SAN DIEGO -- Gay Men’s Spiritual Retreat, a group founded in 1991, helps gay men reclaim their lives from the grips of alcoholism and addiction. Started by two men with similar interests in the outdoors and spirituality, GMSR’s welcoming, non-sectarian approach to recovery has been a cornerstone of countless men’s growth and well-being.
Previously, San Diego Gay & Lesbian News spoke with one of these men, GMSR’s PR/marketing director Jesus Sanchez, about the The Red Carpet Spectacle fundraiser. The all-inclusive event raised money for the scholarship funds, giving financial aid to individuals who cannot afford the cost of the 22nd annual three-day retreat in June.
Sanchez is more than just GMRS outreach personnel, however. Last year, he embarked on his first retreat with the group, and it has grown very dear to him since. He recalls the warm welcome he received, from strangers that would go on to become the finest of friends. He found activities and fun, all built on a foundation of acceptance and fellowship.
This year, the retreat returns one again to Camp Stevens, located on the side of a breathtaking mountain outside Julian, California. The theme: The GMSR Gay Games, a reimagining of the Olympics, complete with “ropes course, archery, 12 step meetings, drag queen bingo, hikes, pool activities, seminars on topics like spiritually, sex & relationships and more.” Attendees have the choice of what they want to do, participate in, and bypass. Ultimately, the retreat integrates recovery with fun activities and fellowship.
As GMSR co-chair and board member Darren O’Hare sees it, “People find spirituality from many different places.” These retreats avoid clinging to one singular, narrow-minded method of creating an environment that participants may deem spiritual. O’Hare says:
Some find [spirituality] through fitness, others find it through team building. Then there are those who find it through stillness. At GMSR we offer actives that cater to all these individuals. We offer introduction an to meditation for those who desire a bit more stillness in there lives. Our activities are designed to help the individual grow from the inside out. Friday night we usually bring in a non denominational speaker to help encourage this growth.
GMSR is serious about its “non-sectarian, non-religious, and non-judgmental” mission statement. And for those weary of any sectarian or outside influence, O’Hare assures that, while 12 step meetings are available at the retreat, GMSR is “not affiliated with AA or any other 12 step organizations.”
Those involved in GMSR in the past, without exception, praise the retreat’s dedication to fellowship and friendship while focusing on sober, spiritual lifestyles. For these men, attending the annual retreat is just the start of a long, sustainable fellowship and friendship of which they were previously unaware. Individuals facing the isolation and struggles associated with addiction are encouraged to reach out to GMSR to learn more.
The 22nd annual Gay Men’s Sober Retreat takes place June 13-15 at Camp Stevens in Julian, California. The current cost is $175 per person, which includes lodging and meals for the entire weekend. Numerous full and partial scholarships are available for those who cannot afford to attend.
To register, visit the GMSR event page.