Growing up in a small rural town in Victoria, Daniel* always knew he was different.

"I identified to being attracted to boys quite young, which I knew wasn't OK in the environment I was growing up in," the now 34-year-old social worker told

"I noticed very quickly I was different from other people around me ... and I couldn't truly be myself or I'd be stigmatised for it.

"It affected my self esteem, and I felt shame around being different to others. The older I got the more aware I became of it and the harder it became to change the way I felt and acted."


Daniel, who now lives in Fitzroy, said he continued to hide his sexuality throughout high school, but that didn't deter the bullies from targeting him.

"I was different and different isn't celebrated in school," he explained.

"Kids often pick out kids who are different very quickly. And in country Victoria, which was hyper masculine, there was no representation of gay culture in my life. You only ever saw boys playing football and girls playing netball."

At 14, Daniel turned to the bottle as an escape. Still a child, this is where his addiction started and remained throughout most of his teenage years and well into his twenties.

"Once I drank and felt the effect of alcohol ... I knew it was an answer to problems I'd had from a very young age," he said.

"It made me feel more relaxed, comfortable and connect with other people. It made me feel part of a community that I'd felt rejected by."

At his lowest point, Daniel would drink around three bottles of wine a night, but said alcohol was a valuable tool to break social circles that had rejected him previously.

"My self esteem was really low, but alcohol gave me the confidence to move out of home and make friends and get through university," he said.


"But at 24, I knew it had [be]come a problem when I couldn't go a day without drinking. I wasn't drinking for the taste. I would drink to black out."

Daniel — who came out at 21 in what he explained as a "terrible" experience — said his addiction soon lost him friends, family and almost his career.

"I feel like a lot of the parts of my drinking was to change the way that I felt and to manage my life," he said.

"At the beginning the drinking was social, but then it turned isolated. My relationships broke down, my career and social life ... everything had an impact.

"Alcohol was constantly on my mind. There were days I'd turn up to work drunk, or at least hungover."

Daniel turned his life around in his late twenties, and went three years sober following a 12-step rehabilitation program.

But at 32, he relapsed after a relationship ended.

"I was angry and upset and I didn't understand why people were so upset [with me]," he said. "I was unaware of my behaviour ... I'd become very erratic and unpredictable."

Daniel said the power of his addiction stopped him from being sober again following the relapse, so he turned to an exclusive program that focuses solely on addiction within the LGBTQI community, called Resort 12 in northern Thailand.

"The cycle of addiction is so strong," he said.

"I was drinking around guilt, shame and remorse ... the cycle was so hard to break.

"I really needed that circuit breaker and the centre allowed me to reset everything and give back to myself."

Daniel — who is now six months sober — said leaving Resort 12 and readjusting back into reality has proved difficult — especially when surrounded by friends who still consume alcohol.

Daniel hopes his story will encourage others in his position to seek help — and know they are not alone.

"It's getting better over time but it is hard," he said.

"Although we have equality and have progress and more rights, homophobia is still very much present in every day society and we have a lot of work to do."