Brian’s experience at The Living Room 

My first day at The Living Room, I have to say I was as nervous as hell, had no idea what to expect, but was really reassured, felt very supported by the team there and lots of kindness was shown. 

Even the daunting aspect of walking into the main room with groups of people, not having a clue what was going on, I could see that there was a lot of kindness in the room. 

I was surprised very much by how trusting the group were amongst themselves, and also how the rules that were set in place really were respected. And I identified quite early on as being a gay man that there was also somebody else in the room who was also gayand that was reassuring to know that there was another like-minded person in the room and that helped me to relax and settle. 

I have to say that my experience through accessing services as a wholethrough from first point of call through Spectrumto receiving an assigned caseworker, and then being referred really quickly to The Living Room (and later I went into residential rehab), all the services seemed really, really joined up. 

And they were very supportive and understanding and respectful of me, being a bit of an older gay man in what was a very difficult situation. I couldn't have asked for any more support than that and I never felt judged and felt very free to be open and honest on a one-to-one basis about my behavioural addiction and also my substance addiction. 


Helping LGBT people feel comfortable  

The LGBT community is, I think, a little bit unknown particularly when it comes to male drug and sex use. There is a huge sort of underground cohort of people in their twenties, thirties and forties who use drugs and sex in a very sort of promiscuous way. 

And I would say that perhaps there's some naivety around what they call chemsex cultureand more knowledge and understanding of that would have helped me to probably open up a little bit more and discuss that in my one-to-one forums. 

I did feel, being part of that community, that being in group forums, as diverse as they were and as accepting as they were, I couldn't really open up and explore that gay drug and sex spiral that I had got myself into and so I think having gender groups is helpful for that, but also having LGBT groups would enable people to explore that side of the world that I was in, and a world that a lot of gay men find themselves in. 

An example of that is when I went to residential rehab and it was a small rehab with just fourteen residents and there were actually five LGBT community members in that residential group for the period of three to six months that I was there. That's 35% of the residents who were from that community.  

That's probably more by chance but there were certainly very similar sets of behaviours and drug use out there and I was surprised that there were that many of us there 

But it's a real issue that I don't think many providers are fully aware of. That would be my main feedback around that community that I'm a part of. 


On false beliefs about addiction  

I learned a hell of a lot through my rehabilitation and I'm still learning a lot about myself, but, most of allI fully understand about those false beliefs out there and I really opened my eyes to addiction and how the significant events and trauma that I experienced through my life got me to where I relied upon behaviours and substance addiction to cope and soothe the pain that I had. 

And I do feel that those people who may have odd beliefs around addiction and have got through life and the traumas of what's thrown at them, come off lightly compared to others that find a substance or behaviour to help them cope. 

And I just hope that those people take time to step back and to be more kind, less judgmental, and take time to listen to the backstory that people have. 


Advice to people that find themselves with an addiction. 

I got myself into a real downward spiral around drugs and sex, and that whole community and the behavioural aspects of it, and got deeper and deeper, deeper into addiction problems and risky behaviours. 

Once I started losing things in my life, like work and an income, my health, I started to then realize that I had to get help, and my advice is however helpless you feel, however unable to cope with life, that there are others out there to help and I'm just so grateful that I found Spectrum and they referred me to The Living Room to enable me to start my recovery.