You are not logged in. Signup to contribute or login! Not recieved your activation email? Click here to send it again.

LGBT Alcohol Support Group, Tony

Tony and Malcolm, representing LGBT Alcohol Support Group


Tony and Malcolm set up the LGBT Alcohol Support Group in June 2004. In the interview they discuss the reasons why the group was formed, the mechanics of the group. They also discuss alcohol misuse in the gay community and reasons behind it.


Founding the group – 10
Funding 15
Group Stats - 12
Alcohol and the gay community – 30 50
Experiences of mainstream organisations like AA – 20
Alcohol and Drugs - 60
Impact on partners of alcoholics - 80
Reasons for abuse specific to LGBT – 50
How the group functions – 70

10 Why and when the group was founded
Tony and Malcolm talked about the impact of alcohol on the gay community, and why they set up the LGBT Alcohol Support Group in June 2004. They say that mainstream services were not geared to be safe spaces for the gay community. They said not only did you have to admit you were alcoholic, but also gay, and they believed that fellow members of groups such as AA, AlAnon, Aquarius may not have been so supportive once they knew you were gay – hence the need for an LGBT group.

12 Group membership
Four people came to the first meeting, but they now have a total of around 30 members, with an average of 6 to 8 coming to their monthly meetings. They would like to meet twice monthly.

15 Funding
Tony said that when the group formed, although the Health Commissioner said there was a need for an LGBT alcohol group, no one would give them any funds. They have since received ‘slippage funding’ from HGL (Healthy Gay Life) and Birmingham Social Services. They are currently looking into how to apply for additional funds to secure their future.

20 Experience of mainstream services like AA (Alcoholic Anonymous)
“From our experiences and from our members’ experiences, people who are referred to mainstream services feel a little out of place, and the reason is normally that AA is a group of men with alcohol problems and AlAnon is a group of women whose husbands have the problem. Being a gay man and going to AlAnon for example you end up being amongst the wrong sex. Apart from having to express having an alcohol problem they find it difficult to express they are also gay.”

“There is a slight problem, as there is always an intake of breath when you make the fact public (that you are gay) in a predominantly straight male group; we wanted to provide a space where the assumption was that you were gay and would not need therefore to cross that boundary, as well as saying ‘I’ve got a substance abuse problem’.”

“One of the reasons many addicts give for their addiction is ‘You would too if you had my troubles’. It’s very easy to see that someone who is worried about being gay might say to any mainstream service provider - ‘You would take drugs too if you had the misfortune to have discovered you were gay when you did not want to be’. It would be very difficult for any NHS substance abuse service to find a way of convincing an unhappy gay person to be happy about it, as well as leave the gin alone.”

30 Research on alcohol related problems in the gay community
Tony and Malcolm reported that research shows that substance misuse and depression tends to be higher in the gay community. They talk of the prevalence of outlets to buy alcohol in gay communities locally and worldwide.

“American research found that in San Francisco, in a suburb that was predominantly gay, the city council had sanctioned 5 retail outlets for alcohol, when in fact there were actually 52 thriving outlets.”

“Published figures tend to show that both gay men and gay women drink more heavily and with a higher percentage approaching reckless or dangerous levels than in the straight community”.

50 Reasons for alcohol abuse specific to LGBTs
“A lot of gay people, unless they are very well integrated into themselves and society, feel excluded. Alcohol is an easy route to escape these feelings of exclusion, also in order to meet and socialise with other gay people, the whole of orientation of the gay scene will take you to a bar. Apart from that alcohol or some other drug will help people who become disinhibited.”

Tony said “The notion of coming out of safety into a public gay life is an intimidating step and once that has been overcome, I don’t know if there’s any research for this, it’s just my experience, once that’s been overcome with the enormous assistance of alcohol the habit will have been implanted.”

60 Correlation between alcohol and drug abuse
Tony says “In the NHS there has always been a distinction between alcohol and drug abuse, for example Aquarius, which is a government sponsored organisation, will deal with alcohol but not other difficulties. Narcotics Anonymous deliberately deal with both and tell people never to forget that alcohol is as much of a drug as heroin is. In fact they tend to regard alcohol as a gateway drug to the others.”

70 How the LGBT Alcohol Support Group operates
Tony explained how the LGBT Alcohol Support Group operates “We do operate on some AA principles, in that we hope people will make open disclosure about what is happening, We hope people will be supportive. We are not a counselling organisation but we hope that by repeated discussion of related topics we can build a series of methods to counter act the desire to drink. People can look on the group as being available to help them when they are fragile.”

80 The impact on partners of alcoholics
Tony discusses the hidden problems of the partners of people with addictions and the support the LGBT Alcohol Support Group can give. “That is quite a big problem that nobody seems to see, if you are living with an alcoholic there is tendency that you don’t realise you are the only one with that problem. Often people are ashamed and try to hide it instead of trying to find help. Because of that people tend to not let anyone in, so hopefully when they come to us they can open up and begin to solve their problems. Initially they may not say anything, but by listening to what other people have to say and their experience they can pick something up.”
“Having an active addict in the family will also throw up problems for the family and will affect their lifestyles. It will start to have an adverse effect on the family’s health too; they will begin to act and behave in unhealthy ways. They will be defending and to an extent enabling the addict as it’s the easiest and least confrontational way of getting through. They will be defensive of themselves and indefensible behaviour. So their world becomes as restricted to the presence of alcohol as the alcoholic, as they are controlled in the same way as the addict.”