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Many of us have that friend who always has the Alice in Wonderland pill to provide just the right escape, from the potion that dims the insecurities left by that “ex-who-knows-what-we-were” to the “I-only-get-two-days-off-a-week-so-make-it-count” pill that guarantees all-night shirtless dancing doesn’t stop you from getting brunch with the girls.
Odds are, you or someone you know has tried some pill, potion, or powder—or at least once considered it. It’s almost innocuous in the gay world. Is it a club thing? Is it a peer pressure thing? Or is it really a GAY thing? The CDC reports that, compared with the general population, LGBT individuals are more likely to use and abuse alcohol and drugs, and to continue abuse into later life. But what makes this the case?
To find out, I knew I had to go to the source: people either in the grips of, or in recovery from, their addictions. Several common denominators—including a drug of choice—showed me a whole new dimension of what’s going on around us in the midst of the winks and woofs.
During my investigation, I met two people—I’ll refer to them as Rose and Nick—who forever changed my perception of the epidemic. Each had a history of misconceptions, misunderstandings, and rejection.
Coming Out, and Abuse
“Before I was adopted at the age of six, I had lived in nine different foster homes, but I kept getting placed back with my mother,” she recalled. “I remember there was a blind lady that lived near us. I wanted to do something nice for her, so I took her mail and sat it on the porch for her so she didn’t have to walk to her box. But it ended up raining that day and ruined her mail.”
When Rose’s mother found out what Rose had done, she and her aunt tormented her, beating her on the leg with switches. “There was a friend of the family, a preacher in town, that agreed to take me in,” Rose said. “At first it was a very loving family. I was spoiled.”
Her dream of a loving family had come true, or so it seemed. Rose would suffer years of sexual abuse at the hand of her adoptive father. While she confided in her brother, she couldn’t identify the perpetrator. “He went to my parents,” said Rose. “He didn’t realize it was our father.” A concerned mother confronted Rose with her father there. The intimidation of his presence forced her into silence about the abuse.
Rose came out as bisexual to her mother when she was twelve, after years of physical, sexual, and mental abuse, but her mother didn’t know how to handle it. Living in a small town in Arkansas, she felt alone, as though there were no other girls who liked girls. “My escape was Queer as Folk,” Rose said. “I stayed up until 10 p.m. and couldn’t WAIT to watch it. It was my only connection to the gay community.”
Nick also suffered sexual assault before turning to drug and alcohol abuse. His coming out story is like something out of a horror movie. “I was friends with a straight boy in high school. I think his girlfriend was away at band camp,” Nick reported. “He came over and we started drinking.” As the night progressed, Nick’s “friend” spiked his drink with Xanax and raped him.
He confided in another friend, who ended up telling the principal, who then called his parents. “I came out to my parents as gay while informing them someone who I thought was a friend had drugged and date-raped me in our home,” Nick recalled.
From Abuse to Abuse
Rose’s chemical abuse began when her group started bringing alcohol to school. “I would bring a Dr. Pepper bottle to school but I would mix it with bourbon, or Black Velvet whiskey,” Rose reported. No one knew because, according to Rose, it didn’t affect her performance in school. She was an A and B student until her junior and senior years, when she began drinking heavily.
She soon moved to live with her sister, who faced an even darker addiction. “She would take her prescription pain medicine and drive for hours to Memphis and sell them so she could buy meth,” says Rose. Despite Rose’s pleading, her sister continued to abuse the drug until her death in 2007—likely from health complications exacerbated by drug abuse. Rose then dropped out of college and immersed herself in Memphis’s gay nightlife. “I couldn’t get enough of it,” said Rose. “I had finally met people who loved and accepted me for who I am.”
Immersion in the bar scene and alcohol abuse were Nick’s initial coping mechanisms as well. “The only place we really have to meet other people like us is a bar,” Nick reflected. “Alcohol is…liquid courage. But there were some nights I would look back and ask myself what I did the last few hours.”
Rose was taken in and warned of the scene’s dangers by a drag queen at the club where Rose ended up working. “She would tell me who to stay away from and who was okay,” Rose said. “She’d tell me ‘that person’s not a good person. Stay away from them, honey, they will lead you down the wrong path.’” Her warnings fell on rebellious ears: “I was young. I was like ‘Who are you to tell me who I can and can’t hang out with’.”
Nick eventually started dating a prescription drug addict. “He had an addiction,” Nick said. “But honestly there are a lot of doctors out there that are nothing more than legal dealers.” The choice for Nick’s boyfriend seemed between being drugged out or being sick. Nick and his boyfriend were convinced by a dealer that meth could help with the opiate withdrawals. The two decided to do it together. “I was instantly hooked,” Nick admitted. “I was able to kick my alcohol and weed addiction because all I wanted was meth.”
Rose, too, said she was immediately hooked after one of the people she was warned about turned her on to meth: “I felt like I could stay up forever. And when I was up, no one could sneak up on me. You can watch your own back.” While Rose dabbled in other drugs, none was as satisfying as meth. Meth also gave Rose a sense of clarity. “I can remember things, and I’m able to carry on a conversation. When I use, I am the loud girl who doesn’t care what anybody thinks,” says Rose. “A lot of times I feel like I don’t make real connections, though. Like they’re connecting with [that loud girl] and not me.”
Deep in the Scene
Both she and Nick eventually graduated from using to handling. “I was a runner,” says Rose. “If we had gotten caught, I would’ve taken the fall, but I never paid for the drugs.” After he started dealing and realized who was using, Nick started to find it more socially acceptable. He saw it wasn’t just a “redneck, trailer trash” sort of drug. “College professors, judges, Senators, guys pulling up to buy it in their $80,000 Mercedes,” says Nick.
Nick and his boyfriend began engaging in chemsex, which involves the use of meth or other concoctions to enhance sexual pleasure. “Some of the best orgasms I’ve ever had were on meth,” says Nick. “You feel comfortable, and your inhibitions go out the door.”
Experts have warned that participants in chemsex face a multitude of dangers, from losing inhibitions and putting yourself at risk for rape and a number of STDs to significant, long-term side effects. But the psychological impacts should not be minimized. “I always felt very lonely and very empty afterword,” Nick reflects.
Both ended up spinning out of control. “One time I smoked three grams in two days,” says Rose. “I didn’t know you had to drink water. I was dehydrated.”
“I ended up getting arrested after my boyfriend cooked meth in our home,” says Nick. “You think you’re being slick. But your friends and family know.”
Nick eventually found help in—of all places—a Christian rehabilitation program. “I was skeptical at first,” says Nick. “But everyone at Addiction Campuses of Tennessee (ACT) was very welcoming to me and very helpful. And I feel loved and accepted here.”
Located in the hills of Rutherford County, ACT was where Nick learned to loosen himself from the grips of addiction. “It’s not what you’d expect,” says Nick. “I was accepted with open arms. Not all Christians are closed minded.”
Erik Hines, a Christian minister in recovery and the President of ACT, says their program is not about condoning or judging any lifestyle. “It’s not our debate to have,” says Hines. “We are about helping people and giving them the tools they need to set them free from their addiction.”
Nick, who is in recovery, says eventually he got sick and tired of being sick and tired. Rose, who used meth shortly before our interview, says she manages her addiction daily.
“It’s not something that’s easy, but it’s possible to maintain for a little while,” says ACT spokesperson, Julie Eisenbeck, of meth addiction. “It is an addiction that alters the brain so that when someone IS using they are at peace and comfortable, but when they are not they’re miserable. The problem is the use of the drug must escalate to achieve the same results. More meth kills the body. Too much meth kills the soul. The end result is always death.”
Nick and Rose were both victims of sexual assault. Both came from small towns and felt isolated at a very young age. And lastly, neither had a sense of self that empowered them to “just say no.” The difficulties that many LGBT people face growing up create these common conditions. Many come from homes where they are not accepted and live in a world that doesn’t fully acknowledge protect or extend love to LGBT people. Sometimes we act flamboyantly or do outrageous things to build our sense of self. When we find acceptance, it is almost impossible to resist the pressures that acceptance brings.
After our interview, Rose, who had used meth not long before our interview, reached out to ask for ACT’s number, but as of this writing, Rose has not called. Nick, meanwhile, is doing well in recovery and will graduate from ACT’s program soon and move into transitional living.
I’m proud to work for addiction treatment campus that accepts and heals our baggage no matter where we put our junk. If you are or know someone who is fighting the disease of addiction, you can contact our helpline at 1.888.614.2251 or log onto www.addictioncampuses.com.
For those with a thirst to celebrate, Red Bull Unlocked is the key. In city after city, the most exciting bars, clubs, mixologists, performing artists, and more take over a local landmark building to showcase their signature ambiance while also collaborating for a must-see mashup. And now it's Music City’s turn to seize the spotlight, as the event brings 10 bars together in East Nashville’s Five Points neighborhood.
Fueled by the best of Nashville’s thriving music scene, Red Bull Unlocked has curated an eclectic night of show-stopping entertainment performances including a pop-up Whiskey Jam show, DJ sets, musicians, and more. The full lineup is here:
- Whiskey Jam (feat. Dozzi, Willie Shaw, and Johnny Hayes)
- A.B. Eastwood
- Daisha / Rap Girl
- Boom Bap (DJ Collective feat. DJ-Rate, Case Bloom)
- Whiskey Disco (DJ Collective feat. Coach, Jim O'Shea)
- Old Crow Medicine Show’s Jerry Pentercost (DJ Set)
- DJ Stretch
- DJ Griffin Green
- The Play Mates (Drag Show feat. Sasha, Vanity, Deception, Aura Mayari, Corlis Todd, and Carmin Triple C)
Counting down to the epic celebration, Daisha shares, “I never thought I’d have the opportunity to perform in so many of Nashville’s top spots all in the same night. Fans can expect a lot of bops and high energy. I want people to dance and have a good time.”
Ward Guenther, Whiskey Jam Founder, adds, “Red Bull has been enjoyed at Whiskey Jam since the very first night, so it's only fitting Whiskey Jam is enjoyed at Nashville's first Red Bull Unlocked. Looking forward to this!”
Red Bull Unlocked Istanbul
Photo courtesy of Red Bull
Local favorites including Pearl Diver, Tin Roof, Lipstick Lounge, White Limozeen, and more will join forces for one epic night. Full list of bars and partners below:
- The Dive Motel
- Lipstick Lounge
- Pearl Diver
- Play Dance Bar
- Rosemary & Beauty Queen
- The Stage
- Tin Roof
- Whiskey Jam
- White Limozeen
- Woolworth Theatre – Opening Fall 2022!
- Eleven Eleven - Opening 2023!
Date: August 21, 2022
Time: 6 PM – 11PM CT
Location: 1102 Forrest Ave, Nashville, TN 37206
Entrance: Ticked event
Rumble Boxing, the boxing-inspired group fitness studio, opened its doors for the first time in Nashville on June 20 at 609 Overton St, Nashville, TN. The hottest workout on the block is hosting its official grand opening from August 4th-7th with daily classes, membership specials, and prizes from local vendors. The new Rumble Boxing studio is currently offering a buy one class, get one free promotion for the Nashville community.
Rumble Boxing delivers 45-minute, 10-round, strength and conditioning group workouts, crafted around teardrop-style aqua boxing bags and high-intensity strength training circuits. This brings all fitness levels together to experience what Rumble is known for: combining the sweet science of boxing with high energy and positive vibes.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
This boutique fitness brand offers serious benefits like increased stamina and strength, with cardio that’s actually fun. The seasoned trainers at the new studio are thrilled to serve their local community while offering this fun, new modern approach to boxing and welcome members of all fitness levels to the Rumble family.
The new Rumble Boxing studio is owned and operated by Blake Baskin and Antonio Compton. With their background in the fitness industry, this dynamic duo is excited to bring their passion for boxing and group fitness to Nashville. As business and life partners, Blake and Antonio aim to create a strong community within their new Rumble Boxing studio and share their message of non-apologetic inclusivity.
Black and Gay-Owned Business
Rumble Boxing Store with Dolly Parton Mural
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“We own who we are, and this brand aligns with that perfectly,” said Antonio. “This is what we want to create and bring to this community: a fitness class that is designed for anyone and a place for people to be who they are. As a Black and gay-owned business, we want to help lower the division we see in the world right now. Our goal is to bring people together through Rumble, set everything aside, and have fun.”
To echo their message of acceptance and inclusion, Blake and Antonio commissioned a local Nashville artist to paint an 11 X 6-ft. mural of Nashville icon and philanthropist, Dolly Parton. The massive portrait features the country star in Rumble Boxing gear in the lobby of the studio.
The excitement and buzz around Rumble allowed Blake and Antonio to recruit top-tier trainers to head up the new studio, including Head Trainer Oronde Jones, a well-known celebrity trainer in the Nashville market.
Rumble Boxing Fitness Studio
Photo courtesy of Rumble Boxing Gulch Nashville
“Compared to other fitness classes, Rumble is a class you can truly get lost in for 45 minutes. With the dark room, you don’t have to worry if anyone is paying attention to you. The music is awesome and inspiring, and the beat drops right when you need it the most. Also, with boxing being a sport you can never truly master, you’re always improving and crafting your skill. On the floor, you’re consistently doing something new, which prevents you from ever hitting a plateau.” Said Oronde Jones about his favorite part of Rumble.
Rumble has massive brand loyalty and widespread appeal, partly thanks to attracting top names like Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, Kendall Jenner, Hailey Baldwin, Jason Derulo, David Beckham, and Kevin Hart to its studios.
About Rumble Boxing
Founded in New York City in 2017, Rumble is a group fitness concept delivering a mix (or combination) of boxing-inspired circuits and the transformative power of resistance training. Pro and amateur fighters glove up together, no matter their fitness level or skill, to reveal their inner fighter. The experience is a 45-minute, 10-round, full-body cardio and strength workout crafted around specially designed water-filled, teardrop-style boxing bags. Rumble was founded by Noah Neiman (former Barry’s Bootcamp Master Trainer, and cast member of Bravo’s Work Out New York), Eugene Remm (Co-Founder of Catch Hospitality Group (Catch Restaurants, CATCH STEAK, Lexington Brass), Andy Stenzler (Co-Founder Cosí, Kidville), and Anthony DiMarco (13-time IRONMAN, former Managing Director, Google).
Who would have thought that we would have to get through a pandemic in order to appreciate the small things we have, such as the ability to simply pack our bags and hit the road?
For two years, there’s been nothing left for us travel junkies to do but sit at home and try to find new destinations that we will conquer once we defeat what appears to be the biggest villain of the 21st century. But once that happens, hold your bags tight because we will be up for some of the most interesting travel experiences. Take a look at some ideas for your post-COVID traveling plans:
A Gay Cruise
One of the best options to have in mind when all of this passes is a good, nice and long (pun intended) gay cruise. Or cruise in general, for that matter. Bear in mind, social distancing will still be a thing in the post-COVID world. But COVID-19 likely doesn’t mean that cruises will cease to exist. On the contrary, though cruise ships will probably keep the number of passengers smaller than before, it is believed that they will become an even bigger hit in the following period, especially because they are all going to go a lot more environmentally-friendly. On the bright side, is there any better way of celebrating the end of the pandemic than by cruising around some magnificent seas, stopping by at great cities and having romantic dinner nights at nice restaurants?
A getaway in nature
On the other hand, there is always the option of stepping away from the hustle and bustle of large cities, and spending some time in a place that’s not only healthy, but also beautiful. Some of the destinations that plenty of people will look for are the ones that can cater for both peace of mind and amazing things to see or do. One such destination is New Zealand, one of the greenest countries on Earth right now. Not only will you be visiting the magnificent country that gave us the beautiful Shire from Lord of the Rings; this is also a destination that’s excellent for everyone who prefers relaxing to partying. If you’re up for some partying, you will be able to hit Auckland, while if you’re for something calmer, there’s plenty of amazing places that you can see and visit.
Dancing Around at Pride
Pride parades are also events that you want to have in mind for the post-COVID world. Such events have always been quite important, but it seems that they are now more important than ever. The virus has canceled more than 75 Pride parades all around the world, which is one of the reasons why we must support the ones that will see the light of day once the pandemic stops. Truth be told, the upcoming Prides will perhaps be the best Prides ever organized. Give the gays a couple of weeks of quarantine, then let them outside and see what kind of party they are able to throw!
A road trip
If you’re, as well, waiting for the day to wake up and say “long gone are the days when we were not allowed to go wherever we wanted?”, and if staying at one place gave you a lot to think about, then your first post-COVID travel experience should definitely be a nice road trip. You can practically choose which country you want to tour, and you can either take your own car (you have probably missed it so much), or rent one at your destination. Australia is an amazing country for this, though, as it offers the possibility of seeing the Great Ocean Road, which is an amazing thing to see and experience. On the other hand, if you do not want or cannot leave your country, you can also choose to go on a domestic road trip – there are amazing things to see in your vicinity as well.
Holiday for a single guy
If you’re single, or you’re traveling someplace with another single friend, then you should definitely organize a nice vacation for yourself or for you and your single friend, and hit one of the best European cities. Europe has been greatly affected by the virus, which means that now it’s time to pay it back and get it back on its feet by traveling there and seeing all the amazing things it offers. Any city you choose in Europe – you will not make a mistake. Apart from being able to see great landmarks, you will also have the chance to have a drink at great gay clubs and pubs, and join unforgettable gay parties. And if the gay scenery is not your forte, worry not, as Europe indeed has to offer so many different and magnificent things.