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Jason Cupp

It is said that the soul chooses the parents it is born into before entering the world. If that is the case, then my family of choice occurred long before I had any conscious awareness of it. I wish I could have a conversation with my soul to understand the rationale behind such an important, life-changing decision. Don’t get me wrong – I love my birth family. My memories of childhood and all the holiday traditions will stay with me until my last dying breath. These were the only people that taught me right from wrong, so I just naturally assumed that this was what it meant to be part of a ‘family.’ It was not until I was in college - when I came out as gay – that I was left to feel “othered” by my family and began an unconscious yet intentional search for a place where I belonged.

Growing up I always felt different, even if I didn’t know the reason why. I was more sensitive than the other boys, was always last to be picked for team sports, and had this strange affinity towards my sister’s Strawberry Shortcake dolls. My parents would get me matchbox cars and GI Joe action figures for Christmas, but I had more interest in dusting and organizing them than I did in actually playing. My parents probably knew more than they let on, but I didn’t know any better at the time and was just being me.

Our suburban town was pretty conservative, and there weren’t any rainbow flags waving around or fellow LGBTQ+ people that could let me know I was not alone. Instead, I was mocked by other kids for my effeminate behavior. I was told by my dad not to hold his hand because “boys don’t do that.” My adolescence started in the midst of the AIDS crisis, yet I was sheltered from any mention of it in our household out of fear. I don’t blame my parents or any of the other adults that thought they were just trying to protect me. It was a different time, and they probably thought it best to keep me away from such a sinful existence. They were not regular church goers, but they were religious enough that being gay was wrong. Period.

Needless to say, they did not take the news of my sexual discovery all that well. To their credit, they would later go to therapy and do a lot of work in finding ways to overcome our differences on the issue so we could stay connected. Their rejection of my ‘lifestyle’ created a wedge between us, which is around the time that I started turning to the local gay community for support. I felt comfortable being able to open up and express how I felt with others that did not judge me or tell me I was going to hell.  We were bonded by being ostracized from society, which only made us empowered to be even more proud of our newfound identity.

But embracing who I was came with a cost. It meant that I had to stand up to old ideas of traditional values, sometimes coming into direct conflict with those that were once all I knew when it came to family. For me, this meant finding an escape and suppressing the emotional trauma of losing what was once familiar. It is not a coincidence that my year of coming out also coincided with the first year that I started drinking alcohol. Substances were a convenient way of not having to face the past or deal with the present. They were also a way of feeling accepted in the urban gayborhood of the big city, so it was not surprising that the gay bar scene became a regular mainstay for me through most of my early adult years.

In fact, it was at a gay nightclub that I first met my partner of fourteen years. Liquid courage was pouring freely, and it was easy to let down our inhibitions and dance the night away. This MUST be where I belong! Queer culture was celebrated inside these walls, and it gave me permission to express my identity, live freely, and just be me. As my partner and I built a life together, we formed a group of friends that became our chosen family. We traveled together, frequented pub crawls, and spent many summer nights hanging by the pool and playing beer pong. I felt like I could tell these people anything and knew they would always have my back. I thought I was able to be my authentic self without feeling the need to filter.

It did not occur to me at the time that our circle of friends always happened to center our activities around alcohol & club drugs. So long as the good times were rolling – and the booze continued flowing – we were loving on each other and considered ourselves inseparable. Unfortunately, I was soon in for a rude awakening. My relationship with my partner came to a rather sudden end, and I started to turn to heavier drugs as a means of numbing the pain. I spent less time with my drinking buddies, and instead more with people that frequented the crystal meth scene. It wasn’t long before my life began to spiral out of control, and the friends that used to be my ‘ride or dies’ drifted away as my drug addiction became too much for them to handle. That’s the thing about a chosen family - if it is no longer fun or becomes inconvenient, they can walk away anytime. They did what they needed to do, but it left me feeling alone and without anyone to turn to for support.

All that changed in January 2019 when I made the decision to get sober for good. I knew that isolating was not going to fix my problems, so I decided to give 12-step recovery a try. What I discovered was a group of people that could relate to my struggles and identified with much of the hardships I had endured during those dark times. The people in the rooms of Crystal Meth Anonymous (CMA) came from all walks of life: diverse in their cultural upbringing and lived experience but all sharing the common thread of going to hell and back in surviving the depths of drug addiction. These were people that I may not have ever been acquainted with in my old life, yet here I found myself opening up to them in ways I couldn’t have imagined before. Because I chose to get sober, I was gifted with this unexpected community of fellow recovering addicts.  I had found my family and finally felt at home.
It took time getting comfortable opening up around this group of strangers, but over my four years of continuous sobriety I have learned to love and care for these people as if they were my own blood. I have a sponsor that serves as my parent, guiding me and offering suggestions on moving through life in a healthier manner. I have ‘siblings’ that have the same sponsor and act as brothers & sisters growing up in the same sober family. And now that I have completed the twelve steps, I have sponsees of my own that are my ‘children,’ passing onto them what was freely given to me as a new way of life.


The CMA fellowship has also given me a group of friends – ‘trudging buddies’ – that are on their own recovery journey but committed to a similar path of becoming better versions of themselves.  We go to meetings and meals together, but have also had adventures in sobriety outside of the rooms.  Because of the sheer vulnerability that is expressed within our program, I have developed close bonds with these people in a very short period of time. I know that no matter where I travel, I can always find an extension of my ‘family’ in other cities. We always show up for each other, no matter what. It is an unconditional love that is given without judgment or shame.

It is also through the work of recovery that I have been able to rediscover my need and appreciation for the family of origin that instilled in me important values from my childhood. I have learned that my parents did the best that they could and loved me the only way they knew how. We have rebuilt our relationship into one that is closer than ever. They accept and embrace me as their gay, recovering crystal meth addicted son.

My identity as a man has transformed over the years. I am a more complete person because of my birth family and because of those loved ones that the universe invited into my life along the way. My definition of family has evolved, and I have learned not to ever take any of these people for granted again.

Today, I gratefully choose them all.

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