Dan Carden, Labour MP for Liverpool Walten. (Facebook/ Dan Carden MP)
Labour MP Dan Carden teared up in parliament as he described the “desperate isolation” of alcohol addiction while struggling with his sexuality.
Carden spoke at a general debate on Pride Month in the House of Commons on Thursday (1 July) about the importance of Pride, and described his own difficult journey to self-acceptance.
He said: “If I could give one piece of advice to a young person today, it would be this. Be proud of who you are and who you choose to love.
“You may have had the frightening realisation that you feel different from the expectations that society has for you. You may be questioning your relationships, your gender or your sexuality. It is frightening.
“There is good reason to be fearful. Coming out is scary and you might suffer because of it. But what you probably have not been told is that hiding who you are into adulthood will cause you far more suffering anyway.”
The MP for Liverpool Walten said growing up as an LGBT+ person “with the cumulative effect of the daily denials, the constant fear of being found out and the internalised shame, causes a deep trauma”.
He acknowledged the progress that has been made, but added: “Rates of depression, loneliness, substance abuse and suicide among gay men are many, many times higher than across society, each of these in turn causing more shame, more fear and more trauma.
At today’s #Pride debate I spoke publicly for the first time about my alcohol addiction and being in recovery.
I hope my openness helps challenge the stigma that stops so many people asking for help.
Pride is about celebrating who we are, without shame. pic.twitter.com/K44p7lNExv
— Dan Carden MP (@DanCardenMP) July 1, 2021
“That is what happened to me. It took me a long time to admit that I was struggling with my mental health and alcohol addiction.
“Actually, it took repeated interventions from the people who really love me. I did not know, or I denied, that I had a problem. I suppressed my emotions, as I had learned to do as a kid, and I told myself things were fine.”
Dan Carden almost lost his life to alcohol addiction
After three years of sobriety, Dan Carden said it was only looking back that he could see how close he came to losing his life during his 20s.
“Alcohol addiction is not just about drinking every day or drunkenness,” he said.
“For me, it was about losing who I was over a long period of time. It was desperate isolation. It was shutting down my personal life using a drug, alcohol, to feel better but ultimately to escape and give up on living.”
Now, he said tearfully: “I am happy, I am healthy, I love my life, I have a wonderful, loving partner, and I appreciate everything that I have.
“But it took AA meetings, psychotherapy and counselling to get here, and, honestly, to stay here takes commitment and daily determination. I am in a privileged position.
“I am all too aware that not everybody makes it.”
Carden said he was speaking out to “challenge the stigma that stops so many people asking for help”, and to use his authenticity to create “meaningful change”.
He finished: “Pride is about celebrating who we are without shame.
“In the end, it is a simple choice: choose to hide, or choose to live. My advice is to choose to live.”