By Rebecca Drew
STRUGGLING to accept his sexuality saw this man spiral into alcoholism which he says helped ‘quiet his homosexual thoughts’ and he even considered DROWNING HIMSELF in the bath – but he now embraces who he is after being sober for three-years and wants to help others do the same.
Sales manager, Samuel Gegen (32) from Kansas City, Missouri, USA, grew up in a catholic background where he attended church regularly and felt pressure to fit in. At six-years-old Samuel knew he was different and didn’t like girls in the way other boys seemed to and would pray that he would one day be ‘normal’ and like them too.
Samuel supressed his sexuality into his teenage years and when he first tried alcohol at 15, it turned into an escape for him. Over time Samuel became reliant on booze as it left him feeling free and meant that he was in a state where he no longer cared about being gay but after weekends bingeing, he’d be left in a state of depression in the days that followed.
His dependence on alcohol grew worse into his twenties when Samuel started to drink on his own, at work, first thing in the morning without eating and was embarrassed by the fact that the local off-licences knew his name.
The depression that accompanied Samuel’s addiction to alcohol left him feeling hopeless to the point where he considered taking his own life.
In June 2012 Samuel had been casually seeing a guy but his sexuality was still a secret, at a house party someone told him that they knew he was gay but Samuel denied it and continued to drink with his friends. Later, he went to the bathroom, filled the bath and tried to drown himself as he couldn’t bear to tell his loved ones the truth. Thankfully, thinking of his family Samuel couldn’t go through with it and saved himself.
At 25, Samuel came out to his parents in a letter he had left for them before downing a bottle of vodka and was overwhelmed when they accepted and supported him for who he truly was after hiding his identity for so long.
Three years ago he decided to ditch alcohol for good and hasn’t looked back since. He’s been able to buy a house, pay off student debt and work towards his fitness goals, and is now in a loving relationship with his boyfriend, Adam Everson, who his family have welcomed with open arms.
Samuel has shared his recovery from alcoholism on Instagram and has made it his mission to provide support and raise awareness to those within the LGBTQ community who may also be struggling with addiction.
“Being raised under conservative and limited thinking restrictions you almost have no choice but to act, turn out and be what everyone around you wants you to be. This is hard when you are struggling with your identity,” said Samuel.
“I remember having to go to church everyday praying to like girls and be normal. I went to church because that’s what I was told to do. That’s what everyone did. Force fed into a one-way street of nonsense and acceptance only if you believed what they believed.
“When I started drinking it was fine. There were sometimes I would go out and stop drinking because I didn’t feel like it. Over time it became a problem by over time I mean years and years. It became an escape because when I got drunk I didn’t care.
“I didn’t care what I said, what I did or what I felt. It made me feel temporarily free. It quieted my homosexual thoughts and if I had them, I was drunk therefore I did not care. The big problem was that it was temporary.
“After it wore off I either continued binging on alcohol alone, in the morning, only hard liquor on an empty stomach, or I got extremely depressed. When I got depressed, I wouldn’t eat, I’d miss work, sleep all day or go to bed at around 5pm.
“Alcoholism is progressive. It doesn’t get better. It doesn’t get manageable. It gets worse over time. It got to a point where I risked my life more times than I can count and thought about taking my life a handful more times. One scary moment I almost drowned in a bathtub willingly.
“I was on and off again with this guy I was seeing at that point in my life. I was drinking really heavily, mostly on the weekends, and was not out to anyone but maybe a couple friends. We were at a friend’s house and someone told me everyone knew about me and this guy. I wasn’t prepared to come out. I wasn’t prepared to tell anyone my secret. I denied it and kept taking shots with my friends.
“I later then stumbled up to the bathroom and filled up the tub. I went under for a long time and then popped up. I thought of my parents, my family and how young I was. I couldn’t go through with it. I didn’t know how my life would turn out. I didn’t know if this was short term pain or what. I ended up saving myself.
“I wasn’t ready for anyone to know my secret at that time. The thought of people knowing and talking about it was too much. To this day I’m glad I didn’t go through with anything on that day or in the future even though the thought of doing it kept coming up.
“So I came out at the age of 25 to my parents. I left them a letter and then went to drink a bottle of vodka. They took it okay. Of course, they had this inclination of who they thought I was so they needed some time to adjust. Before I knew it they were supportive and getting used to it. The support feels incredible.
“I’ve had a lot of turning points. I’ve tried to quit several times. I always knew my relationship with alcohol was unhealthy. My biggest turning point was coming to work wasted and getting into it with co-workers. I then went out for my mum’s birthday and upset her to the point of tears.
“My real turning point was when drinking became no more fun. It was work. It was work to cover it up. It was work to repair damaged relationships frequently. It was a lot of work and gloom having to deal with a three day bout of depression after every time I drank.
“I had goals. Health and wellness goals, work goals, professional goals. You name it! Alcohol did not line up with any of them.”
Samuel has been sober since November 2016 and says that all aspects of his life have improved since. He’s always been into fitness, even when he was drinking but finds now he can achieve his goals quicker.
At the height of his addiction, Samuel weighed 12st 2lb and now he weighs an even healthier 13st 13lb. He has just launched his blog this month, www.addictionofchoice.com where he posts regularly about his sobriety, wellness and fitness journey, using his 10 year experience in the industry as well as his degree in kinesiology, and his family are there for him every step of the way.
“My family has accepted me and my partner with open arms inviting us to every holiday and even buying gifts for him. It’s a great feeling. It encourages me to do the same to others struggling to have a positive support system,” he said.
“One of the hardest things was becoming ok with being alone. When you are alone and have a clear way of thinking you learn a lot about yourself. You find out what you like, what you want to spend your time on and most importantly who is really there for you.
“I was so used to going out to the bars and drinking with friends when I quit drinking that all stopped. I avoided those places because they weren’t good for me and my ‘friends’ fell off because it turns out all we had in common was getting hammered together.
“In due time things work the course and everything gets better. The time alone with yourself, I believe, is a super important part of the process.”
Samuel hopes to become a mentor for young LGBTQ people to show them that a life of acceptance is possible.
“As a child I thought there was only one way. I was going to be a good Catholic boy who married a girl and started a family. Period. Then when I came out at 25, I thought there was only one way. I am going to drink and party all the time and die young and alone. It’s just part of being gay. This is all so untrue,” he said.
“You can live a life of happiness and truth however you wish as long as you’re happy. Neither of those lives would have made me happy. I am 32 and have never been this happy and I credit my sobriety.
“I want to mentor the LGBTQ youth and let them know there is a life of acceptance. I want to mentor those struggling with addiction gay or not that they can have a solid community to lean on.
“Sobriety or a life of drinking moderately should be glorified rather than the alternative. This has motivated me to start my own blog, newsletter and community.
“Take the first step. It’s hard but it’s worth it. If you are scared don’t go full throttle just lean in. Lean into the lifestyle you want. Find a community for support. I’ve been to AA meetings, they aren’t necessarily for me but they are a start.”