Avalon wishes everyone a happy Pride Month! We are so proud to stand in solidarity with the LGBTQ+ community, offering recovery services to anyone who identifies and lives full-time as a woman, trans-inclusive. We hold diversity, inclusion, and acceptance as key guiding principles at Avalon. Our community is intentionally a safe space for all women.
Throughout Pride Month, we will be amplifying the voices of Women of Avalon who are members of the LGBTQ+ community and have volunteered to share their thoughts and stories with our audience. Today’s blog is the first in this series, featuring Megala! She is a valued member of the Avalon community as well as a wonderful volunteer. Please keep reading to learn more about Megala and her perspective on the relationship between identity/sexuality and addiction, and how we can evolve the addiction space to become more inclusive!
Megala is a 49-year-old cisgender white woman who grew up in an upper–middle-class family that valued education. She describes herself as a combination of empathic and extroverted, a natural teacher, creative, and musical. In her childhood and teen years, Megala was a competitive pianist, allowing her to develop the skills to combine music and teaching to spend most of her working career giving private music instruction. Running is Megala’s true passion, and after completing a number of marathons and a few Ironman triathlons she discovered trail ultramarathons when she was in her late thirties. Most of her spare time is taken up with training and running in the North Shore mountains. Megala is also passionate about volunteering and has had the privilege of teaching kickboxing to young men and women in recovery as well as being involved in the women’s AA community at Avalon. She has self-published two books of poetry and has a little rescue dog who she says is currently the best thing in her life.
Identity, sexuality and addiction
When asked how she sees the relationship between identity/sexuality and addiction, Megala said that she personally believes it’s probably rooted in the isolation that comes from living in shame. While she was raised in a loving family, they were also very conservative and restrictively religious. In her own words:
“I knew from a very young age that I was different than other children and that my primary attractions were toward women. I knew also that this was not only taboo in the larger culture but that it was considered morally heinous in the fundamentalist household and religion in which I was raised. I intuitively understood, and later I was actively taught, that who I was at my core was evil and the only way to survive – to remain connected to my family, to God and to the community – was to either change who I was or build a wall around this knowledge of who I was and hide it … For me, the intersection of this knowledge created a schism between who I pretended I was in order to be accepted and who I believed I really was; a person who was a mistake.”
As Megala acknowledges, even children who do not grow up in religious households are still subjected to cultural norms – norms that say being queer is inherently different and most often bad. She’s heard similar stories from many others in the LGBTQ+ community who have found that being raised to feel shame, even unknowingly, makes it nearly impossible to develop a true sense of their own self-worth.
“When we are not allowed to be who we truly are, when we live in fear that if we are discovered to be ‘other’ we will lose the love and connection of those who are raising us and inclusion in the broader community in which we live, we can’t help but become isolated. As Hannah Gadsby says, “the closet is not shame proof.” I was hiding as a queer girl growing up but all the people I lived among made their revulsion for who I truly was apparent whenever the subject was raised. Hating myself was a full-time occupation for me by the time I was a teen and when I had the courage to come out at 18 years old and move into the LGBTQ+ community I wasn’t able to just flip a switch on that hate.
The opposite of addiction is connection and if you cannot grow up with true and honest connection to your family, your peers, and your community then it makes complete sense to turn to a substance to make yourself feel better, to numb pain, to fill a void, to actually escape the thoughts in your own head. If you are taught to hate what you desire that sets up a ripe environment for addictive behaviours.”
Megala’s experience with Avalon
Some of you may recognize Megala as one of Avalon’s valued volunteers and speaker at our Volunteer Recognition Event earlier this year. She describes her experience with Avalon as incredibly positive, finding the space and the meetings to be loving and inclusive. We are so happy to hear that the women who attend and work at the Centre made Megala feel safe and welcome from the very beginning, and that our variety of different types of literature and step meetings are great for women new or experienced in recovery.
As she says, “I have found that the AA programme lends itself to inclusivity and the fact that ‘outside’ issues are not discussed in the meetings themselves goes a long way toward helping foster a community of love and tolerance. We are not all the same and yet our desire to overcome our addiction, to live loving and productive lives and for others to have that same opportunity if they choose is a natural breeding ground for women feeling embraced and accepted.”
Advice for others with similar experiences
We asked Megala what she would say to someone with a similar lived experience to her. We want to share her full answer with you below:
“I understand how hard and scary it can be to take a step toward loving yourself when it may have felt like no one has truly understood you or that no one, not even you, can imagine truly loving who you really are. Shame, isolation and fear are hard to step out of when you have been living with them as constant companions for such a long time but it is possible, one day at a time, to learn to trust yourself and gain discernment in trusting your experience of others. It is possible to create new experiences. It is possible to make different choices. It is possible to gradually ask for help even if that feels terrifying and learn to receive love and care. There is a paradox that I love about recovery. No one can make us get sober. It’s absolutely one hundred percent a decision that we have to make and surrender to, and yet….we can’t do it alone. No one could make me put my hand up and admit I was an alcoholic even one second before I was ready to and no one at Avalon could do the work of getting sober for me, but there is no way I could have done it without all the women at Avalon. That’s the mystery. Loving yourself is the same. You have to start to do it yourself. No one can do it for you, but you absolutely can’t do it alone either.”
On the addiction space supporting the LGBTQ+ community
Avalon is committed to creating as inclusive and diverse a community as possible, supporting women in recovery and facilitating open and vulnerable sharing in a safe space. We asked Megala for her thoughts on how Avalon could improve and as part of her recommendations, she suggested that we include books in our Resource Library specifically about addiction and sexual identity. Additionally, Megala is passionate about encouraging our LGBTQ+ members to volunteer if they are able and ready to, in order to help foster a sense of inclusion: “If people can see themselves represented and reflected in the faces of the people at our Centres, they may feel more at ease.”
We are so thankful to Megala for these insightful suggestions and for being candid about her experiences. Our goal is that by sharing more stories like Megala’s, more women in the LGBTQ+ community that will feel welcome, knowing Avalon is a safe place for them and their recovery. If you would like to share your story of recovery to inspire others, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or get in touch with your local Centre Manager.