teenage years, Jennifer Storm was raped, attempted suicide,
became an alcoholic and a crack addict, and endured almost
constant family drama. After entering rehab at 22 and
rediscovering herself, both as a sober person and a
lesbian, Storm, now 32, works as the executive
director of the Victim/Witness Assistance Program in Dauphin
County, Pa. In her plainspoken memoir, Blackout Girl,
published in February by the famous Hazelden clinic,
Storm describes what her life was like--and by
analogy the addictions many gay and lesbian teenagers
What prompted you to write Blackout Girl?
Journaling has been a good healing method for
me. The more years I got into sobriety, I wanted to
tell my story in some way. It's time for a much
larger dialogue--and not just in the gay community. I
hope my book opens some of the doors to doing that.
Do gays and lesbians have unique experiences with addiction?
In the gay community we don't talk enough
about addiction, and it runs rampant [among us].
Recent studies estimate that 30% of all lesbians have
a drinking problem. When you take any group that is
historically oppressed, there's a stronger
tendency to need ways to escape, especially if
you're in a situation where you can't come
out. An easy way to deal with that is to drink.
It's an easy out. Plus a lot of the functions in
the gay community revolve around alcohol. If you're a
new person starting to enter the community, you go to
What is the biggest problem faced by gay youths?
Isolation. It's one of the reasons I had
addictions. You're confused, you're
feeling isolated, and here's this method that can
help you forget about it all and fit in. When I
realized that I didn't know what was going on
with my sexuality, then I figured I better become this
heterosexual norm. That was easier to do when I was loaded.
It made it easier to hook up with guys: I
didn't have to be fully present. You're
not able to be who you truly are, and you have to come out
in anger, come out in depression, or come out in some
Why don't gay people like to talk about these issues?
Because our community comes under fire so often.
When we have to dive into the problems that affect our
community, we shy away from the problems that
don't put us in a good light. We don't discuss
them because it's more fuel for the fire.
How often do you work with gay and lesbian youths
through your job in victim services?
Not as much as I'd like. They
don't come forward because of their sexuality.
We've had a couple of instances of
youth--either a domestic violence situation or a
bullying situation--and they've confided in us
about their identities, but we can't offer them the
services that we'd like to because their
parents aren't supportive. One case, a kid was
getting beaten up badly. We were trying to get him set up
with our gay youth organization, but the mom just
reamed us out. We have to be careful if they're