I grew up in an environment where it was not okay to be who I was. As a gay man in rural Kentucky, I learned early on about how to internalize pain and how to act as if I was okay. A message I continually received was that God punished gay people, and that I would be punished if I did not change these feelings. I remember praying to God endlessly to change that I was gay. When nothing changed, I interpreted it first as God abandoning me, and then that there was no “higher power” out there for me at all. Although I see this now as my higher power giving me a message of acceptance, for a long time I only felt a strong sense of loneliness and rejection. I found temporary feelings of warmth and connection through alcohol, drugs, and an eating disorder. However, that illusion of connection shattered as I found my misery and isolation only grew as my disease progressed. I reinforced my feelings of rejection by pushing others away through my behavior, secrecy, and anger. I stayed angry at God, even during my time in residential treatment for my eating disorder and substance abuse. I remember feeling the warmth of unconditional love from the rooms of 12-step meetings. The platonic love, acceptance and approval from other men in the rooms is what I believe saved my life and allowed me to find a higher power again. The God I know today is loving and understanding and I no longer feel alone and isolated. I will forever be grateful to my first sponsor, who demonstrated enough acceptance and love, including through the 12 steps, to free me from my shame and show me that there is a higher power out there for me. And yes, I’m still gay.