Remembering Leslie Jordan, an Outspoken Recovery Advocate

Leslie Jordan headshot

Emmy-winning actor Leslie Jordan passed away last month at the age of 67. 

Most people are familiar with Jordan’s hilarious performances on shows like Will & Grace, and even on social media during the height of COVID-19 lockdowns — but the actor was also a proud recovery advocate, too. At the time of his death, the actor had been sober for more than 20 years.

Jordan told People Magazine that his drinking began when he was just 14. 

This is common among people with addiction. Using drugs or alcohol at a young age increases a person’s risk of developing a substance use disorder. 

"I remember that, all of a sudden, I wasn't that awkward kid who didn't know what to do with his arms who was afraid the ax was going to fall at any time,” Jordan said of his alcohol use. “It hit me: I was adorable, I was precious. And I stayed precious and adorable for the next 33 years."

Jordan found that alcohol made it easier to accept his identity. 

“It was a lot easier to be gay when I was loaded,” Jordan said. Research shows that people from marginalized backgrounds, like those in the LGBTQ+ community, face greater risks of substance use and mental health disorders — not due to their identity itself, but due to the additional stress and trauma they may face as a result.

For Jordan, party culture made his addiction worse. 

“My problem was I was a bar drinker,” Jordan said. “I started getting DUIs.”

Bars and nightclubs have long been some of the only spaces where LGBTQ+ people could socialize together and safely be themselves. Experiences like Jordan’s highlight why its so important to create sober safe spaces for the queer community, where substance use doesn’t feel like a requirement. 

Through his success and total honesty, Leslie Jordan set a great example for everyone who struggles with addiction. 

Through his signature brand of empathy, sweetness, and gut-busting storytelling, Jordan never missed an opportunity to show that life after addiction is very bright.

If you or someone you love is struggling with substance use, find trustworthy help and resources here.