For so many, Conversion Therapy is something that is forced onto an individual by his/her family or clergyman. After this experience, I gave up on Judaism because I felt emotionally abused and not welcome within the Orthodox Jewish Community. It was a very painful period for me and those closest to me. Since my "coming out" process, many resources have been created to help people in understanding and accepting who they are. The "Millennials" ("Y") generation has it much easier than the "Gen Xers" ("X"). I am in no way discounting those "Millennials" that are going through this painful process, but I am saying that resources are currently and readily available for those that search for it.
When I was struggling with my sexuality and religion, I went to Orthodox Rabbinical leaders that I respected and thought they would have the answer. I would like to say that I knew what I wanted them to say, but I did not. I was in such turmoil that I wanted someone to alleviate my pain. I cannot say exactly what I was expecting from them, but it was definitely not pray the gay away.
I felt extremely rejected by Judaism and saw no way to reconcile both very salient identities at the time. Being Gay was something that I just could not put aside. Every wedding I marched in or attended, people would always be trying to match me up with someone. It was flattering, but I felt like someone was strangling me. It felt as though I was suffocating and just could not get air into my lungs. Some reading this might think that I am exaggerating, but those that have been through it will understand.
Trying to follow through on what was expected of me, I dated a wonderful girl and really believed that I would marry her. Unfortunately, this secret and struggle was killing me internally. Could I marry this wonderful young woman that expects me to love her with all of my heart, that expects me to be faithful to her in my heart and mind, that expects me to be able to fulfill her sexually? I kept thinking yes I would get what I want, but I would be robbing her of the love she deserved. I know some Gay men marry a woman and have secret affairs with men on the side, but is that the life I want to lead? What if I married her and was faithful, but could not fulfill her wants and needs? A friend of mine, Eli Winkler wrote an article called "That Girl", which really explains it in a very lucid way.
So many friends and family members wanted only the best for me. The issue was that none of them knew the inner turmoil I was going through. I remember going to Israel with my dad about 13 years ago or so. It was a wonderful trip, but one of the hardest times struggling on how to approach this topic of being gay with him. I would tell him things along the lines of if you only knew certain things about me you would hate me and so on. I did not have the heart to tell him what was going on with me. I just wanted it all to end as quickly as possible, but the pain would not go away. I prayed, I went through "conversion therapy," I consulted rabbis and did everything I knew to possibly do, but in the end it was still there and tearing me up inside.
Eventually, I was able to find a therapist that was willing to help me deal with being Gay and helped me to "come out." I still had no clue of how to reconcile all that was going on with me. I was angry, repressed and depressed. Working with my new therapist, I was able to see things in a different light. I also had a few friends that were amazing and just wanted me to be happy. They did not believe in "conversion therapy" and wanted me to be who I truly was.
To leave out the drugs and alcohol would be doing a disservice. I was in so much pain before and after "coming out." I had so much internalized homophobia which took years to work out. I had "come out" but still could not accept that I would not be able to have the promises that were made to me. All my dreams were crushed and I was forced to create a new identity, new friends and a life of true acceptance.
After a few years of destroying my life, I went to rehab and recovered from my addictions. This was no easy task, but with an intervention by family and a community organization called "Safe" I was able to see that I was loved and cared about. The unconditional love that I experienced during that time showed me that I was indeed special and not this damaged and discarded human being. It was time for me to build a life that mattered and find my purpose in this world.