Stories of Transformation: Vincent D.

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  • Sobriety Date: November 3, 2018
  • Proud LGBTQ+ Member and Activist
  • Outgoing Personality
  • Theater Enthusiast

Vincent went from using drugs and alcohol to cope with his sexuality to learning how to treat himself with love and compassion. Find out what his life looks like now as a Mountainside Recovery Coach empowering LGBTQ+ individuals who are living through similar experiences. 


Vincent, initially struggling to accept his sexuality, turned to substances for connection and emotional relief. Through a transformative journey, he found recovery and now serves as a Mountainside recovery coach, empowering LGBTQ+ clients to love themselves and embrace recovery.  

Hi, my name is Vincent. I am a person in recovery. I’ve been in recovery as a whole since March of 2018, but I have been continually abstinence since November 3rd of 2018. I truly think drugs and alcohol saved me from a very dark place and saved me from doing dark things in high school. My sexuality and my addiction are two stories that I have a hard time telling separate because they had such an effect on each other in positive and negative ways.

I knew I was gay in middle school, but high school I was made fun of ruthlessly for being gay, even though I was in the closet. But that’s a whole another story for therapy. Drugs and alcohol really came into the picture after I graduated high school. I first drank at 18. I first did drugs at 20 and I was in rehab by 25. So I would say it was a very late bloomer and a fast burner, which now I’m grateful for. But at the time it was very like, wow, how did I get here so quick?

Drugs and alcohol really came into the picture at the same time that I was actually coming out of the closet and the two really got intertwined. Drinking gave me access to the gay bars and that social life. It released that shame and it connected me with other men.

vincent walking outside The thing about addiction for me is that it was something I was immediately good at and got a lot of praise and validation and recognition for. I could drink really well and I could do a lot of substances and people recognize that and honestly feel validated.

It was a status for me. It was a way to socialize. It was a way feel worthy. 

And then on top of that, all of my interactions with other men really was drunk or high. That doesn’t serve you long term. It got to the point where I was like using every day, you know, my life just really spiralling until I reached a breaking point.
I thought about myself in such a low and negative way and this was true with even without drugs and alcohol. And then you add in drugs and alcohol, and the way I thought about myself was so low. The way I treated myself, the way I thought about myself was so low and that manifested in the way that I used.
A big breaking point was when I really took a step back and realized that the world that I had put myself in— the drug world that I had put myself in— was also treating me like garbage. And that realization like, OK, I feel this way about myself. But now even other people are starting me to to to treat me this way and that’s a really dark place to be. I either got to a point where I was like, I’m either gonna kill myself or I’m going to do something about this.
I’m sitting here speaking to you today so, you know, happy ending. I didn’t kill myself. But it really did hit that breaking point. What I do want to say before I talk about recovery is that if I had not gotten to drugs and alcohol, I think I would have killed myself over my sexuality in the first place.

To be completely honest, substances were the way that I found acceptance towards that and then that way that I found actually started to kill me as well.
Now I am like very happy and proud. And a part of the queer community in a very visible way and in a way that I have fully accepted. I’m also very proud and visible in my recovery, which is also something that I have very much accepted and and don’t mind being identified as, which is a blessing.
March of 2018 was the first time I went to rehab.

I was very good at intellectualizing recoveryI was not very good at living recovery. Like I believed what people were telling me but I don’t know if I really believed that I could do it.

vincent standing next to a drag queen
I got out of rehab the first time and I really tried my best at recovery, but I didn’t change enough. I didn’t face the parts of myself that were difficult to face. I didn’t accept the parts of myself that were difficult to accept. I don’t know I this is not a judgment on myself, but it’s like I didn’t dig deep enough.
I really just started addressing the surface and the surface worked for 5 1/2 months and then it stopped working. And then it just got to a breaking pointI relapsed and then I came back. Going to rehab a second time in the same year was a big wake up call.
I felt like a huge failure. but. I was tired of getting just beat up by my own actions that really motivated me toI don’t want to say take this seriously because I really do feel like I took it seriously the first timebut it really motivated me to do the difficult things.
I wouldn’t describe recovery in general, but especially early recovery when I had no tools and no experience doing it, I would not describe it as easy or or necessarily even fun. But I would describe it as rewarding and challenging.
In that first year, everything I’m doing is brand new, not just not doing drugs and alcohol, even like, when I think negatively about myself, I stop. And I pause and I try and combat that.
That level of a concept, that level of cognition of the way that I think was so new to me and really, really difficult based on whatever, you know, family influence, social influence, and America’s influence. You know, all these things that I took on and started to speak to myself negatively. Undoing that was exhausting.

My whole theme for the first year was what if you did the thing you never did and got the thing you never got.

I had never treated myself with love and compassion, and I never had self esteem crazy, you know? What if I started to actually treat myself with love and compassion in the way that I think and in the way that I act and see what I get.
In my first year, I was already able to come out of it with a deep understanding of I am worthy. I am loved. I am deserving. Those 3 concepts to me were, and still to an extent are revolutionary. But what I do know is that through my recovery work, I got to this place of I am worthy, loved and deserving. That was so revolutionary in my first year that I just was like I will never do something that puts those three things at jeopardy again.
Because while it was incredibly challenging, to live my life off those 3 concepts is so much better. Go figure like things are working out in a better way. Things are easier, things are, you know, less destructive. And I feel better about myself and I act better and all these things. Tthat really came from

Recovery wasn’t about becoming someone who I used to be. It was really about becoming someone who I always could be.

vincent at a concertUnfortunately, I needed that level of pain to motivate me to live up to this potential. And yes, it’s unfortunate. But now instead of judging myself for what I needed, I’m more I’m just like, alright, I needed what I needed and look what I have now.
Year two was incredibly challenging because the pandemic happened. Staying sober throughout a pandemic was very interesting because there’s not a person around me that’s like, “Oh well when I went through a pandemic in year two—”
It was this new concept and we lost a lot of people. A lot of people stepped out, fell off, or passed away and honestly, when I look at the heat of Covid, the only thing I kept was my sobriety. I lost almost all my other routines. I lost my fire for recovery.
Even if I didn’t want to, even if it was just showing up, you know, I’m really grateful for that. And big thing that I learned in the pandemic is like this is happening to everyone. You know, I can be so wrapped up in myself that I forget that something, even as massive as COVID, is quite literally happening to everyone. I am experiencing it, but I am not the only one experiencing this and not that that made it any better to experience it. But this idea of.

Taking my own pain and suffering or my own discomfort and not minimizing it, but really looking at it for what it is, which is, I’m not the only one who’s going through this.

That goes for a lot of my things—my drug addiction, my body, and my self-esteem issues. I am not the only one who is going through this and so how do I get through it? That that’s a really important concept for me because when I get so focused in on my personal pain, it feels like I’ll never get out of this or this is so special to me that maybe other people don’t understand. This is my pain to hold on to, and that’s just not true for me.

It is the human experience to experience pain. It is not the human experience to hold on to it and be defined by it.

So much has changed within myself and it’s been enough time now where, like sometimes I forget, you know and that’s a blessing and a curse all in one. It’s a blessing that my life has changed so much that I get to just call on them as subconscious rather than an act like today. It’s not like an active choice to not use today. It gets to be kind of a subconscious thing that I’m just already in the routine of and I keep doing the things that keep me in the routine of not using.
I don’t think I wake up thinking about using and I don’t wake up thinking about not using. I just kind of get to wake up and and and live. Which is really, really beautiful.
vincent and rachel on a mountainI got sober in New Hampshire. I originally went to college in New York CityI’d also done addiction treatment in New York City but I always wanted to go back to New York. But I never knew if it was for me, if I could handle it. And I came here on vacation. And it was the first time I had been back to New York since I had left. I was like, alright, like I have changed, I have done enough work on myself.
I feel different here in New York, and that was beautiful. And I was like, you know what? I’m gonna think about moving back. In my head, I said, “I’ll go back, I’ll update my resume. I’ll make a cover letter.” And this job really just fell into place. I remember getting the phone call and I was in my apartment alone. And they’re like, you got the job! Can you move here in a month and I was like crying. I was like, yes, I can.

When I think of who I was, the fact that I was able to quicky get a job, pack up my life and move states in the course of 30 days and have it go successfully. Like who am I again?

It’s a blessing that I’ve changed enough that I can handle that level of responsibility and so much of being back in New York has been a lot of a testament of what recovery has taught me and how much more I can handle.
I used to be someone I could not handle, having to go to work for a day. I could not handle opening up the mail to face a medical bill. I could not even handle looking at myself in the mirror. OK, that’s where I come from to a point where today I’m not only handling a full time job, I also self enrolled myself in full time grad school because I want to move on to be a licensed mental health counselor.

The capacity I have to handle life has grown exponentially. Recovery was not returning to something. It was discovering this.

Recovery was living up to potential. It was challenging myself and growing and becoming someone I didn’t even know I could be.

The way I challenge my own thinking, the way I allow myself to dream today, the way I allow myself to feel. Recovery for me is a journey towards loving myself. The way I’m able to love and accept myself holistically for being gay, for being an addict, for being funny, for being a loud person, for having a big personality. The way I can, love and accept all of these facets of myself really is a testament to the changing power of recovery and being a part of this community.

It’s a community I love being a part of. It’s a community I have no desire to leave to the point where I mean, I work all day supporting other people, finding their own recovery community. Being a coach is really an incredible experience. It’s about sitting in a room with another person and just being like, yeah, I know. And and now we don’t have to do that anymore. It really is beautiful.

Without addiction I could never have found my sexuality. Without recovery, I could never have accepted my sexuality and those two things are going to be forever intertwined for me.

Moreover, I love working with the queer community, and so the more people we have living out loud, either as a part of the community or an ally to the communityany little bit living out loud. And being supportive and being helpful any little bit of that helps because you know the closeted gay boy and me needed that. So if I needed that, I know others need that right now and I get to be that.
For me, that’s super empowering and very exciting. And I wish I could play this tape for the kid who is so scared and in the closet in high school. I wish I could play this for him and be like this is where you’re going. We gonna do some stuff in between, but I mean, look at where we’re going. Recovery is such a a life giving thing. You just gotta do it. You gotta do it.
There’s just something very exciting to me about getting to turn around and look behind me at people who are struggling with similar things and helping them, or even just listening to them. It’s it is astounding. The overlap between addiction and being of this community. I mean, if you’re constantly told you can’t be who you are, it’s easy to want to numb out your existence.

But today I get to sit with people and be like this may have not been the hand of cards you wanted dealt to you, but they were dealt and we’re going to do something about it.

Empowering the next wave of people to embrace recovery as well as themselves is a really, really beautiful experience I do believe can change the world, which is like a big statement, but it it really can. It starts with one queer person empowering themselves, and that will ripple out. I mean, it’s like it’s such an old concept, but empowering the queer and sober community are two things that are so special to me.
As Mountainside celebrates 25 years in service to the recovery community, we will be highlighting stories from alumni, their family members, and Mountainside staff, whose own paths to recovery inform and inspire the work we do each day. Be sure to check our 25th Anniversary page for new stories every month.

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