Steve welcomes back friend of the podcast, Michael Sargood, to discuss discovering and embracing your true identity in recovery.
For more Michael, follow him on IG @happywithoutthehooch - and follow us while you are at it @gayapodcast
Check out our Post-Show to hear us talk about how his ADHD diagnosis affects his recovery at www.patreon.com/gayapodcast
Until next time, stay sober friends!
Hi everyone and welcome to Gay a, a podcast about sobriety for the LGBTQ plus community and our allies. I'm your host, Steve Bennet-martin. I am an alcoholic and I am grateful for my home group's trivia nights. As of this recording, I am 632 days sober, and today we're welcoming back friend of the pod Michael to talk about identity. Welcome back, Michael. thank you for having me back. How you doing? Good. And while many people who've been listening since we started might remember your name from our episodes, unhappy with the Hooch, and then happy without the Hooch. But why don't you give yourself a brief little reintroduction for people who might be, this is their first time hearing from you. So my name's Michael Sagar. I live in South End on Sea, which is in the southeast of England. I was yesterday two years sober, and it's been a bit of a, a rocky journey. And one of the things that. Has helped me immensely during that journey has been community both online and wherever possible in person. So I absolutely love podcasts like this that help create community. Excellent. Well, it's a pleasure to have you back and what's been new since our last episode, roughly a year ago. Roughly a year ago. It's been, the second year of sobriety for me was probably a bit tougher than my first. I think in many ways the, the sobriety itself has been, it seems like separate nature now. There haven't been a huge amount of challenges, but in terms of my personal life, there've been sort of lots of upheavals. I'd been doing lot. Temporary work. And then there's always the stress when a sort of a contract's coming towards the end. Will I find sort of a job in time? What, what will it be like financially? It's been. A bit stressful in terms of my relationship with my partner who was still drinking heavily and in addiction. I, I ended up asking him to move out because I couldn't deal with it being in the house anymore. So said I, I still want to be together, but I can't have this in the house. I'll still try and help you out of this, but just not here, and I'm pleased. Let's. I mean, after he moved out, he was in homeless accommodation for a little while and that helped him have a bit of a wake up call and he's now in accommodation where he gets it's, it's nicer than my flat. I'm a bit jealous. Mm-hmm. But he also gets support with his mental health, which is, has been well needed like for a long while. Literally two minutes walk from my house. And we see each other every day. We're still a couple and he's eight months sober now himself for the first time in his life. So, well in his adult life, let's say other than other than the up to his teenage years when he discovered drink and other substances. So yeah, there's been that upheaval. I've also, I've been dealing with. A, a looming court case. I got myself into a lot of trouble when I was on. I'd been seven months sober and I'd then lapsed on the first night of. First lapse, I managed to get in trouble with the police and I've been waiting for a court case, which was only O cause of covid and then strikes. It only happened two weeks ago. So for two and a half years, I've been sort of dreading the outcome of this. Will I still have my freedom at the end of it? And while I do, I'm doing the interview with you. So that has been a lot of stress. I, I've had lots of perfect excuses to drink and there've been lots of nice opportunities where it would've been a real blessing just to numb my brain for a while. But I've been determined not to do that because I know where it leads. And one of the reasons that I'm here speaking to you today, instead of eating some horrible porridge inside a cell, is that I was able to demonstrate that. I I've changed my behavior that I don't drink. I've maintained sobriety, I've addressed issues with my mental health and that I'm not a threat to myself or other people. So I have sobriety to thank for that. Yeah, that is awesome. I mean, it's, you went through a lot, but it's sounds like you've made it through the other side. So far you're pretty well, so that's good to. and yeah, it's like a fresh start. Yes. And out of all the topics and things we could talk about in the world, why did you choose the topic of identity? I chose the topic of identity because it's something that I frequently hear is that people, after they've stopped drinking for a while, they say they, they don't know who they are anymore, and that's exactly something that I'd expressed as well. It's like I've been drinking for so long now and I am. Michael who drinks I'm, I'm the party boy or at least I thought. And now that I'm not drinking, who, who the hell am I? And I think it's, it's very common for people to have this identity crisis when they no longer drink. Because when we develop an addiction of some sort, it becomes part of our identity when we've been doing it for so long that. it's, it's only natural actually that we, that we wonder who we are when we're not doing it anymore. So that's, that's why I, I chose to do that with you. And I think on the day when we discussed it, I'd also had a couple of people ask me, I thought, let's ha, let's actually talk about this because this is so common. And yet I don't hear it talked about a huge amount, but it's, it's all part of the of the process of sobriety is. People use the word recovery, and I, I've not always identified with that, but I think self-discovery is a huge part of recovery. So, and I've heard, heard some people talk about that they're in discovery rather than in recovery. And that's something that really rings true for me. Yeah. And I, I think a lot of us can identify with having. alcohol or drugs be part of our identity during our use. But like looking back, even before those were introduced into your life, did, did you always feel comfortable with your identity as like a child and a teenager or did you struggle with it back then as well? I struggled with my emerging identity when I was a teenager, and a lot of that was to do with living in a very conservative part of the UK and becoming aware of my sexuality. The, the mode that I operated from wa was that I didn't want to be picked on or punched, and so I felt like I had to. hide that part of my identity just, just not be noticed would be wonderful. Cause I'd seen what, you know, had happened to some other people in my school who were, they were one or two openly gay people and life didn't seem much fun for them, and I was very keen to avoid that. Yeah. I, so yes, I, but I think that the other thing with that comes into play is that when. in our teenage years, we don't have a fully formed identity. We're still working out who we are, and actually maybe we never do. But I, when you then start drinking on top of it, I think you essentially arrest that development. Mm-hmm. maybe when you've started drinking, your identity isn't actually fully emerged. And I, I had a, a conversation with a friend of mine who's a c. and she said, what, what you sh what you should consider doing is go back to the person who you were before you started drinking, reconnect with what gave you joy and happiness then, and continues to develop. And I was like, I can't go back to being 17 because I, that's, that's when I started drinking heavily and I was like, I'm, I'm 14 hours. It seemed absurd to, to go all that way back. essentially. That's what I found myself doing anyway, because the things that I used to, like when I was 17, I still like them now. I've got more time for them now cause I'm not drinking. You can explore those, those geeky interests as a cause. I was, I was a total geek or an nerd. Mm-hmm. I'm just not ashamed of it now. I'd, I'd rather be a geek than a drunk and. I'm still very much the same person and I feel like I'm being able to give that person some, some air time and maybe finish their development. And finally at, at the age of 40 start doing some adulting. Yeah. And how would you say your identity has changed since getting sober then? I'm a lot more honest about sort of my story and my past and I, so because of that, I'm not, I feel I'm not hiding anything anymore. So I dunno whether my personality has really changed or my identity, but what I allow people to see has changed. So maybe people's impression of me has changed. I had lots of fears about being open about my story in. When I first came out as having a drink problem, that was very much a, that was a very scary time. I did it by accident. I was in a a recovery group, a Facebook recovery group based in the uk and I cited that I was going to share my story after some time with the entire group. And so I did so, and then I thought I went and had some breakfast and thought I'll check out in these responses later. When I went up to check the responses later, I hadn't posted it into the group. I had posted it onto my walls for everyone who was connected with me to see, and it was deeply personal about how I'd struggled for a long time. And I was worried how people would perceive me and. Read the responses. I actually cried because I, there was initially horror, like what I had done, and I was expecting people to turn their backs on me when they discovered that I had a drink problem. And instead, what I got was an outpouring of support and kindness from people who were friends, colleagues. Acquaintances. And in a way it was, it was, I was glad I did it because holding, holding back secrets and feeling you can't talk to people about things is a huge weight in itself. And then the other day I did a similar thing, but about the scrapes that I've had with the, except this time I actually did it on purpose. I was scared and I did it anyway. And that was because for two and a half years I've not been able to talk about it for legal reasons. Here in the UK we, you can't talk publicly about these things until any case is over. So I've just been carrying around a secret again for two and a half years that I found really troubling. And then, I decided to just to get it out there, I'd had one person who was trying to sort of use it as a weapon against me as well, trying to just like threatening to expose me. And I thought, well, no, I'm not gonna give anyone that power. I'll just talk about it myself and take that power away. And again, I was very scared when I was hitting like the, the send button. Mm-hmm. I was wondering who would disappear, what sort of judgment I'd be up against. And again, I just. a lot of support from people and no nastiness. And so maybe in terms of my identity, that might change the way people think of me. Mm-hmm. But I think it's for the, for the positive though because I haven't had the negative backlash. People haven't just disappeared. People think I'm an honest personnel and I never used to even trust myself before, let alone expect anyone else to trust. So I think my identity has changed. I'm, I think I'm a trustworthy person now. I think that's how people see me, that I'm honest and trustworthy. And I don't think I could've said that before. I, I'm also probably not seen as the party animal. I'm quite glad to let that one go. I've, I've enjoyed what I missed about drinking a lot was having the stories. At the end of the night, but really, I used to have have all these funny stories that were funny for the listener, but for me it caused a huge amount of pain a lot of the time. But I'd laugh it off. I still go out, I'm still sociable. I've been doing a lot of sober socializing the past year. We've got some sober raves and. Meetups all popping up all over the uk and I've been darting around to all of those. So I'm still somebody who's very sociable. It is just, I tend to go home with my cars, my my cars. I tend to go home with my keys my cards, credit cards, and, and my wallet and my dignity still intact. So you can still be sociable. and you still have some stories. They might not be as dramatic, but you, you're allowed to change your story. I'm, I've got enough of the, the silly stories and I'm, I'm happy to go into a new chapter. Excellent. And so, so far we have an honest, sociable geek. How else would you define your identity? I suppose I'm still a bit of, I'm a bit of an oddball. It's something I've always felt like I've tried to hide in a way, but I, I know my brain doesn't work in the same way as other people's. And actually I know that now. I always just suspected it before, but part of my recovery is involved having the head looked at and I've been diagnosed with A D H D and as a lot of people know, there's a lot of risk factor attached to people with A D H D and addiction. You're a lot more likely to form an addiction about six times more likely if you have a D H D. And drinking for someone who has ADHD is particularly dangerous because the things that A D H D people generally struggle with such. Memory and losing things. And dangerous and spontaneous actions. All of these things that people with a D H D are naturally not very good at are also things that alcohol makes a lot worse. So I, I still lose things. I can relate. I, I like McKees. I, I calculated the other day how long it, I spend looking for McKees generally. And then I multiplied it by sort of every day of the year, and I, I'm losing about two days a year as a sober person. just looking for keys, I mean, she got one of those smart devices that you put on your keys that you can then like click a button on your phone. I've got one, I've now got one. And it's such a game changer, But even if I lose my keys now then it might take me 10 minutes to find them. Whereas previously, if I lost my keys, it would require me to go onto Google Map. Cause I'd normally have lost my phone as well, so if I'd lost my phone, gone to Google Maps, see which part of the city it roughly is, text everyone, it would be a whole day or two trying to find things. But, but now it's, yeah, so it's a lot simpler. I once found my phone up a tree and I've, I still dunno how it got there. It was just sitting on a branch of a tree. but good old Google Maps helped me find that. There you go. Yeah. It's a wonder of the things that like we got away with back in the day or like how things work out sometimes. Yeah. So now I suppose now I know that I have a D H D I've been able to look into it properly, so, cause I knew a D H ADHD existed, didn't really know what it was or its impacts. And so of course I've been doing a lot more reading. Beginning to understand how my own brain works and I don't want necessarily ADHD to be part of my identity. I don't want to, I, I don't want it to be like a, how I identify myself. I mean, but labels are handy. But it does mean that I'm able to understand how my brain works more and I'm able to be more forgiving of myself. Yeah. When I struggle with things that other people seemingly find. I can forgive myself for it and say, well, look, you've got an extra challenge here that other people don't. I'm also very creative in ways that other people may, might be jealous of. Sometimes they might think, oh, I wish I could do that, and well, part of that might be done to my A D H D as well. But we are all different, aren't we? Our brains work differently. Yeah. I'm still learning. Every day is every day is a school day. Yes, it is. And if a listener is struggling with their identity, what advice would you have for them? If you're struggling with your identity and addiction has been part of it I would just repeat the excellent advice that my friend, my counselor friend gave me and, and say, well, who were you before your addiction started? What things did you like? what things were you interested in? And try and pick those up again and allow your identity to forge itself. I think there's a certain, I identity is a trick one cause there's what we put out there, what we project, and then who we actually are as well. So you can change the way people perceive, perceive you by changing. The vibes that you put out there. I don't wanna go all hippie, but I think you, you trapped what you put out and you have a certain level of ability to, to dictate what you put out, you, what you project. But if you are just wondering who the hell you are, yes. Go back to when you were a kid before all of this addiction stuff started and just allow yourself to develop again from there. And I think you'll probably find that you haven't changed a huge. The other tricky bit about that is that don't expect to love everything that you loved straight away. If you're early on in sobriety, the, the way that alcohol works is it, it can stop you enjoying things with that don't involve al alcohol and it's called anhedonia, so it makes it very difficult to derive pleasure. Some things in the way they used to, and it can take months, a year, whatever, to, to actually repair itself. So just keep persevering day by day and you, you'll get your new identity. Yeah. And you might find it's actually your old one. I love that. I spent so many hours, the, my first like 90 days, especially building Lego. It's because like we had like a couple leftover that were gifted, like the adult like version or whatever. And yeah, I, I was like, looking back, I'm like, that's what I loved. Like, but when I was a kid and so I went right back to it. But it was also just great, like keeping my hands and my mind busy in the evenings, cuz that was when, yeah, I would drink the most. Yes. I, I, I used to love puzzle books as a kid, and I still love those. I've got an addiction now, so that's one of me. Addiction transfers with crosswords. I'm just doing fast. When I first stopped drinking mm-hmm. I got a, I did 200 in a week. And Wow. And I, but I'm still I'm still doing them every day, but now there's the Wordle as well. And recently I've discovered there's something called Qual and Ocdel. And now I've just gotta reign it in again. Otherwise I'll be doing nothing But but word puzzles. That's awesome. Yes. And I think, I think I saw like RuPaul's hosting a new show that's basically Wordle, but like, they can't really call at that, but like, yeah, it's gonna be like on primetime soon. I. Well, I have to keep an eye open for that. Yes. But any last thoughts on identity? You can be who you want to be if you put the work in. So don't, if, if you've let alcohol or drugs define you, you're, you're going to wonder who you are without them. But I think eventually the person who discover you. will be a much better person than, than the one with drugs or alcohol. And if you're listening to this podcast, you've probably had a bad experience over the years, been left traumatized by drugs or alcohol. And when you strip those things out of your life, you'll learn to love the, the, the authentic you that hasn't had their mind altered by substances. So keep at it and don't be in a. Beautiful. And how can we find you on all the socials? All the socials on on Instagram and Facebook, IM at Happy without the hooch and on Twitter, that's too many characters. So I am at Happy Hoochie So you can find me on the socials there. Excellent. Thank you so much and stick around cuz we will dive more into your ADHD diagnosis in the patron. But in the meantime, thank you so much. It was great catching up with you. Thank you very much. And if you're interested in hearing more, Michael, I'll definitely head on over to our Patreon family page today at patreon.com/gay a and join for a post show after each episode every week. And be sure to follow us on all the firstname.lastname@example.org and follow us wherever you're listening so you can get new episodes when they come out every. Until next time, stay sober friends.