Larry Paciotti, aka Chi Chi LaRue, recently out of rehab, on hitting rock bottom, lifelong commitments and being a better man.
BY PAULO MURILLO | PHOTO BY JOSE A GUZMAN COLON
In an exclusive interview with THE FIGHT Larry Paciotti—widely known as gay porn director, drag personality, and DJ, Chi Chi LaRue—speaks out about his struggle with addiction, being a slip sister, the recent intervention that led to rehab where his journey in recovery began, and how it gets better sober.
How do you feel at this very moment?
Right at this moment I feel happy, joyous and free. That may be a little cliché, but it’s true.
How much sober time have you accrued as of this interview?
Today is 65 days.
Have you tried to get sober in the past?
I have tried everything from white knuckling it, to doing 90 [12-step] meetings in 90 days. I went to Florida and spent 30 days living in a hotel and immersing myself into the sober community. I thought I had it after a year, but when you stop working the program, the disease grabs hold. It’s always waiting, cunning, baffling, powerful and patient.
What happened during your previous attempts at sobriety and why is this time different?
I was lying to everybody, including my amazing sponsor Greg, all my sober family, my friends, my business partners and more importantly to myself. This time I had a horrific bottom and I was screaming for help silently on the inside and hurting myself on the outside. Thank God my higher power brought some much needed love my way in the form of an intervention.
Was your intervention anything like what you see in the television show?
Exactly like it. My friends and family had to go through a pre-intervention, which I’m sure was tough. They already had letters asking me if I would take this gift offered to me and my answer was yes-yes-yes to every letter. I was so ready and willing to go.
What was life like for you before you decided to get sober?
My life was complicated, or so I thought. I drank a lot and did drugs—mostly cocaine—before I had my gastric bypass surgery, but it didn’t hit me like it did after I had it. I came to find out after I had the surgery that it happens a lot where people compensate and replace food with other addictions like shopping, drinking, etc. I was diagnosed in treatment as cross-addicted, so really anything in my life can become an addiction, like my addiction to Starbucks.
I was and am a chronic relapser. I call myself a slip sister. Things would be going really great for a while and I guess I would self-sabotage. I screwed up a lot of gigs and spent and lost a lot of money. I was falling down and hurting myself and hurting other people more and more frequently. I broke my thumb, my nose, and hurt my legs and my face a lot.
Being a female impersonator a.k.a. a drag queen—hell, being a goddamn 55-year-old grown-ass man, you would think I would get a hint that the last thing I wanted to do was keep fucking up my face, body and health.
What is life like now that you’ve had some clarity?
The moments have been amazing. Going into treatment was the best thing that’s happened to me in a long, long time. This is a lifelong commitment and I plan on keeping that commitment.
Is there any conflict between Larry Paciotti the person and Chi Chi LaRue the persona?
That was a big problem, because the two started to become one. I was losing the best of both of those people even though they are just one person. I truly love being both of those crazies.
How do the two of you co-exist in the realm of recovery?
One day at a time.
What was the public response like after you announced you were going to rehab?
Mostly, the response was positive, with a lot of love and support from many. Of course I had the people that said nasty things because they can and that’s okay though, because everyone is entitled to their opinion. What other people think of me is none of my business.
What happened to you financially that made you decide to start a gofundme campaign to help pay for rehab?
I didn’t open that up; my friend Kevin from Minnesota did. There’s a very long story that I don’t want to go into, that involves other circumstances on why I didn’t have the funds to finish my rehab. I want to thank everyone who donated to the fund. It meant a lot and you helped me more than you’ll ever know.
What does the future hold for Larry Paciotti and Chi Chi LaRue now that Larry is sober?
I can say I’ll be a better man sober. I’ll be a better director, a better drag queen, a better friend, a better business partner, a better DJ: a better human being all around.
What would you tell someone who thinks they may have issues with substance abuse and wants help?
Anything is possible. Look at me, I tried so many times to get sober and I hope this time it sticks. If you want to get help, help is waiting for you. Go to a [12-step] meeting and try it out. It can be very scary, but you’re definitely not alone in this mixed-up world of addiction. I hope that anyone out there that’s struggling with addiction of any kind will seek help. If my story provides any comfort or help to even one person, then this journey I’ve taken was meant to be. I love a good God shot.