JOHNS CREEK, Ga. — PFLAG Johns Creek held a panel to talk about substance abuse and addiction in the LGBTQ community Aug. 20 at Johns Creek United Methodist Church.
PFLAG, or Parent, Families and Friends of Lesbians and Gays, is an organization for LGBTQ people and their families whose mission is to support, educate and advocate.
To fulfill the second component of that mission, PFLAG Johns Creek periodically hosts speakers and other educational events to talk about challenges facing LGBTQ people and their families.
Over the past year, PFLAG Johns Creek has hosted a civil rights attorney to talk about ongoing lawsuits impacting transgender rights and a psychologist to discuss transgender mental health.
Last week, the support group hosted a panel that included parents of LGBTQ individuals who struggled with substance abuse, a transgender man recovering from alcoholism and an addiction therapist.
The event gave parents of LGBTQ teens and parents an opportunity to ask questions about substance abuse and recovery.
Though addiction can affect anybody regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity, LGBTQ people face higher rates of substance abuse and other behavioral health issues, according to the National Institute on Drug Abuse.
“With any marginalized community, you don’t always feel seen,” said Christine Wolff, a therapist with Foundations Recovery Network. “You don’t feel understood.”
Still, Wolff said, anyone can struggle with addiction, and it can take many forms.
“We’re all addicted,” Wolff said. “We’re all addicted to feeling good … Nothing feels as good as substances, so we’re all at risk. We all have to be careful.”
Wolff said over her seven years as an addiction therapist, she has seen substance abuse be a blessing in disguise for some people. As disruptive as it is, it’s a big enough red flag that it can force people into recovery, she said.
Through recovery, people learn to be authentic, to be more in touch with their emotions and to be more open to connection with others.
“The antidote to addiction is connection,” Wolff said. “Addiction thrives in darkness and silence and loneliness.”
PFLAG Johns Creek President Ann Miller said she hopes the event encouraged parents to trust their gut if they sense their child is struggling, taught them to take drug use seriously — even drugs that are considered less dangerous like marijuana — and made them aware of the resources that are there to help.
In addition to educational events, PFLAG Johns Creek holds support meetings for tweens, teens and adults the third Tuesday of every month at Johns Creek United Methodist Church, 11180 Medlock Bridge Road.
The first Tuesday of every month, support meetings for teens and adults are held at Congregation B’nai Torah, 700 Mt. Vernon Highway in Sandy Springs. All events are free.
The Johns Creek group is the only PFLAG chapter in North Fulton and serves families around north Atlanta and beyond. More information about the group can be found at pflagjohnscreek.org.