Struggling with an addiction is difficult enough in itself—but for the LGBT+ community, there are added challenges that mainstream rehabilitation facilities often don’t address.
That’s why The Cabin has opened Resort 12—a rehab that’s tailored to the needs of LGBT+ people living with addiction and trauma, the first of its kind outside of the United States.
“Gay men and women use drugs at a much higher rate than heterosexual people,” says Stuart Fenton, a counsellor at the newly opened Resort 12.
“Studies show that this comes from stigma, bullying, being marginalised, homophobia and all these other factors,” he says. “Which makes the level of drug use in our community much higher than heterosexuals.”
“Not only are our clients talking about these issues, they’re talking about taking a lot of risks and being very vulnerable and that’s just amazing."
Fenton himself knows what it’s like to enter a rehab program where the staff might not be familiar with the nuances of the unique problems faced by the LGBT+ community.
“I was an intravenous crystal meth addict, and I was using GHB and combining that with my sexual behaviour,” he tells SBS.
“When I went to rehab, most of the workers were middle-aged women and I remember censoring what I would talk about, I had a lot of shame about my sexual behaviour.
"I’m HIV positive and I can remember on a lot of occasions that I didn’t feel safe to talk about that in that environment. I knew there wasn’t a lot of understanding about HIV and those sorts of things."
For those that are able to afford the service, Resort 12 provides a safe environment for clients to be vulnerable and open up about the issues they’re dealing with.
“When clients sit with me to talk about that stuff, I’m already in their world,” he says. “I understand the other linked-in issues that can come about and offer them suggestions that they haven’t thought of.”
As well as employing staff who have an intimate knowledge of the issues clients face, Resort 12 offers workshops themed around issues including homophobia, stigma, cybersex or any issues that are unique to the LGBT+ community.
The facility in Chiang Mai has only been open for the last five weeks but Fenton says in that time, there’s been “been amazing discussions that I’ve never witnessed in my 10 years of working in treatment facilities”.
“Not only are our clients talking about these issues, they’re talking about taking a lot of risks and being very vulnerable and that’s just amazing,” he says.
Fenton says it's been rewarding to see people "feel safe to talk about the things that have been holding them back their whole lives".
"For me, with any client, whether they are LGBT+ or otherwise, it's amazing when they’re able to let go of their trauma and grief and sadness and heal."