This article was originally featured in The Advocate
The holidays should be a joyous occasion — one of celebration, relaxation, self-reflection, and any number of positive resolutions. And yet this period also is a difficult time for many people. For some gay men, the holidays can quickly devolve into a period of excessive partying, severe drug abuse, and all the associated complications of addiction. The sense of isolation and loneliness can be, ironically, an inseparable part of the holidays, causing gay men to “self-medicate” and try any means to numb their pain. Many of these excesses have roots in past traumatic events — from living as a closeted teen or suffering ridicule from being out — and extend into adulthood. The consumption of drugs and alcohol, and a nightlife culture often fueled by crystal meth, ecstasy, GHB, and Ketamine gives people an easy out from dealing with their sorrow. This behavior not only impairs a person’s judgment, where inhibitions and safety measures are at their lowest, it can translate to HIV transmission. We should, in response to these events, be vigilant, informed, and compassionate; we should channel our deep concern toward a productive outcome, letting gay men know that they are not alone. We have an opportunity to be a more inclusive community where we can create a more sympathetic world. We have a responsibility to help produce a more empathetic environment; we need to ensure that our friends, acquaintances and loved ones are not alone this holiday season. Let’s reach out to them so they can receive the support that underpins wellness, recovery, and healing. There is no reason for this pain to perpetuate itself; there is no justification for us to remain silent and do nothing while our colleagues and neighbors — including the gay men we know and love — poison or lose themselves with alcohol or drugs. Indeed, the greatest gift can you give this holiday season is time. Take the time to ensure a friend or loved one is not alone by doing the simple but important thing like treating them to coffee or lunch. Listen to that person — that neighbor or nephew, that colleague or cousin, and make a mental inventory of how that individual looks and feels. Maximize the time you spend with someone (no phones!) who would otherwise fall victim to the party scene. Plan a day trip and include that person in your activities. Together, we can make the holidays a truly festive moment for everyone.