of went with it. But since he missed his QL, I’m just bouncing and he’s holding me stiff. And he’s already bounced. It was just all over the place. And but I’m so glad I didn’t have shame then. Because I was just like, whatever. We killed that on the way home and then now I’m like, oh my god, that was such a pride like, what am I watching this little twink drag performer that has no makeup on? Because you probably couldn’t see any of that makeup by the Claire’s makeup I put on. On the way there. You couldn’t see any of that under the stage lights.
K Anderson 16:43
Can I just say you’ve just said I’m glad I didn’t have any shame at that time. But you have held on to this memory of your friend fucking up, sir. Yeah, which is true. I mean, I was just so were you like I killed it. But he held me down like a leg behind.
Dillan Gay 17:01
I should have just said it just went so low. You can’t drag is not a sport like that.
K Anderson 17:06
I mean, yeah, it’s not not one for sharing. Is there anything you want to say to him now?
Dillan Gay 17:10
I’m sure you tried your best.
K Anderson 17:17
But share business isn’t for you. Sorry, I love but did you? When did you come in any place?
Dillan Gay 17:24
That time? I had a couple more experiences after that, where I did win, and left the prize there because I had got too drunk after winning and didn’t actually collect my prize money.
K Anderson 17:38
I said this was after you turn 21? Or was it? Yeah, you were preloading. Okay, so you started going on your team?
Dillan Gay 17:45
Yeah, and sober. And that’s why that was probably the best couple years of my life in a gay venue, where I really was appreciating it for what it was not just for a vessel to drink, I was seeing all these other queer people existing with each other. And it was the first time I had really seen something like that with my own eyes. And I didn’t realise at the time how meaningful that would be, to me having those times where I was sober there, because now when I think back of memories, I don’t remember a lot of the stuff when I was drunk, but I do remember this stuff where I was sober. And those times where I would go to the under 21 nights every Thursday, it would be where I could just, you know, be myself and hang out and dance around and be Britney if I wanted to be Britney. And it was okay. And people would actually clap for it. You know?
K Anderson 18:37
And, and so then picking up on the comment you made about not realising how meaningful it was? Is that why it was meaningful because you had that space to be yourself and express yourself?
Dillan Gay 18:49
Yes, I grew up with very strict parents, I would always have to go to my I call her my nanny, she was my grandmother, but I’d always have to go to my nanny’s house. If I wanted to express myself in that way, she would let me wear the gowns and her high heels and stuff like that and say, you know, don’t tell your mother, but she passed away when I was 17. So going into being 18 I feel like I had no one that I could be myself around like that and
K Anderson 19:17
and to where your parents strict because they were homophobic or were they just strict?
Dillan Gay 19:24
I think we’re a little bit of both my parents divorced when I was like nine or 10 and separated to two states very far away from each other New Jersey and my dad was in Tennessee. And so I would go back and forth. It was like literal hell going to Tennessee because that side of the family was always very against it. And my mom was divorced my dad to try and get away from stuff like that. I guess, you know, she didn’t like to be in that Christian scene anymore. Where you’re to the point where you’re bashing people for other things. She was like, that’s not the God I You know, want to be with. And I think that all kind of culminated to her like turning into this nicer person down the line. So her strictness was more of the control aspect, whereas my father’s was more of the anti gay side of this. Okay, so I was kind of getting slapped by both ends, depending on which state in which parent I was with.
K Anderson 20:24
And the control thing is that because she was a single parent, and she was hyper aware of not fucking it up,
Dillan Gay 20:32
I don’t know, they both remarried very fast after getting divorced. It was I literally attended my mom and my dad’s new weddings in the same summer, I think my dad got remarried in June of 2001, or 2002. And my mom got remarried in that July. And it was just it was very strange as like a 10 year old to be like, going to my parents new weddings, like maybe a year or two after
K Anderson 20:55
but you got to wear the same suit, right? Like no money were
Dillan Gay 21:00
different out. No, I didn’t even get to double up on the suit. And then you would have grown out of it in six months. That’s That’s ridiculous. Right? So yeah, it was just, it was an interesting time for that. But it became, I don’t know what it was, I think her control came from, she had a lot of lack of control when she was younger. And she was just doing what she had learned to protect what she thought was protecting me, you know, keeping me home all the time, not letting me do extracurricular activities, not letting me go to the school dance are not letting me join a sport, all these things that I couldn’t do. Once I moved to New Jersey to be with her. She was just kind of like, I don’t know, if it was like her way of thinking, like I lost you once. I don’t want to lose you again. So I’m just going to, you know, keep you in the house all the time, and not let you do anything or, like I would get in trouble for going to the library, which was right across the street from my house. Wow. Like I remember this one time I was at the library. And I just heard blood curdling screams and it was my mom on the front porch like screaming for me. And all the neighbours like looking around. And I’m like, I’m at the library right here across the street. You can see me from the front porch. It was very weird. I had to like walk home and you know, get screamed at for literally being at the library doing my homework. It’s very weird dynamic.
K Anderson 22:20
And so with that backdrop, when you came out, because I’m assuming you did come out, yes. What was the response? And like, what happened?
Dillan Gay 22:31
So I came out when I was 14. And my brother had actually come out maybe five years previous to that. Okay, so he came out, I was maybe like, yeah, like 10 or 11. And it was like, everyone was looking at me to be the star child, then they’re like, well, your brother’s not going to give us baby. So you’re going to be the one that gives us babies, and you’re going to be the one that gets married now. So, you know, everything’s kind of riding on Dylan now, because he’s the straight one. And he’s the, I’m the only boy and like this side of the family that could possibly carry on the name after that. And then I’m thinking to myself, deep down, like, how am I going to tell these people this? How am I supposed to ever let them know that so once my brother came out, I was like, I’m never coming out. I am never going to do that. I’m gonna take this secret to the grave because I have to make these people happy. But I gave up by 14 apparently
K Anderson 23:26
didn’t hold out. But that’s really interesting that that’s the response that there’s this added feeling of pressure on you.
Dillan Gay 23:35
It was almost like they accepted His coming out and then hated mine. Oh, okay.
K Anderson 23:39
Because I was gonna ask like, that was the expectation but what was reality? So reality kind of lived up to
Dillan Gay 23:44
Yeah, and your fear? I think they my brother’s very, I don’t know how to explain this, but he’s very. I hate saying this, but straight acting. He’s not a stare. And I hate saying that. I hate but he’s not stereotypical. He’s not like flamboyant. He’s not he’s not a pride attender. My brother was always very hush hush, quiet secret about his life. So when I came out, and I was like, oh, no, I’m gay. I want to see what this is like. And I wanted to be flamboyant. I wanted to show that I most her Britney Spears and Britney Spears was my idol. Yeah, I want it to be but they were like, oh, no, if you’re gonna be gay, you need to be gay, like your brother is and he doesn’t tell anyone. And he’s, you know, he keeps it very secret and he’s protected. It’s for your safety is for your protection. I didn’t like that. It didn’t sit with me. When I was younger. I didn’t want to be protected like that. I wanted to just be free and do what I wanted to do and be who I wanted to be. I didn’t want to have to mask myself like my brother was doing. So We butted heads with the way I expressed my homosexuality versus the way my brother expressed it.
K Anderson 24:50
Say that it’s like a double whammy because, first of all, they pinned all their hopes on you once he came out. That’s a horrible turn of phrase. that. No, you’re
Dillan Gay 25:00
right, though. You’re right, because they literally were saying, like, you’re the one that’s gonna give us children, you’re the one that’s going to make us grandparents now. Because your brother’s never gonna be able to make us a grandparent, your brother’s never gonna get married, your brother’s never gonna do this and that. So you’re the one that’s going to have to do all this stuff for us.
K Anderson 25:17
So there’s all of that pressure on you is old. And then when you come out, they’re like, oh, yeah, you’re not doing it the right way. Sorry.
Dillan Gay 25:24
Yeah. And the coming out was like the worst experience ever I had. I was literally with my friend in my room. We were just like taking MySpace pictures as we do at that age, like 14. And my stepdad kept coming in my room to check on us. And we were just taking pictures and just giggling and stuff. So when she left, and we were having dinner that night, he asked me he’s like you always have you know, girlfriends over but every time we check on you, you guys are just like giggling and having your fully clothed, like, I’m like thinking in my head like, what do you want to walk in on like 14 year olds bangin? Like, what the fuck you weirdo. But like, he asked me, he was like, do you even like girls, and I froze and just ran upstairs. And my mom came upstairs and she was like, Okay, so are you so Are you gay? And I was like, Ah, I was having a meltdown. And in the moment, she comforted me very well. She was like, you know, it’s okay, I’m here. I love you. You know, go to bed. Where’s tomorrow’s a new day, I love you. And I was like, Okay, this is not that bad. And then the next day, she called my dad in Tennessee and told him, so she outed me to my father. Like, the next day was like, just the, you know, your other son is gay, too. And it’s probably because of this, this, this and this. So blah, blah. So it was just a very sneaky, like, she made me think that like she was on my side about it. But then she kind of like, undercut me and just went and told him a totally different side of the story that I don’t think spread light on what actually happened.
K Anderson 26:59
And then so what were the repercussions of that? Where were the ripples.
Dillan Gay 27:03
I never wanted to go back to Nancy after that. Because at that point of their divorce, whatever you call it, like agreement I had every summer in Tennessee while I was living in New Jersey, I’d have to go for you know, June, July and the beginning of August back to Tennessee. And that just became so awkward. Because I was just masking the whole time I was there because, you know, my father was definitely here. No, see no speak no type of person. So if it wasn’t there, it didn’t bother him. So he never wanted to bring it up. But it was that weird feeling of he knows that I hated so freakin much. And I’m just like, I don’t want to be there because he knows. And he’s not saying anything about it.
K Anderson 27:44
Like he can see me cutting the sandwich. Am I cutting the sandwich today? Yes,
Dillan Gay 27:49
yes, totally. I’m going to get the mail in my prancing to get the mail or am I just am I walking to get the mail and I was every single move I would take. I’m making sure that I’m not doing the wrong thing. I hated it. I hate to go back into the sea after that to what happened? I don’t know. And things have never really fully just been the same. I’ve just always been very separated from my parents. Because they didn’t want me to be who I was. They loved me. They said they loved me. They said they loved how creative I wasn’t how imaginative I was. But when it came down to it, and I really was going for what I wanted to do, there was always boundaries, you know, you can do this, but to this extent you can grow your hair out, but not longer than this. You can, you know, do this, but not that. And it was so many limitations on what I wanted to do. So I started distancing myself, I knew who I was at a young age, and I knew what I wanted to be about and what type of vibe I wanted to have. And they didn’t, you know, click with that. So I was like, No, why should I respect these people just because they brought me in the world like that. I shouldn’t say respect, I still respected them. I was always very respectful. But why should I have to bend over backwards and forwards to try and please them. And I think that’s, you know, around like 1415 was when I my brain started changing to be a little bit more like about what I wanted to do because I’m realising, oh, like, this is my experience my life experience. You don’t have to live for your parents. You don’t have to do that. A lot of stuff that people realise in their 30s I was like realising when I was like 14, because I was like, I’m not. I’m not aligning with these people like that. I think a lot of gay people go through that. That’s why we seem people always like, Oh, you’re so grown up for your age have to a lot of gay people because we’ve had that trauma experience that pushed us to grow up faster.
K Anderson 29:32
Yeah, we’ll make decisions that other people haven’t been confronted with. I’m gonna ask something really personal. Go. Go ahead. When did you start drinking?
Dillan Gay 29:42
I started at 18 but I was always very, very responsible. I guess that comes on the functioning side of alcoholic I would never be a drinking and driving person. And I was usually always the driver with my friends. So when we’d go to like Stonewall and stuff I would never do Drink even though there was people there clearly underage drinking and finding ways to do it, I was still like very responsible about it and not wanting to be reckless.
K Anderson 30:09
And so when did you stop drinking more?
Dillan Gay 30:12
Okay, I remember very clearly the night that everything changed. I was in my first apartment, I was 19. And it was the last night in that apartment. And I wanted to throw a little shibang and little get together for my last night there before I was moving to my next place. And I had invited a bunch of people over, maybe like seven to 10 people. And everyone, for whatever matter, couldn’t make it, it was probably like a Tuesday night or something like that. And, you know, just happened to be the night that my lease was ending. And it was the night that no one could show up. So I had bought all this wine and all this stuff. And I was literally just sitting by myself in that apartment on the last night, everything’s in boxes and packed up and gone. And there’s like nothing there. But my bed. And I’m just sitting there and an empty apartment with all this alcohol. And I was like, Okay, I’m just gonna drink. This is fun. And I can just have fun by myself. And it was the first time I had ever drank by myself. And that’s where I think everything my relationship with alcohol really shifted, is the first time I had been by myself to do it. And I really had a good time. And that’s probably the worst part of it was how much fun I had when I was by myself. And I’m like, Oh, my God, I can do all the stuff I want to do and not have to worry about like, acting a fool or looking crazy and still be, you know, fucked up and all this stuff. So it definitely created a slippery slope after that.
K Anderson 31:37
But what does that mean, when you’re by yourself? Like, what can you do that you wouldn’t be able to do otherwise?
Dillan Gay 31:41
I don’t know. I think I always just was afraid like that I would be judged by anyone. Because I was chained smoking, and all that fun stuff. And I’d never want it to be judged. I could dance around my house and not have to feel judged at all, I guess. I don’t know. I don’t know what it was. There was something that changed inside of me, though. That was like, Oh, this is great. And I think I want to do this more often. And it started a really bad habit of me wanting to drink alone, which evolved over the years. And I’m I mean, I’m talking like maybe eight years after that when I’m like, really into it heavy leaving situations so I could go home and drink. It was the main priority. So I’m like hanging out with friends at game night. And if I had to drive home, I’m not going to drink because like I said I was responsible. But I was itching to get out of there and go home to drink. And that’s all I could think about was when I could get out of there go home to drink, eat and pass out. So there was definitely a love affair of drinking to fall asleep, which became my codependent issue was I couldn’t sleep without it. For 10 years it was every night even when I was sick. If I was sick with strep throat, I would still make sure I could choke down two to three glasses of wine. Oh, wow. Yeah, I was never never giving myself a break. Never the whole time.
K Anderson 33:04
And then so did you just not have hangovers? Like what like
Dillan Gay 33:08
hangovers became my normal. I was so deep into it. It wasn’t until I was a couple days sober, sober, that I realised what it was like to be at baseline normal, because I had been hungover for 10 years, every single day, hungover, so that was my baseline. Honestly, when you drink that much, you don’t really get the headaches like that you don’t get it because you don’t feel it because it’s your baseline. So you become desensitised to waking up with a headache every day, because that’s your normal. So I was just, I’d wake up every day, have a little shot of wine to get rid of the headache and maybe pop an Advil, chug a ball of water and be on my way until that night I could drink again. I never really knew what a hangover really felt like until I was sober. And I was like, oh my god, I was hungover for 10 years shit. And I was never a puker I never threw up. I was not a thrower upper, I would pee the bed before I threw up. Well, how often did you pay the bat? I was peeing the bed four nights a week, probably at the end there for the last two years of my drinking. It was so bad. I had I had a waterproof mattress cover on my bed because I was ruining mattresses, you know, every couple months. So eventually, I had to just get a waterproof mattress cover to like keep living my lifestyle. And not I didn’t think that the drinking was the problem it was that I needed a waterproof cover to get with it. Like you can kind of see where your brain will go in that situation. And I wasn’t thinking I was single this whole time. I was single the past seven years. And I was thinking like, I can’t be with someone because they’re not going to like that I’m peeing the bed every night. Not that I should stop peeing the bed and drinking every night. I was thinking I’m not going to find someone who’s going to want to love me and sleep with me in bed if I’m peeing every night. Is that because you didn’t make the connection? I was not making the connection though. I still thought that I was drinking like normal people drank I I didn’t think I was an alcoholic. I was thinking like, Oh, I’m probably just not eating enough or like, I don’t know why piece of I just drink too much the night before, I’ll do a little less night. But like I said earlier, once I had my first class, I was just constantly chasing that first class feeling. And I would just snowball every single night, there was no moderated drinking. For me, that’s not a concept that my brain will ever grasp. There’s no one drink and done. It’s just not possible.
K Anderson 35:26
So at what point were you like, oh, this might be a problem.
Dillan Gay 35:30
I tried to quit drinking two times before I actually quit. So I, I knew. And you know, the little voice in the back, your head is always there. And it was screaming at me the whole time. But I would block it out, would not listen to that, or would think it was something else. But I think subconsciously, I always knew when the issue was what the problem was, but consciously on the front, I would never want to address it. And I would always try to address all the bubbles around it and not pop the big bubble. You know, I would try to pop all the little ones around and say like, oh, maybe it’s this, I should try and do this. Or I should try and do that. And I would try you know, I can’t drink until 9pm. And then I’ll force myself to stop drinking by midnight and try to do all these rules. And the rules never work. You can’t. If you’re putting your rules on yourself to live, it’s not going to work out because you’re going to want to do what you want to do.
K Anderson 36:23
And then you’re just going to have something to beat yourself up about when you don’t do it.
Dillan Gay 36:27
Exactly, exactly. So I was creating all these expectations for myself that I just knew I was going to fail anyway. So I was just setting myself up every night. And I would have that conversation in the morning every morning in the shower of like, oh, I need to stop drinking
K Anderson 36:40
shower every day. Yeah, I did. Wow.
Dillan Gay 36:45
Well, I’d have to get the pee on myself. You know, because when you wake up marinated in your own pee, you gotta have a shower.
K Anderson 36:51
Yeah, guys, I should really get better at personal hygiene. Anyway, sorry, this is not about me.
Dillan Gay 36:59
I mean, I don’t shower every day. Now. I don’t think so. I skipped some days here and there.
K Anderson 37:04
It’s for the planet, right? That’s what I tell my Yes.
Dillan Gay 37:07
Absolutely. Yes. Last couple years, I’ve definitely become more conscious of the planet as well.
K Anderson 37:14
I’m sorry, I completely derailed the conversation. Where were we saying? Oh, yeah, no, no. So you said there’s the subconscious level, there’s the conscious level. But what was the moment where you were just like, yeah, it’s time.
Dillan Gay 37:30
Okay. Oh, yes, I’ve derailed myself. So that I had tried two times previously. The first two times, though, were not for myself. One was from my friends that tried to help me. Long story short, I tried to seek some help through an Outreach Programme ended up putting me in a mental institution for three days. So that really scared me off from getting sober. The second time I tried to get sober. I was with an ex who gave me an ultimatum of, you know, you either get sober or we’re breaking up. So that’s never going to be something that someone wants to make a decision for themselves. That’s, you know, strictly external sources making the decision for you. So by the third time and the time that stuck, I was really just done. I was driving home after work one night, and it was my usual thing, stop at the same place, get a bottle of wine and three vodka shooters or whiskey shooters, whatever I was feeling that night, you know, a bottle of wine and three shooters, and go home and drink. But this particular night, I was driving home and I was it felt like something had taken over my body. And I don’t know what it was, but it wasn’t me. And I was like, Dylan, just go home, just drive home, drive past the liquor store and go home. But as I’m driving, I literally was turning the wheel into the liquor store. And I was yelling like, Dylan stop, why are you doing this? Why and I was pulling into the parking spot of the liquor store, saying why you could just go home. I was saying this verbally out loud in the car to myself. Just go home. Why are you doing this? You don’t have to stop here and do this. And I’m taking my seatbelt off getting my wallet out getting my ID to go inside. And I went inside got the wine went home, literally was like okay, now you’ve got it. You’ve got this wine. Are you happy? And it was just a weird night. I was like, Oh, you’re happy? You’re gonna drink this shit in silence. I turned off everything. I turned off all the lights, all the stimulation, no music, no TV. Nothing. I was like you want to drink. I want to see what it’s like to drink with nothing, stimulating me nothing to entertain me. I want to feel this and feel what it’s like. So I forced myself to sit down and drink everything. I had bought the three shooters in the ball of wine without going outside to smoke without listening to music without dancing without anything and it was horrible. It was wretched. I was so uncomfortable. It was like I was a toddler’s squirming in his seat to get out and run around. I was so miserable, and the next day confronted with that same situation driving home, liquor stores coming up, I took control and I just drove straight. And I was like, this is going to be the day that I change shit. Because why am I doing this making myself feel miserable every single night, if underneath it all is this really anxious person just itching to get out of it, drowning it out with stimulation and TV and this and that and food and eat as much as I can until I pass out. I was like, I can’t do this anymore. i That night I drove home. And it was the first night I just I got home and I went and I got right in the bathtub. And I was like, I just need to change the habit, change the speed. Because it was so habitual to get home and crack the wine and take that sip and just go on with the rest of my night with whatever I wanted to do. So getting home that first night, and just throwing myself into the bathtub was just it was a cathartic experience of changing up that speed and changing the beat of how my night goes every single night. And once I changed the beat, I created the new habit for myself of going home getting right into the bath. And I think for the first two months of sobriety, I was taking a bath every night. And obviously I grew out of that but
K Anderson 41:10
because of the planet. Great Yeah, because of the plan.
Dillan Gay 41:13
But that was my own personal yeah did to just distract it and just do something. Because when you’re an alcoholic for 10 years, plus, you just don’t know what to do with your time. Once you get all that free time of not drinking. Yeah. So you have to find a way to fill that time with something and me having a bath with something.
K Anderson 41:35
It’s really interesting, though, because for me, a bath is a place where I reconnect with myself. Like it’s a really great place to just sit with my feelings and thoughts. And so with everything that you’ve described, it sounds like you would be better off with something distracting you not right.
Dillan Gay 41:57
I think I really wanted to figure it out, though. I wanted to know what was and I’m putting I’m using air quotes, what was wrong with me. Something wasn’t right, I was so just aligned from my true meaning of life. And what I was here for, I was just going with the motions of what I thought everyone was supposed to be doing. I had no spiritual awakening, I had no contact with anything deeper inside of me, I was very surface Dylan, it was, you know, I’m a blast in the glass. That’s all I’m good for. And I think once I got sober, and I started doing those baths every night, and I would sit in the bath and try to think about everything. I started listening to books. And you know, that was the time where I started listening to podcasts and other things. And I would mainly listen to female ran podcasts about sobriety because it was the only thing I could really connect with and feel connected to. And that kind of snowballed into, maybe I should try therapy, started doing therapy. And that snowballed more into Okay, I think there’s a chemical imbalance because there’s something still in my head that’s making a block of happiness where I can achieve this feeling of just being content. I wasn’t even looking for happiness, I just wanted to be able to sit in silence and be content. And it was like I was in a hallway in my brain and every door was open, and people were just piling into this crowded hallway. And I was trying to just get through the hallway with all these people screaming at me. So I was like, okay, maybe I need to, you know, get some chemical help. And I started on a antidepressant. And I think with the pairing of antidepressants, therapy, you know, meditation, stuff like that, really getting inside of myself helped me out tremendously, to know who I was, and to try and slowly, one by one, close all those hallway doors and not push things but just like, accept things for what they are and put them back in their rooms and close those doors. So my hallway was clear. Because it was just everything coming at me at once I’m, I’m waking up every morning, thinking about my childhood, how it was wrong and how it was bad. And like, you know, all the doors are in my brain were open. Like I said, it was just like, I had to find a way to just clear those out and get into my headspace where I could be by myself. And it really gave me a sense of power like inside to move forward with the sobriety and with just finding out who I am and it’s it’s been a journey for the past two and a half years of just finding myself and I’m never going to find myself I’m always going to be finding myself because you never stops you know,
K Anderson 44:42
you said something before about like I needed to figure out why I was on this earth and I was like oh shit. I haven’t done.
Dillan Gay 44:50
Founder and my journey that sometimes you’re on this earth not to do something extremely crazy and big and you know, sail the seas to exp Lauren who thinks sometimes you’re seriously just here to exist, and Your existence will be the trickle effect that is needed in the world. And that’s the purpose. And I think that’s what I really had to realise that it’s like, I’m not here to, I don’t know, get a Nobel Peace Prize or whatever I’m here, just solely for my existence is just to exist.
K Anderson 45:21
And you don’t want a Nobel Peace Prize. You want a diamond selling album?
Dillan Gay 45:25
Yes, absolutely. I wanted to be a pop star.
K Anderson 45:32
So thinking back to Stonewall, and with the perspective that you have now, I guess, as well as those wonderful memories that you made when you were 18. And when you first went there, and when you were surrounded by people who were open and able to be themselves. There must also be lots of bittersweet memories of things that happened there.
Dillan Gay 45:54
Yeah. Because it really was the venue of the calm before my storm in my life. It was me experiencing gay culture. But without a veil, it was I was able to experience it. And like I said, calm before the storm. It was just, it is bittersweet, because I do think back at those times is like, Oh, what if I had just like, never started drinking, and I just kept experiencing Stonewall on Thursday nights and, you know, hanging out with friends. And what if I just went down that route? But you don’t know is like, Yeah, but yeah, it’s bittersweet to think back at moments like that, because you don’t you don’t know what could have been or what could have been different.
K Anderson 46:33
So this is slightly contradictory. What I’m about to say is that you’re you are never going to know. And there’s almost no point in thinking about it. But one of the things that we do on this show is ask if you could go back in time, and give some advice to your 18 year old self, who’s just rocked up at Stonewall and is like, Oh, I hope they play Baby One More Time tonight. Right? Is that? Is that the right song? Should I pick something else?
Dillan Gay 47:00
No, that’s good. No. Okay.
K Anderson 47:02
I hope they play Baby One More Time tonight. Is there any advice that you would give him?
Dillan Gay 47:08
If I could go back I would just say enjoy this ride because you’re going to do it no matter what. And you are, you know, willed and destined to have this experience of alcoholism. I guess I would just tell myself to enjoy the ride a little more and not beat myself up so much because I had to go through it to get to the other side. And I was definitely beating myself up daily. Just enjoy it more and not not beat myself up so much, because there’s no changing it.
K Anderson 47:45
Do you have any memories of Stonewall, and that’s the Stonewall in Allentown. Not one of the many other stone walls that are peppered around the world, or clubbing from your own queer scene that you want to share. And that’s where the stonewalls from other parts of the world come into the picture. Well, if you have please get in touch, I want to create the biggest online record of people’s memories and stories of queer clubbing. Go to love spaces podcast.com and find this section share a lost space and tell me all about what it is you got up to. And there are bonus points if you tell me who you got up to it with. You can also find me on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter where my handle is a lost spaces pod. Find out more about the sober gay podcast by visiting the website, the sober gay.com following Dylan on Instagram at this obrigado podcast. Or of course, you can just listen to the show wherever you stream podcasts, which is likely to be the device you’re using right now and the app that you are also using right now. If you enjoyed this episode, I would really appreciate if you subscribed, left a review on your podcast platform or just told people who you think might be interested in giving it a little listen to I am K Anderson and you have been listening to lost spaces