The Cost of Freedom

The Cost of Freedom, by Randle Roper

We are adults, and with adulthood comes certain freedoms. Freedom of choice. Freedom to live openly. Freedom to be comfortable in our own skin. Freedom to indulge in all life has to offer.

But that freedom comes with a price.

Being an out and proud member of the LGBT+ community, I have seen the high price of freedom on too many occasions. Gay people are oftentimes (and quite stereotypically) expected to be the life of the party. And being the proverbial life of the party sometimes leads those most vulnerable to overindulge. And every now and then, that overindulgence leads to unspeakable sadness as members of our community are lost in what should be moments of pure unadulterated joy.

I have never been a drug user, so I can’t speak to the pull of controlled substances, but I do have an addictive personality, which has occasionally gotten me into hot water through the years. So from that vantage point, I can somewhat understand the lure. What I struggle with, however, is how it can so quickly turn to tragedy. I’m tired of losing friends and acquaintances. I just can’t imagine any high being worth that price.

Recent overdose deaths in our community have led to much debate about personal liberty and the overall responsibilities of the many players surrounding the incidents.

As I contemplate all sides of the debate, my personal mantra keeps coming back to me over and over again: “be better.” I’ve lived my life believing in this simple motivational statement. Many of us strive for greatness in our personal and professional lives, but I’ve always believed I could be better, even in my greatest moments.

At VACAYA, we’ve done our best to create an atmosphere where all are welcome, but ultimately it’s one of zero tolerance to illegal substances (because, after all, it has to be… that’s the law), but we make no illusions that usage doesn’t occur in the real world. And we don’t stick our heads in the sand and feign “shock” and “surprise” when the topic of usage comes up.

No matter your position on the legality of drugs, one thing is clear: GHB, cocaine, ketamine, MDMA, Tina, et al remain illegal indulgences, a crime. But this isn’t a blog about drug shaming or any other judgmental position. It’s simply in recognition that we could and should “be better.” Be better as individuals. Be better as a community.

Now, let’s take an analytical look at this topic for a moment.

The truths:

  • Not everyone uses recreational drugs. However…
  • Drug usage happens everywhere – at bars, at pool parties, on ships, everywhere
  • Drug usage is NOT a gay issue, but it affects some members of our community deeply
  • Individuals are ultimately responsible for their own choices
  • Doing drugs on a cruise ship presents a few unique challenges:
    • Being disembarked if caught using/possessing
    • Facing the legal system of the disembarkation port of call
    • Dying if not properly treated

VACAYA will never encourage or promote breaking the law, but we can be responsive to the needs of our community. How do we do that? Well… it all starts with VACAYA working hand-in-hand with our cruise line partners to create effective policies. Prior to our first vacation event, we’ll develop procedures built upon what we believe we can do:

  • We can be honest right from the start – recognizing that drug use does, in fact, occur in the real world.
  • We can educate our guests on the challenges and legal issues of usage at sea.
  • We can educate guests on how to properly handle a situation that slips perilously out of control.
  • We can educate the ship’s medical personnel on the types of challenges they may face.
  • We can potentially provide “safe space” medical services.

And here is where we, as a community, can be better:

  • We can make smarter choices – especially when facing an overdose situation at sea. Yes, there may be consequences if a friend is caught using, but let’s look at two of the possible scenarios:

Scenario 1: A friend in need is taken to the dedicated safe space for evaluation. There, they receive any required care, including hydration and the necessary space to cool off under trained supervision. Of course, if necessary, your overdosing friend may have to be taken to the medical center for further treatment and as a result of that they may be disembarked for violating the Guest Conduct Code once they’ve fully recovered. But… and it’s a BIG but… the chances are infinitely greater that they’ll be ALIVE the next day.

Scenario 2: Your overdosing friend is shuffled off the dance floor, taken back to their room, left alone to “sleep it off,” and being unable to care for themselves in a moment of need, they DIE.

Any reasonable person would look at those two scenarios and realize that Scenario 1 is the ONLY choice here. But because friends of friends in trouble are oftentimes high, as well… this is where our opportunity as a community lies. In an effort for all of us to “be better,” let’s state this clearly: death is NOT an appropriate choice. Ultimately we are ALL responsible for pushing those around us, even strangers, to the first scenario.

Simply put, no matter where one chooses to indulge, they run a risk. But the analyzation of that risk is one of the great freedoms of being an adult. And it’s up to each and every one of us to weigh the cost of that freedom and “be better” in how we respond to members of our community in need.

For those experiencing usage or addiction issues, we recommend the following resources:

LGBTQ Addiction Guide

For a deeper exploration of the link between childhood trauma and addiction in adulthood, visit:



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