America’s first (and most famous) gay rehab, Pride Institute is “like a 24-hour queer sober party that you're not allowed to leave,” says one alum. While this description may strike some as a bit hellish, most of Pride's alumni praise the facility’s “tight, familial” group ethic, it's ultra-compassionate counselors and and it's intimate setting. Up to 40 LGBT residents are packed into a cramped building in the “pastoral” Minneapolis suburb of Eden Prairie. Housing people in such close quarters results in “a lot of cliques and Glee-like dramas,” reports a former client. But it also fosters an intense camraderie among Pride clients. “People develop intensely close bonds when they're here," says one alum. "But anytime you cram a group of detoxing gay addicts into such a tiny place, there’s bound to be some fireworks.”
There are occasional bonfires too—built by residents who venture out into the facility's lush five-acre “creek and arbor-filled” grounds. In the winter, when temperatures sometimes plummet to negative numbers, the only people brave enough to venture outside are smokers desperate for a cigarette. But spring and summer here is a whole different experience. Residents are encouraged to meditate and “do reflections” and take walks around the grounds, though nobody is allowed to wander off the premises unless they're accompanied by a staff member. The facility features a well-stocked cafeteria and a gym, as well as a dozen shared bedrooms with "boys housed on one side and girls on the other." All in all, Pride is a a clean and very comfortable place, but it's not exactly luxurious. Clients expecting boutique hotel flourishes will walk away disappointed. The lodgings are “less Hilton and more Holiday Inn,” as one ex-client tartly puts it. The center also offers aftercare to interested residents.
While Pride reportedly employs a four-star chef, reviews of its cuisine are decidedly mixed. Clients are expected to do their own laundry and clean their own rooms. “I didn’t notice the food and didn’t have a problem with it,” says one graduate, while another praised the food as “awesome and wonderful. The lasagna was just off the hook!” The menu is heavy on ethnic food, healthy stir-fried concoctions, fresh fruits and salads. The kitchen is happy to work with clients who have special dietary needs. And while the coffee at Pride may be just “half-caf,” there’s an unlimited supply available all day in the kitchen. (And oddly, there's even a pot brewing all day in the gym.)
The treatment program at Pride is firmly based in the 12 Steps, with an extra emphasis on self-acceptance. Clients are encouraged to consider how internalized and societal homophobia have played a part in their addictions. Every day begins with "daily affirmations” at 8:30am. After a hearty breakfast, patients head to recovery groups, one-on-one sessions with counselors, and outside AA meetings. The staff is generally praised as “very accepting, loving and kind." “Even the tech guys generally have bachelor’s degrees in relevant subjects, like social work," says one alum. "They're all very compassionate and knowledgeable and eminently qualified.”
Pride's clients, who hail from backgrounds ranging "from abject poverty to impossible wealth,” enjoy considerably more freedom than they'd be allowed at many other establishments. Residents are permitted to leave campus for short trips to buy basic necessities, as long as they are accompanied by other clients. Missing an occasional group session isn’t grounds for immediate dismissal. Many alums say they really appreciated the center's laid-back attitude. But others complain that the place is a bit overly indulgent. “One guy who was Muslim expected the public rooms to be closed off for him so he could pray all the time,” says another veteran. “Every time we wanted to use the gym he was there on his knees."”
Sex is a thorny issue too, since hooking up at Pride can’t be prevented by segregation, as it is at other treatment centers. Residents caught en flagrante are occasionally 86-ed, but more often they’re just required to sign a behavioral contract vowing that they will no longer "violate boundaries." All in all Pride provides its patients with a friendly, no-frills program that has got many people sober. Gay and lesbian addicts will find insights and support here that they won't find at other rehabs, and Pride's treatment program is generally praised at first-rate. But people who don't want to immerse themselves in a 24/7 gay environment may be happier someplace else.