British Columbia·Pride and Progress

Sobriety finds its place in Pride, thanks to Clean, Sober and Proud advocates

This year, 19-year-old Ryan Wilson will march in the Pride Parade clean and sober for the first time.

This year, Ryan Wilson will march in the Pride Parade clean and sober for the first time

Clean, Sober and Proud march in the Vancouver Pride Parade. The group has been active for 10 years. (Last Door Recovery)

Marching in Vancouver's Pride Parade this year will have special meaning for 19-year-old Ryan Wilson. 

The young transgender man will be walking in the parade clean and sober for the very first time.

Wilson started using marijuana when he was young and then it escalated to harder drugs.

"I turned to substances as my way to cope and that ultimately lead me to using harder drugs and ending up in the Donwtown Eastside," Wilson said.

"No one around me was clean."

Wilson has been one year sober this summer. (Ryan Wilson)

A recent University of British Columbia study found lesbian, gay and bisexual teens have higher rates of alcohol use than straight youth. One of the researchers suggested this could be due to coping with homophobic bullying, stigma, discrimination and stress. 

Wilson ended up homeless. It was an outreach worker from the Last Door Recovery Centre who finally reached out and helped him. This summer will mark the first anniversary of his sobriety.

Giuseppe Ganci with Last Door says Wilson's participation in Pride this year highlights the society's ethos about recovery.

"One thing about recovery is we encourage people to be part of life," Ganci said. 

"Addiction is all about isolation, and yes there's a lot of drinking and drugs in society, but yes, there's a lot of people who don't use drugs and drink."

Wilson and Ganci will be marching with Clean, Sober and Proud, a group created 10 years ago by people in the LGBT community helped by Last Door who wanted to be part of Pride.

It's the 10-year anniversary of Clean, Sober and Proud, a group formed by the Last Door Recovery Centre and those in the LGBT community helped by the centre. (Last Door Recovery)

"You need to find your place in Pride. That's what I needed to do, that's what we do with our Clean, Sober and Proud booth," Ganci said.

"We could have sat on the sidelines and said Pride's not for me, but we decided to change that narrative."

"It's pretty exciting. I get to be a part of it in the crowd, enjoying life," Wilson said.

This story is part of a series called Pride and Progress that airs on CBC Vancouver News at 6 and The Early Edition throughout Pride Week, July 30-Aug. 3.

With files from Anita Bathe

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