The National Resource Center on LGBT Aging is a project of
National Resource Center on LGBT Aging

We're steadily creating a resource center that will provide resources across a variety of LGBT aging topics. Tell us what you'd like to see and sign up for updates.

Register Now

What to Do When Addiction Has Become a Coping Mechanism

September 2016 | Patricia Sarmiento, Public Health Corps

Permission Form

Recovering from addiction is hard and doing it as part of the LGBTQA community can be even harder. If your friends and family have not been supportive, you need to seek your own network. No one should have to recover from addiction alone.

In the LGBTQA community, addiction affects 20-30% of its members as opposed to the national average of 9%. The reason for this is primarily the social rejection and isolation associated with coming out. For people who may have been rejected by friends or family, drug abuse is a common way to cope. Drug abuse offers an escape from both the mental and real world effects of living as yourself. However, when drugs become your crutch, quitting becomes even harder. Here are a few ways you can begin to ease your way into recovery from addiction.

Set Reasonable Expectations
If you expect to be cured and happy within a week, you are setting yourself up for failure, particularly if you don’t take the proper steps to recover. You may want to consider writing up weekly goals throughout the process, ensuring you have small, achievable options for each week. For example, you may set a goal of being clean for one day. A small goal and a sense of accomplishment are better than a big goal and feelings of failure.

Find a Healthy Outlet
Test a few different hobbies or activities to distract yourself from your addiction. When you have settled on something you enjoy that is easily accessible, begin to make the transition from substance abuse as a coping mechanism to your new hobby. Each time you begin to feel the urge to use, turn to the hobby. Eventually, you will have cultivated a habit of doing something enjoyable and fun rather than feeding a negative addiction.

Some good options are crocheting, knitting, coloring, drawing, yoga, and meditation. All of these have been shown to reduce stress while some offer the additional option of finding a community. Yoga or meditation classes provide an opportunity for participants to feel socially accepted which is critical for LGBTQA individuals.

Activities like crocheting and knitting have the added benefit of being physically useful, adding to that sense of accomplishment. You can make gifts for loved ones or donations to those in need which in turn will fuel your self-image.

Sever Ties with Those Who Support Your Addiction
Often, individuals are introduced to their addictions by friends in their community. This can lead to friend groups being built around addiction, fostering a negative environment. While the leading problem in the LGBTQA community is social isolation, keeping friends who encourage your addiction are not people you need to have around you as you recover. Instead, seek support groups focused on recovering from addiction. This will provide positive social interaction and a safe space for you to go for support.

Recovering from addiction is hard and doing it as part of the LGBTQA community can be even harder. If your friends and family have not been supportive, you need to seek your own network. No one should have to recover from addiction alone. However, you should also work to take your recovery into your own hands. Find an outlet and set goals for yourself. If you don’t put effort into your own recovery, you are far less likely to experience life free from addiction. Recovery is possible, and support is out there. All you need to do is find it.

Reach out to local LGBTQA groups in your community to learn of other support groups and resources:

SAGE (Services & Advocacy for GLBT Elders)

SAGENet (Local SAGE Affiliates across U.S.)

CenterLink (Professional Network of LGBTQA Community Centers)

GLMA (Gay & Lesbian Medical Association)


Patricia Sarmiento loves swimming and running. She channels her love of fitness and wellness into blogging about health and health-related topics. She played sports in high school and college and continues to make living an active lifestyle a goal for her and her family. She lives with her husband, two children, and their shih tzu in Maryland.

© 2011-2021 Services and Advocacy for GLBT Elders. All rights reserved. For permission to reprint these articles, or post them online, please e-mail us.

Find resources in your area

Links to sites that help you find aging sources accross the country

Resources in Your Area
Advanced Search
Related Resource

New Jersey Department of Health and Senior Services

The New Jersey Division of Aging and Community Services (DACS) administers programs to make it easier for seniors to get the help to support their well-being and maintain themselves as long as possible with independence, dignity and choice. MORE >

See more: Aging Providers, LGBT Organizations, LGBT Older Adults