Drug addiction is a major problem for the #LGBTQ community, and it’s an outright epidemic in northeast Ohio. In Cuyahoga and Summit counties, overdose deaths have reached record numbers. Portage county ranks fifteenth out of Ohio’s 88 counties, and the death rates continue to rise.
Miles Ehrman, 27, is a lifelong Kent resident. After graduating from Kent’s Theodore Roosevelt High School, he attended #Kent State as an exploratory major and now works at a drug addiction treatment facility [sponsored link]. Like many LGBTQ people, Ehrman is no stranger to substance abuse himself. But after coming out as trans, finding recovery and making a career of it, he is glad to help others cope with addiction and move forward with their lives.
Tell me about your time at Kent State. What did you study?
I was an exploratory major. I was interested in anthropology.
And what are you doing now?
I’m currently working for a residential treatment facility.
What’s that like?
It’s an interesting experience, I’ve learned a lot. I’ve been working in treatment for over a year and a half. I currently work with men with co-occurring disorders in recovery from heroin addiction, as well as other addictions.
I’m sure you’re aware that addiction is a major problem right now, both for the LGBT community and in northeast Ohio. What should people know about addiction treatment in general? And how can society help those struggling with addiction, especially those who are LGBT?
Let’s start with talking about addiction in general. Addiction is a disease. It’s important to make that distinction, because someone suffering from addiction may not yet realize that they are an addict.
The Cincinnati Enquirer states that in 2015, Ohio was second nationwide in overdose deaths. That’s a lot of deaths. As of an article posted 7/28/16 in Cleveland Scene, it talks about 236 overdoses in three weeks from heroin. It states that 63 people have died this year from heroin, and that’s just in Akron.
I love my job and I’m happy to spend any and all of my time here, but I hate that this field is in such high demand, you know?
What would you tell somebody who’s struggling with addiction? Any advice?
Don’t wait until it’s too late. There’s always someone available to help you. Even if you don’t think so, there is. Kent State even has a recovery community. The group meets weekly, every Thursday at 6:30pm! It’s at the DeWeese Health Center. Recovery is important, it’s important to know that it is possible.
How did you get into working in the recovery field?
I’ve been recovering myself for almost five years.
So you did it and now you’re helping others to do the same. How does a person recover from addiction?
There’s different routes to take. There are 12-step meetings, inpatient treatment, outpatient treatment. There’s also support groups, which may or may not be 12-step related, and spiritual programs.
Don’t forget sober support. In any option you may choose, it’s important to find support. Support can be friends in recovery, sober family, or even a 12-step sponsor.
If you choose to go with treatment, you’ll be with other men or women also working on recovery. You’ll have counselors and therapy in a group setting. This residential community approach to drug addiction treatment has proven to be one of the most successful methods of treatment, second only to 12-step programs.
Would you say these various forms of treatment are LGBT-friendly? Can trans and non-binary people do residential treatment?
Everyone has a different experience. It’s a matter of personal comfort for the individual in treatment, to be honest.
What’s it like working in the treatment field as a trans person?
It’s been a trip working in the field as a trans person. People tend to be a little confused at first, but once I say, “No, I’m Miles,” that tends to be good enough and both other staff and clients are often like, “Oh okay.” I work in a field where we all have our separate nightmares, and what our clients really need is acceptance.
And how about in your own recovery? Has it been challenging to be a trans person in recovery yourself?
It can be. I had to find myself the right 12-step meetings and right people to be around. I ended up finding a great sponsor and now have a bunch of great, sober friends that are accepting and understanding.
Anything else you’d like to share?
Something I like to tell the men I work with is that this period in treatment is only a tiny blip on the radar. There’s so much more out there waiting, all they have to do is want to. That’s the most important part of recovery and sobriety: wanting it. You can’t do treatment or recovery or anything like that for anyone but yourself.
If you think you have a substance abuse disorder, don’t be afraid to contact a professional and ask for help. I assure you, help is out there. The university health center has a dedicated mental health team that can direct you towards substance abuse help. My very knowledgeable and amazing colleagues at the health center can certainly assist you in finding you the help you need.
And lastly, it’s okay. You’re not alone.