Alcohol abuse and alcoholism are unfortunately widespread problems in the gay male community. Though gay space is much more diverse and readily available, certainly in large urban centers than 25 or 30 years ago, the gay bar remains an integral part of many men’s lives. It is usually safe space and a place to socialize with friends, meet new friends and possibly sexual contacts. Much of gay identity is still nurtured and developed in the bar and club scenes. Lots of positive stuff happens in this environment where drinking alcohol is easy, encouraged and very socially accepted.
Entry into the bar scene though can be challenging especially for someone just coming out and what a convenient way to bolster ones courage than with a drink or two or three. The cigarette (www.co.quitnet.com ) often goes hand in hand here and for many that turns into an even bigger problem than the alcohol.
Of course there are many gay men with alcohol problems independent of the gay scene. Alcohol is often used as a coping device to relieve tension and escape problems. Why some people become alcoholics and most do not is hotly contested with no single cause identified to date. The old nature verses nurture arguments continue. Is it genetics/physiological or culture/socialization, or perhaps a complex combination?
Is it a problem for you? Some symptoms of alcohol dependency include:
- Tolerance: the need to increase intake to achieve desired effect.
- Physical Withdrawal Symptoms: discomfort, shakes, sweating, nausea, anxiety upon cessation of use; sometimes having an “eye opener”; “hair of the dog”.
- Extended use of alcohol or drinking more than was planned.
- Unsuccessful desire/effort to control drinking.
- Preference for activities including alcohol to the detriment of other activities or responsibilities.
- Continued use of alcohol despite knowledge of problems.