People have been asking me what inspired me to give a TEDx Talk… Maybe this story will help answer that question.
Coming out is about the hardest thing you can do. In my case it was amplified by the fact that I had to do it hundreds of times, all while hoping that it wouldn’t become public knowledge.
There was a constant struggle between who I actually was and who the rest of the world thought I was. My life has revolved around football. It taught me so much about myself. It gave me purpose, joy and some of the most meaningful relationships I’ve ever known. And I felt like I had to chose between my life and my love of football…
I often heard, “Just do it. If people turn their backs on you – that’s their problem.” Really nice in thought, but imagine potentially giving up everything. Seem easy anymore?
On Saturday, fellow speaker Steven Hayes gave a fascinating talk on how we often make the mistakes of using external problem solving solutions to solving internal problems. External problem solving options are: run, fight or hide. It’s a default mechanism. We are taught our entire lives on how to solve external problems. To solve external problems; get away from them, fight against them or hide from them.I hid. And this was the result –
I hid in the bottom of every bottle I could get my hands on. Alcohol was my escape. I couldn’t change my location (run). I needed to finish my degree and I love where I coach. I couldn’t bring myself to depart with either of those. I couldn’t fight, because fighting meant owning up to who I was and I couldn’t do that…
So I hid. Every night when I came home the burden that I was carrying through the day was amplified. I was alone and the exhaustive schedule that I had created to distract myself during the day was no longer keeping me company. But, when I drank, I could forget all of that pressure. I could imagine myself living the life I truly wanted to live. Free from the oppression and depression. I could do whatever I wanted to do and be whoever I wanted to be. It was a feeling that I could not naturally replicate at the time.
Unfortunately, alcohol has side effects.
The more you drink, the more it takes you to get that feeling. And when you drink as much as I was drinking… Yikes. For someone who suffers from depression alcohol is the last thing you need. But, it calmed my anxiety and it was the easiest answer to what, at the time, seemed like an impossible problem to solve.
So why did I decide to give a TEDx Talk?
While I’m not the brilliant Steven Hayes, subconsciously I knew that the only shot I had at not drinking myself to death was to face it. I couldn’t hide any longer.
The stats on substance abuse surrounding gay teens, young adults and even adults is rough – to put it lightly. It’s a tough road to walk, but even harder if you do it the way I did.
I gave that talk so that hopefully even just one kid won’t end up like this…You can’t hide at the bottom of a bottle.