In the book, you describe having a condition that caused female breasts to develop when you hit puberty and how taking your first drink eased the feelings of shame and loneliness you felt. I really felt like I was a mistake. There were times when I was very close to killing myself.
Did being gay also affect your drinking and drugging? I remember when I was a boy. It was like 1972 and Anita Baker came to town.
Don't you mean Anita Bryant? There's a difference. [Laughing] Yes, Anita Bryant. My father was, and is, a preacher. He preached against homosexuality in our church for years. That same year a fellow came to my parents' house around New Year's Eve and my parents invited him in. John was "homosexual," as my parents called it. My parents sent us, the four boys, to bed. And he wailed and cried. We heard them all night. It sounded like bears going crazy in the living room, the three of them. In the morning they said that they had cast out the demons of homosexuality out of John. Now we joke that the demon went out the downstairs window and came into mine. I arrived in New York with three great secrets: my body issues, my shame about homosexuality -- really believing that I would likely go to Hell -- and my partner Jim dying of AIDS.
What happened with the secrets? When I became clean and sober, I started dealing with them.
Before that? I didn't deal with it. I drank and drugged. When I start working with people, they're usually not using over the old reasons. It's just become so habitual that it's not about the old crap anymore. I had become so addicted to the alcohol, cocaine, crystal and cigarettes that those behaviors were so enmeshed in me. But it was totally not about the old stuff.
Is the addiction rate higher in the LGBTQ community? There's such a crisis in the gay community with alcohol and drug abuse. We leave Corn Town to come to the Big Town. Our partners died and we didn't know what to do with it. We've never had the structure that other groups have had. If you look at the post-Irish potato famine, where you had families ripped apart and huge experiences of loss, that group experienced spikes in the alcohol consumption. Anytime a subgroup experiences trauma, you have to do something to help.
When's the right time to step in to help someone you love? You know when you know. It's like we have this little button and if it's vibrating or beeping, it's telling you its time to step in.
Brad Lamm's upcoming appearances:
Jan. 18th - San Francisco, CA 3-4:00PM PST - The View From the Bay/KGO-TV
Jan. 19th - San Diego, CA 7:20-7:25AM PST - San Diego 6 in the Morning/XETV/FOX 6