Spectrum Health Systems

A Journey to Acceptance: LGBTQ+ Client Story

Published On: July 21st, 2022Categories: Spectrum Corrections, Addiction

Theia came out as a member of the LGBTQ+ community on Christmas Day 2020. The lifelong struggle to accept and reveal her true gender identity went hand-in-hand with a dependency on drugs and alcohol that resulted in her first stint in rehab by the age of 16. Having battled substance addiction for over two decades, including being in and out of treatment programs around the country, Theia finally discovered our Residential Treatment Program and undertook a life changing step on her recovery journey.

The comprehensive continuing care program offers support not only for Theia’s longstanding battle with substance use, but also treatment for the co-occurring mental health conditions which exacerbated them.

“Growing up, I never felt comfortable in my own skin,” Theia says. “I always knew there was something different about me, and it gave me an inferiority complex.”

Struggling with Identity and Substances

Theia had her first taste of alcohol at age 8, and by 12 was drinking enough to get drunk regularly. “It felt good,” she remembers. “It let me forget how I felt about myself.” At age 13, she discovered marijuana; at 15, she added Vicodin to the mix, followed the next year by cocaine—and her first attempt at inpatient rehab over Christmas break as a high school sophomore.

“I was able to go home and see my family, but not stay for the holiday,” she recalls. “I stayed clean for about a month, then relapsed.”

She was expelled from multiple schools for drug possession, and by age 18 had become addicted to heroin. What followed was a veritable lost decade—moving from state to state, stints of homelessness, even eight-and-a-half months in jail. All the while, with her identity in turmoil, her addictions raged, eventually growing to include crack and pills. There were multiple attempts at rehab, all derailed, she says, by “my own noncompliance. I just didn’t want to improve badly enough.”

That finally changed after Theia hit what she acknowledges as “rock bottom” in 2019. She had achieved short-term sobriety and found herself in a satisfying relationship—but still found herself broken inside, which ultimately led her to begin using again. As a result, her partner left her, leading to another serious tailspin.

“I knew I had been hurting people, and doing bad things,” Theia says. “But I had never lost a significant other. That was devastating.”

Finding a Safe Space for Recovery

Ready to fully commit to recovery, Theia entered Spectrum’s residential program in February, which, she notes, came with “no judgement.” Finding comfort and acceptance within this supportive atmosphere, she has worked diligently in the program, both on an inpatient basis and even via telehealth when Covid-19 disrupted in-person access.

“For me, this program works because it offers such a safe space, and because it addresses both substance use and co-occurring disorders,” she says. “I dove right in. I felt like a huge burden was lifted, and I became who I was destined to be. I’ve learned to find joy, without using substances.”

Theia cites January 1, 2022, as her “sober date,” and says she is now happy, content, and proud of who she is. “I’m grateful to be here, and be alive,” she says. “I used to hate being alive. I’ve finally learned to love myself. I realize now that staying healthy and balanced is worth it.”

In addition to offering an opportunity at a new life for herself, Theia hopes her story will provide inspiration for others in the LGBTQ+ community who may be facing similar struggles.

“You have to be willing to take that first step and open the door,” she says. “No matter how hard it gets, just remember to be yourself, no matter what.”

If you or a loved one is struggling with alcohol addiction or a substance or co-occurring use disorder, call Spectrum Health Systems today at 1-877-MyRehab.

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