My guest, Brad Shreve, has had a lot of challenges in life starting with internalized homophobia, a broken marriage after coming out, sexual addiction, alcohol, drugs, domestic abuse, homelessness, time in a psych ward, and a long struggle after recovery. Just as it seemed life was coming together, he spiraled out of control to where he could barely function, only to be diagnosed with bipolar disorder. He claims it was one of the best days of his life because things finally made sense.
Queer Writers of Crime podcast
Coach Maddox 0:03
Well, hello, Brad Shreve and welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. I'm delighted to have you as a guest.
Brad Shreve 0:11
Well, thank you. I've been listening to your podcast, and I am delighted to be here.
Coach Maddox 0:16
Well, thank you, I'm delighted to hear that you're listening. That's always exciting to a podcaster to know, somebody's actually listening. So thank you for that.
Brad Shreve 0:24
I'll also admit, I've been listening to your podcast, and I'm a little nervous right now.
Coach Maddox 0:27
But, you know, I think that's a beautiful thing. I said to somebody earlier, they were talking about being on a TV show tomorrow night, and she said, I'm nervous. And I said, that's a good thing. That means you're pushing up against your edge, and that would signify growth. So, Bravo for that. Well, so the listeners know, Brad, and I don't know each other, we've never met, this is our first time to speak, we happen to be in a large Facebook group that's set aside for podcasters. And one of us posted something and the other one responded, I don't exactly remember exactly how it was and, and just just this conversation started. And then he shared that, you know, he had listened to my podcast, and would be open to being a guest. And so here we are. So the other thing I want to share is that Brad is a mystery author. And he has two novels. And he's working on a third currently. And he's also the host of podcast, queer writers of crime, and those will be in the show note. Links. So let's just get down to it. Brad, tell me how you would define or what does it mean to you to be an authentic gay man?
Brad Shreve 1:55
You know, I, I don't think being an authentic gay man is that much different than just being an authentic man or being an authentic person? Because I think it comes down to being true to who you are, and letting others know who you are, and being okay with that. The problem is, knowing who you are yourself. I think that's the trick. But I will say, a show like this is great, because even though I think the definition of authentic, authenticity is the same no matter who you are,
being a gay man, you have different hurdles to be authentic than others do.
Coach Maddox 2:44
I think so too. And I love what you just called out about it really being the same. And what what popped into my mind when you said that, and I have not really talked about this too much, is throughout most of my life, as an out gay man, I was very able to be authentic with all of my straight friends, and wasn't able to be authentic with gay men. There was something about that, that didn't feel safe to me. And so I think that's why I'm so focused on not being authentic across the board with everybody that was already happening. That wasn't my challenge. You know, that was already happening. It was the challenge was being authentic with gay men. And that's why. And I think that I had to believe, as I talked around, some that there were others that were experiencing what I was experiencing, they found it easier to talk to their strike friends, and not so easy to talk to other gay men. And that's why I really wanted to focus on that aspect of it, you know, we sometimes it's hard for us to really make close friendships, not always, but oftentimes, you know, we somehow we pose a threat to each other, which doesn't make much sense. And then and then in the same breath, it kind of does make sense.
Brad Shreve 4:01
Yeah, I, I didn't come out until I was 35. So I definitely was not authentic for quite some time. And I will say, living in Los Angeles. If you go to West Hollywood, it is harder to be authentic to yourself. Because I think part of many people being gay is that there's this expectation of how you'll, who you'll be and who you who how you act and what you'll be into. And there are stereotypes that we feel like we have to fit into. And so you know, the Castro knew in San Francisco or Greenwich Village or or West Hollywood, I think the gay ghettos are great in many ways, but I think in some ways, they can be a hindrance as well.
Coach Maddox 4:47
That can be very limiting. You know, when we put ourselves in those labels or those boxes, those stereotypes is the word you used. And I love that because that's to me, that's what I want to do here. I want to to debunk some of the stereotypes, I want to break us out of our confinement. Our boxes are labels where we can express ourselves more openly and more freely and have a broader range of, of self expression instead of that very clearly defined thing that we feel like we have to live up to. It's kind of crazy when you step back and think about it.
Brad Shreve 5:25
Yeah. And you know, a lot of the the gay ghettos like Boys Town in Chicago, the Castro, West Hollywood, they're really dying as far as gay ghettos. And in some ways, I think that's a wonderful thing. But in other in other ways, it's, it's sad, it's it's both It's bittersweet. Oh, yes, it is nice being in a cluster of people that you connect with, and, and can just walk down to a bar, bookstore, or whatever, and feel more comfortable with who you are than you may in other places. But I also like that we're like, most of my my friends are straight. I don't live, I actually I just told you reach, I'm just moved to the desert. But in Los Angeles, I lived in the suburbs. So I wasn't near West Hollywood, and had very few gay friends.
Coach Maddox 6:20
Well, I've always had an an insane amount of gay acquaintances. And almost Yes, friends, it was so superficial, like, I knew names of a million people and could say hi on the street, but couldn't tell you anything else about them. And they couldn't tell you anything else about me. And that's, that's what I'm hoping to change here. So thank you for coming on board and making a contribution to that.
Brad Shreve 6:42
Thank you for what you're doing.
Coach Maddox 6:44
And I love that just this conversation that we had about the whole authentic thing and how it applies to everybody besides just gay men, too. But so the question of the day bread, what has been the biggest challenge in your life that you have gone through? Or are going through now still still working on?
Brad Shreve 7:08
Well, it's an easy answer. And it's a difficult way, I'm sure. Many would say, look at my life and say, Wow, his life really sucked. And if I looked at it from that perspective, and I have at times, it's pretty pitiful, but my biggest challenge, and still is, I have bipolar disorder. And the challenge was, I didn't know that for most of my life. So I had no clue as to why I was the way I was. And I was having the challenges I was having a. So in actually, the day I was diagnosed, I tell people all the time, it was one of the best days of my life, because it had a name suddenly made sense. It made sense. And it could be treated. And so having lived in that bubble my entire life. It slowly started melting away.
Coach Maddox 8:11
Yeah, I think there's a lot of things in life like that, that aren't necessarily things that are treatable. But you know, I, I am an HSP. And didn't find that out until maybe about five years ago. For those that don't know what HSPs are. That means highly sensitive person, and it is a psychological term, and about 10% of the world's population are HSPs. And when I discovered that and started to study what HSPs were, suddenly my life made sense in a manner that I had minute never been able to make sense of it before. And it was very comforting. Exactly. I could go, Oh, that makes sense. I get it now. And treatable or not, I can see you know exactly how that would have been the same for you with the bipolar.
Brad Shreve 8:59
Yeah, and it's something I live with the rest of my life. I mean, medications definitely help and we've come a long way. But it doesn't mean that I don't have manic swings, and I don't have depressive swings. I've just they're not as severe and I've learned to ride them out. Which I didn't I would fight them before. Yes. So it's more of a more of an acceptance now, because I understand what's happening.
Coach Maddox 9:25
Yes. Well, I kind of I talk about that as being a surrendering to what he absolutely absolutely yes. Because you know that the old adage what we resist persists and that's pretty true of anything like that.
Brad Shreve 9:39
Exactly. I'm I'm also an alcoholic, and it was the same thing. It to finally stand up and say that was was groundbreaking.
Coach Maddox 9:49
Yes. That's one of the first things that they have you do is to stand up in front of a crowd in a and say that you're an alcoholic. I understand that. That's great. credibly liberating.
Brad Shreve 10:01
It is and actually, they don't make you do it. But I did it my very first meeting. I was ready. I was ready to surrender.
Coach Maddox 10:13
Ready to have life be different?
Brad Shreve 10:15
Coach Maddox 10:18
was going to go ahead. Sorry.
Brad Shreve 10:20
Go ahead. No, no, I was gonna say I was seeing a therapist with the gay and lesbian center. And here in Los Angeles. And after several visits, he, he said, I can't continue to try and treat you. When you're, when you're coming in with your brain fried. You need to get the fuck out of my office and go to a meeting. And those were his exact words. And he said, Hold on, and he got on his computer, and he pulled up a bus schedule. And he looked on, he looked to see when the next day a meeting was. And he said, here's the Busey take, here's the next meeting. And I followed his instructions. And
Coach Maddox 11:04
that was oh, my, my intuition is telling me that he was a really a good therapist. And what what really rang for me is he didn't sugarcoat it or pussyfoot around. He really put it out there in a really, really bold manner. And I think that's, he knew how he had to address you to get your attention.
Brad Shreve 11:25
Yeah, well, it helped that he is an alcoholic as well. And so he understood where I was coming from. He had he shared his history. He of Matthews, it was far worse than mine was, and I was pretty down. And so that helped. It was also awkward, because we would see each other in a meetings and we weren't allowed to talk to each other. We could say hello, and that was it. But yeah, so I'm at meetings, we couldn't be ourselves to each other because he was my therapist.
Coach Maddox 12:03
That is one of the things that about therapy that kind of rubs me the wrong way. Their rules are so strict, and you can't Yeah, anyway, that's a whole different. Let, how would you feel about doing a little bit of back history and and sharing with the listeners? That because, as in our preliminary conversation, I kind of got the impression that there was like a whole lot of life that came down before in fact, the the diagnosis was bipolar was one of the last pieces of the puzzle. Yes. And, you know, for the listeners out there that may be able to really, really relate to that deeper story and some of the things you've been through, I'd love for you to share some of that if you are comfortable with that.
Brad Shreve 12:58
I'm more than happy to share. I'm pretty much an open book. No, where are where Carrie Fisher had bipolar disorder, and not aware that she is an idol of mine. When she died, it was horrible. If you ever have the opportunity to see, oh, what's the name of her off to think about it, she does a one woman show and it's available on cable. And she talks about her life she talks about being raised as celebrity raised by celebrities. And also growing up with bipolar she she just is totally open. And so I learned from her because it seemed to make her life better. And the name will come to me eventually, because it's a funny name, but I can't think of it right now. So anyway, it's really hard for me to figure out where to start, because it's almost from the beginning. And I guess I could start there and go linear. You know, I was raised in a household that was nothing but tension and painful. My mom had was mentally ill. I don't know what she was ever diagnosed with. My guess is it was bipolar disorder, which they called manic depression back then. And they didn't have the medications or the knowledge that they do today. So she would they just loaded people up with valium back in the 70s. And that's pretty much all there. There wasn't much more than that. So she was either, you know, kind of knocked on her valium or she'd be off of it and and you never know what's coming next. And she and my father had I used to pray that they would divorce every night. I'm the youngest of seven kids. And every night in my bedroom. We would just sit there and listen to them downstairs. screaming at the top of their lungs, both my parents nonstop and sometimes telling lies of things that they said that we had said about the other one. And I actually learned later that my dad, I always knew my dad had his own mental issues. He just little harder to pinpoint, but to even have stayed in the relationship and acted the way he did, he had that something. And I found out just recently from my older brothers and sisters, because I'm the youngest of seven, that he had tried to kill himself, and they stopped it. And I had no clue. That was the first time it had ever really been pointed out to me that Yeah, there he had serious, serious problems. So that was the environment I grew up in. And so it's, it's an environment where talk about being authentic. In my household, you didn't talk about things. You didn't share things. You didn't tell other people what was going on. It just wasn't allowed. I mean, I remember when my mom died, I asked my, my brother and my dad were there. And I said, you know, what, what's our next step? If she dies? And they were furious that I would even ask the question, because it was too emotionally, you know, you couldn't touch on anything that had to do with emotion or, or being real. And so that was the environment I grew up in. And so I know, like, I think everybody says, they kind of feel out of place when they're growing up. But I, I just slipped in this bubble where I felt I was observing the world, and wasn't always able to participate. And, you know, as, as far as being gay goes, I knew so young that I was gay. I remember, my oldest sister was, I think, 15 When I was born, so I remember his earliest 10, and probably earlier than that, lusting after her boyfriends. And I knew at that age of his lust, and I knew it was wrong. So I, you know, I couldn't share anything about it. And, and over the years, she, she dated some pretty hot guy. So it was both a pleasure and a curse at the same time, I guess you could say.
And that's kind of, you know, I, eventually, my dad got a promotion, we I grew up in Michigan, and eventually my dad got a promotion, we moved to North Carolina. And at that stage, it was just my older brother and I that the rest had graduated and stayed back to Michigan. And so then things got even worse, because not only was I in a family, where you didn't talk about things, I was in a part of the country, where you didn't talk about things. And you didn't, you had to keep your, your, your you couldn't be yourself. And I certainly couldn't be openly gay.
Coach Maddox 18:18
So and I would think the fact that five of you were now out of the house that left you and your brother without a lot of buffers around you. Now, when you're seven kids all in the house, you can kind of hide in the crowd a little bit, I would think. But when it just became the two of you, it was harder to stay out of the way.
Brad Shreve 18:39
Yes, it was. And I gotta tell you to talk about sibling rivalry. My brother and I didn't have sibling rivalry. We just wised each other at that age, and just just so it was even worse that I couldn't even turn to Him. And we didn't we I I don't know. I mean, we had a bunk bed. We shared bedrooms up until I was probably 14. And I don't think to this day, he and I have ever talked about what it was like growing up there. I have with my other brothers and sisters. Don't think he and I have another now they think about that. It's kind of sad.
Coach Maddox 19:21
So what was going on inside of you? And in this environment? What were you What were you experiencing on an internal level?
Brad Shreve 19:30
A whole lot of sadness. Even though I'm bipolar, you have bipolar one and bipolar two and I have bipolar two, which is where you lean more towards the depressive side. And that's where I was most of the time with with burst of mania. And I was always searching for something. And the interesting thing is when there were seven in the house Seven of us in the household. There wasn't a whole lot of money. My dad was a junior executive and, and doesn't matter how much you make if you have seven kids, you probably don't have a whole lot of money. And by the time I was just my brother and I, and I was just such a miserable kid that would go into these outbursts and yell and scream, just like the household I was in. My dad's way of fixing it was to give me anything I wanted. I was spoiled rotten, I wanted to I wanted a motorcycle gotten more sick, I wanted a horse, I got a horse. I wanted specific furniture from my bedroom, I got it. And it's people think, Wow, you were so lucky. But really, it in the long run that hurt. It wasn't. First of all, it wasn't the way to handle the issue. He kept thinking if he shot me, it would make me happy. And his frustration was he never knew how he was going to make me happy. Never realizing that being in that household was very much a part of, of my unhappiness. And again, as I said, having a mental illness, it would have, I would have been in a bad state anyway, but matters were made worse that way. So I, I was always sad. always felt no one liked me. No matter how many friends I had. No one liked me. I was president, the senior class. And no one liked me. Everybody hated me. And that still is it took a long, long time to get past that. I mean, I ran for senior class president gets some of the what I would call the cool kids. And I won by significant margin. Yet everybody hated me.
Coach Maddox 21:54
And think that people actually hated you, or do you think that's the way you perceived?
Brad Shreve 21:59
Oh, that was my perception. That was my perception. I wouldn't have had the connections or the things that I did Had that been true. I didn't participate in a lot of things. Because, you know, when people would have little parties, sometimes I would be invited most of the time nada. And I don't know why. Other than I was off, whatever. That may mean, I was awkward. So there were times I was left out. But there I also had a very close knit group of friends that we loved each other. That they were straight guys. My first experience was with sex was with a close friend in high school. And but he wasn't part of that original group that I had hung out with most of the time. So it's a little of both I guess I should say. And even within my that clique I had I was always the the you know, when you watch movies, like let's say stand by me, there's always the the weird kid that's they still keep in the group. That was me.
Coach Maddox 23:16
Yeah, I think that there's a lot of us that identify with that weird kid that they kept kept in the group. You know, even if we weren't the weird, weird kid, we all there. So a high percentage of is that believe we were the weird kid, or we feared that we were the word weird kid.
Brad Shreve 23:32
Exactly. Exactly. And you know, in high school, a lot of challenge I had was, you know, I never had, I never had dates. I never there were times I would try to take a girl to a party and would be rejected or she wouldn't show up. And the funny thing is, is my senior year, I was 18, the entire year, because the year I was born, there were it was it was 1963. And it was a boom year, so they had to cut people off. So I started school year later. And so my whole senior year, I was 18 years old, and I was in the the adult bookstores in the video P arcades, to having sex all the time. And I'm I told my a friend of mine a few years ago, I said, you know, back in high school, I think you guys even thought I was a virgin. And I gotta tell you, I was having sex 10 times more than you were. He'd been overlap and he thought it was funny when I explained it to him, but you know, there was always that double side of my life. There was the in school. I was beloved by the teachers. There again, like I told you, my dad gave things to me. People always took care of me. One way or another because they thought I was just a good guy. I never got in trouble. Even though I was really, really bad kid, I never got caught. Because I was smart. I never understood the bad kids, like, You're so stupid, you're getting caught, because everyone, everybody knows you're a bad kid, I get away with everything. And that was actually one of my proud. One of the things I was proud of is that I, I was very close to the school, my school teachers and the office staff. And I would even go to the bars with my teachers and go dancing. And the principal, the high school would call me out of geometry class very frequently just to sit and talk in his office. And unfortunately, it failed geometry, the result of that, which, I don't know if I care that much, I really hated geometry. But so I had those, I guess I had more adult connections. Because I think people knew something was wrong. And I felt I felt much more much closer to adults like my teachers than I did with the other students. But I can't say I was totally isolated from the students either. But it was much more comfortable with the adults. I felt I was tolerated by the other students.
Coach Maddox 26:29
Yes, I can certainly relate to that. You said something a little ways back there that I kind of want to revisit and ask about. You said, Wow, I just lost my train of thought it was right on the tip of my tongue, and then it just went. It's gone.
Brad Shreve 26:55
I'm so and I dumped so much in such a short amount of time, I have no idea I couldn't help you.
Coach Maddox 27:01
Well, it'll either come back or it won't. So where did life go from there?
Brad Shreve 27:09
Well, after I graduated, I played with college a little bit. And then I started working and started making money. And so I didn't finish college I was enjoying, even though a small amount. At that time, it was a lot of money to me. And I was drunk a lot. I was drunk through actually, that's, that actually is the one thing that made me get attention popular in high school is I was drunk almost every weekend, I was a blackout drinker. And I drove all the time. So it could very easily be true that if I had ever run over somebody, I wouldn't know it to this day. And that continued after after I graduated. But I, I lost my friends, they moved away, or I just lost touch with them. And there were gay bars in town. But I wouldn't have been able to tell you where they were. And so I was I was even more lonely. I had maybe one or two friends and and I wouldn't even say they were fulfilling friendships. They just happen to be people that were there. So
Coach Maddox 28:30
what kept you from coming out?
Brad Shreve 28:35
Pure fear of being rejected, being rejected. And as I said, because it's wrong, you know, in my family. It's a secret. And in, in my family, you kept secrets. And like I said, in the south at that time, you kept secrets, more so than other parts of the country. And I've talked, I'd say that's probably still true today. I was just terrified at the idea I tried many times, tried many times. And I ended up in the hotel industry, working for a few years at a hotel in North Carolina, and I wanted to get away to the big city. I wanted to get to see if maybe I could come out. So I had looked at transferring to Atlanta, Boston, Washington, DC, Chicago, and thinking if I moved away, things would get better. In a we call that a geographic because you think all your problems will be left behind that relation, the problems are you
Coach Maddox 29:38
and that saying no matter where you go, there you are.
Brad Shreve 29:42
Exactly, exactly. But I also thought if I moved away I could possibly come out. And the funny thing is out of all those places that I looked at where it would have been easy. I wound up in Omaha, Nebraska of all places. And that is only because it was an easy transfer for me. with my, with my company. And so here I was wanting to come out and I ended up in Nebraska. And boy was I lonely there and felt even more out of place. I, I did very well with the company I worked for I became a trainer. And actually, one of my trainees I don't know, if I it's right to say I could say I fell in love with her. I definitely loved her. And situation happened where both of us had a bad living environment and had to move and we at the exact same time. So we moved in together very soon after meeting each other. And we eventually got married. And it's really, people asked me to explain it, and I can't be but we had an incredible sexual life. And I am not bisexual. I am I am a gay man. But I guess when it comes down to it, it felt good. And but during that time, if you had some sexy women and some sexy men standing in, we all have our own definition of sexy. But if you had some sexy women and some sexy men standing next to each other, I wouldn't even notice the women. And well, you know, when I don't like when people say you don't have, they don't have a type, when it comes to somebody they're attracted to. Because I think we all have a type. It doesn't mean that we're not open to other things. But if you had a group of people, and you look, somebody's going to grab your attention more than others. And I tend to be more attracted to the black men. And my wife and I a few times when did porn videos today, they were all videos at that time, they weren't. There was no internet. And I always rented videos with black men. And she asked me, she asked me one day, why do you always get videos with black minute? And I can't remember the answer I gave her that. She said that. I guess that makes sense. So, you know I was you can only imagine how conflicted I was with with that going on in my life that. And what it really came down to at that point is, the way I survived was by believing that being gay was all about sex. And as long as I thought it was just about sex, then I could be okay. I could continue the relationship, we had a good relationship, we were good friends. After our divorce, we had some falling out not because of the divorce. That happened later. But we stayed friends after after separating and in. So I did love her and actually, to a degree, I still love her today, even though she wants nothing to do with me. So then, and again, my my drinking reduced. But she was a heavy drinker as well. And so when I say my drinking reduced, I was either not drinking or I was drinking a lot. Leon like and that's why a lot of alcoholics can convince themselves. They're not alcoholics, because they can go a month or two without drinking. See, I'm not an alcoholic. But the problem is once to pick up a beer or a drink. You can't stop at one. And we both seem to have that problem. Eventually, and during this whole time again, I was living to living a lie. At the same time. There was more to it than that. And that was where the bipolar was it I just couldn't connect. I didn't feel a part of the world. And I didn't. I remember actually one time, she said, You know, sometimes it seems like you have monthly cycles, like I do. Like, like you're going on period. And I didn't. I said you know what? You're right. And I don't know why that is because I would have those ups and downs and roller coaster rides and, and we didn't know what it was. She just thought it was interesting. And I said, Yeah, you're right. It's interesting perspective. But I think you're right. I do have that. I don't know why.
So we did it. As I said, we did end up getting married and we had a daughter after three years. I believe it was after three years.
Coach Maddox 34:51
Brad, did she always know that you had an interest in men?
Brad Shreve 34:54
No. She had no idea. None whatsoever.
Coach Maddox 34:58
Well, but you said I'm in to go that she wanted to know why all the videos that you checked out had black men in them.
Brad Shreve 35:05
Yeah, but she didn't make the connection. That is because I was attracted to the black men.
Coach Maddox 35:10
Oh, you are watching heterosexual pornography. Yeah, I happen to have a black man that got it.
Brad Shreve 35:18
Exactly. Yeah. Sorry, I didn't make that clear. Yes, these these were straight porn. Almost exclusively black men with white women. And you know what, after we after I came out to her, she said there was so many signs that she should have seen. It fact I told her, I said, you know, probably in the future, if you ever meet a guy, you're going to be worried that you'll end up in the same situation. So I'm going to tell you the secret. Look at his eyes and look where they're looking. And you'll have your answer.
Coach Maddox 35:53
There's some truth to that.
Brad Shreve 35:55
Had you been seen where my eyes were looking? When we were walking through the malls or walking down the street? Or whatever you would have? No, you will not you would have known who I was checking out?
Coach Maddox 36:04
Well, and you know, I think that I saw this with my parents. I saw this. I've seen this a lot. I think that even when the signs are they and even if they notice the signs, there's this whole thing that we do called denial. You know, we don't want to know the truth. We turn our head the other way. There's red flags flying all over the place. And we turn our head the other way. For me. I was married for about three years way back there and talk about denial. I mean, shortly before I got married, we were driving down the street and a car one day and I pulled over to the side of the road and said I need to sell you something and she said what's that I said I have homosexual tendencies. And her response was, I love you. We'll figure it out.
Brad Shreve 36:52
Wow. You know what, what possessed you at that moment to do that? You know,
Coach Maddox 36:57
I think that I was just feeling
Brad Shreve 37:04
I was feeling deceitful.
Coach Maddox 37:07
And I didn't want that to be the case. And so I told her, she knew she chose to marry me anyway. I had extra marital activities through most of the marriage, and she was aware of all of it. I never lied. I never lied. Wow. Yeah, it was a very weird, weird situation. And she would have stayed married to me, it was me that pulled the plug one day, it just I just got to the point where I couldn't do it any longer. But I think she would have stayed married to me for the duration in spite of that.
Brad Shreve 37:50
And that's the exact opposite experience. I had I when I came out to my wife i i brought up you know, could we make this work? No. Have some kind of open situation? And she was like, No, we need to be true to who we are. And the amazing thing she said is you know, our daughter is going to know her dad's gay. From from this moment on, she will know that because if we want her to love who she is, and respect who she is, we have to respect who we are. And that was pretty amazing.
Coach Maddox 38:25
That she's pretty smart. She's pretty spot on. Yeah,
Brad Shreve 38:29
yep. And so my daughter's always gonna do you a favor. She actually did you a favor. Yeah. And actually what's even more interesting right after I came out to her as we were seeing the lawyers to work out a an amicable divorce. She went with i We lived in Las Vegas at the time and they had a huge National Coming Out Day festival. And she came with me with my daughter because she thought was important that I'd be there. Wow. Yeah,
Coach Maddox 38:59
she was definitely a woman before her time. Yes,
Brad Shreve 39:03
she was she was not to say that she wasn't hurt obviously she was in your she said to me when one day she asked she said you know you cuz she she was pretty really promiscuous when she was younger. And she said, you know, you talk we I know you have lots of sex. Before we met. Were they mostly men or women? In a small degree, I regret telling the truth. But I doubt I said, mostly men. And that was the only time that she got angry. She said you should have known. You should have known and you shouldn't have put us through that. Well,
Coach Maddox 39:47
you know, what people don't realize is that we do know, but we're in our own sense of denial. And where we're not thinking about what we're doing to others, we're so caught up in our own quagmire that we're not, I wish I could say that we're real aware of how our actions are affecting others. But we're so deep in our our pit of despair and hiding and living the lie that we were not I, in my experience, we're not really aware of what we're putting others through.
Brad Shreve 40:23
No, no. I actually thought it was a charade, I would be able to keep up the rest of my life. And I remember when we decided to have a daughter, it was a choice. And I remember when she did the, the pregnancy test. We were in the bedroom, and she did the test. And she was excited. And I was excited. And then she got a call an emergency at work, and she had to leave immediately. And I remember where she went out the front door, and I just collapsed on the bed. And I thought, Oh, my God, my life has changed forever. And I also knew at that moment, and don't get me wrong, I love and adore my daughter. But at that moment, I was thinking, I'm now really trapped. I'll never be able to come out. Yeah, I'm stuck.
Coach Maddox 41:18
I can see that. That makes sense to me.
Brad Shreve 41:21
Yeah, it was. It was. It was wonderful and terrifying at the same time. Wonderful that I knew I was going to have a kid in terrifying that. What that meant that I would never be true to who I am. I would always have to keep it hidden.
Coach Maddox 41:36
Yeah. Yeah, there'd be a dark moment.
Brad Shreve 41:40
Yes. And I'll tell you what you talk, you said the deceit is what got you, I'll tell you what made me finally come out of the closet. We lived in Las Vegas at the time. And I was going to the gay and lesbian center there. And right now they have a beautiful facility. But at that time, it was a shack. But they weren't lucky enough to get a grant that they had a a therapist on staff for a year. And so I would go see him and talk to him. And that was helpful. And he had me join a gay men's group, which was huge. And she had no idea I was going to these meetings, I think she thought I was working late. I don't know what my excuses were. But there were a lot of men that were in their 80s. And they talked about they waited to their wives died before they came out. And was very sad to me. But I still kind of kept telling myself as long as it's just a sec, I don't have to come out. And the big event was she went back to Nebraska to visit family one weekend. And it happened to be the same weekend, a guy I knew from when I lived in Phoenix, was in town for a Bowling Tournament. And he took me out and went to bars and clubs. And you know, I was can't be in. I was I felt so alive. That when the weekend was over, I had learned it was a lot more than just sex to be a gay man. And I knew I could never go back. I knew there was no way to go back.
Coach Maddox 43:36
I think that we often justify you know, I can look back in my own life. And as long as it was just sex, I could say I'm not gay. This is just kind of some sex thing that I do. On the side, I'm not gay. But the day that I actually experienced feelings for another man was the day I went, Oh, shit. I'm gay. I was able to completely justified away as long as it was just sex. And I wonder how many of us do that? How many of us justified away because it's just sex. But there was no denying, you know, when I met a guy that I suddenly felt feelings for. It all came crumbling down around me. You know, in that moment, it was like I can't I can't deny any longer I'm I'm gay. And that was that was what really was the beginning of the end of my charade.
Brad Shreve 44:39
Yeah. I can connect with that. Definitely. What's interesting though, is after I came out, you would think my life would have got better and that's actually when it spiraled out of control. Just it took a massive dive. She asked if she could move you Don't she had to have permission to take my daughter out of state? And she asked if she I've mind if she moved back to Nebraska with my daughter. And I said, Yeah, we're in Las Vegas. I don't want her to grow up as a show girl, get her out. I was not fun to that city. And I've lived all over the country. And that was one of the two cities I can stand. And the therapists that I've seen at the gay and lesbian center, he said, You need to be careful, because a lot of married men when they come out, it's like a kid in a candy store.
Coach Maddox 45:34
A lot. I would decide the vast majority. Yes. In fact, I don't know that I've ever met a man who came out later in life that didn't do the kid in a candy store thing you you experienced, you didn't get to experience adolescence, the way you would have normally gotten to experience adolescence, you bypass that you were hiding, you were blocking you were in denial. And then at that later time in life, you come out and all of a sudden you got to go through adolescence, because you never did back there. Yep. Yeah. And it's crazy as bad shit.
Brad Shreve 46:11
Yep. And, of course, I did not heed his advice. And he was he was an age counselor, I actually hit when he left the gates, the gay and lesbian center, he was able to get a job as a HIV and AIDS counselor. And that was his biggest concern that and
Coach Maddox 46:30
I think it's a rite of passage. I mean, I know he meant well, yes. But it's a rite of passage. Yes. It's not something you can bite and sidestep or or, yeah, I don't know, I kind of think it's, it's part of going through adolescence, and doesn't matter if you're 35 or 65. Suddenly, there it is, right in front of you. And there's, you know,
Brad Shreve 47:00
yeah. Yeah. And it's, it's a well, like I said, his biggest concern was that I would catch HIV. And what's it was a legitimate concern, because I will tell you, I rarely had safe sex very rarely. I moved to California, I lived about 80 miles outside of San Francisco, and I was going in city all the time and hitting the baths. And I will say right up front, right now I am HIV negative. Pure luck, pure luck. I don't know how that happened. But I lived in a small town. And I rented a house from this guy who had two jobs. So sometimes he would be in the house living with me, and other times he wouldn't. And when he would be in the house, those occasional times, he would watch the revolving door in my bedroom, because it was not uncommon for me to have three men over one night, you know, because I was so searching, I was so empty, that as soon as somebody came over, and we were done, and he left, that hole came back. And I had to fill it again.
Coach Maddox 48:12
I have to ask Brad, what? And this may be what I was thinking back there a minute ago, when I lost my train of thought, What do you think you were searching for? I mean, if you really, really go down into it, what do you think you were searching for?
Brad Shreve 48:31
belonging. I wanted to feel like I belonged. I wanted to feel air quotes normal. Not necessarily at that point having to come out normal being straight and normal in the sense that I just knew that there was something wrong. So I think just feeling a part of the world. Yeah. And I mentioned earlier being in a bubble, and as I was getting sober, a friend of mine said, he said, You know, I, I don't understand this whole alcoholism thing. I drink a lot, but I'm not an alcoholic. And he's, I don't believe he is. He's, it's like a party, or did when he was younger. And I said, Well, you know, have you ever gone to a party? And you felt like you were in a bubble and you weren't part of the party? You felt like it was kind of going on around you? He said, Yeah, I think everybody experiences that from time to time.
Coach Maddox 49:34
I call it on the outside looking in.
Brad Shreve 49:37
Yeah. And I said, Well, you experienced that. I live that. That is my life. And he was like, wow, that makes sense. And that was what I want. I wanted to get out of that bubble. And be a part of the world.
Coach Maddox 49:57
So you that was what you were seeking you'd identified that that sense of belonging? Yes. Did you find it?
Brad Shreve 50:04
It took a lot of I went through a lot of shit to get there. Things got worse. You know, the alcohol got worse the cocaine came into my life and then oh lord have mercy meth came into my life, which is actually a blessing because I probably could have been a functioning alcoholic the rest of my life. But meth, threw me up over its head spun me around and slammed me down on the ground. And that's what made me realize I have to get clean.
Coach Maddox 50:36
Well, that may have been your saving grace, actually, the fact that it spun you around and slung you down on the ground. Exactly. You might have had been for that experience, you might have never, ever had the inspiration to get sober.
Brad Shreve 50:50
Exactly. But actually, what's funny is after I got sober, things continued to get worse. My friends that I was in recovery house with their lives, were all getting better. And I became homeless. I didn't understand why my life was not getting better. I did eventually get a job, I worked as a barista and I eventually became a manager of a coffee shop, which is a far cry from have an executive position like I used to have. And then I met my husband, which was horrible, nightmarish relationship before him, it was abusive. And our first night together was just It was miraculous. Just we it was just an amazing evening. And I swore I was not going to get a relationship. I was just going to date guys. And I did that I met a few guys hard to find people that just want to date. They didn't want to just fuck or they just want to be friends. It's hard to find somebody in the middle. And so I did find a few. But since I met him, I knew it was over this is it. And he loved me so much that as he saw me spiraling downward, he stayed there for me. I mean, I was at my worst earliest in our relationship. And I said, I can't imagine anybody staying in a relationship that early with somebody that was such a mess.
Coach Maddox 52:19
Was the spiral down the bipolar issue? Yes, it
Brad Shreve 52:22
was. Yes, it was, I just continued to get worse and worse. At one point, I was in a mental hospital, I was in Cedars Sinai mental health Ward for 10 days. That was before I met him. And I just stopped showing up at work one day just stopped, you know, I manage the store I am and then I got so I couldn't leave the house. Or if I did go to leave the house, I'd go into a supermarket and come running out screaming because every box and every light and every voice and every sound was shouting at me at the same time and I couldn't take it I'd run out the door. And I eventually became agoraphobic. I couldn't communicate the only way he and I could really be close was on the computer he would be in the living room I would be on my computer in the bedroom. And I don't know if you're familiar with Second Life, it's a virtual world you can be whatever you want and and do whatever you want in this virtual world and we would communicate through there and we would go dancing and dance clubs in a virtual world and you know, sometimes I I wore skin than I was a stocky guy. Sometimes I was a hedgehog and he liked to be a dragon. It was so it's such It sounds crazy. But that was the only way he could get to me because looking to me either. I couldn't take it. If people tried to talk to me it was like they were I could feel my brain. It was like, it felt like cauliflower people just ripping pieces off of it. i It's hard for me to describe. And I got the point that I couldn't take the bus because I got off the bus and I got I would get lost. We went and saw the very first Bourne movie. And that was a big mistake because all that action flashed on the screen. I had to run out of the theater and I ran into the bathroom. And when I came back out of the bathroom and tried to find the theater, I was so disheartened. I had no idea where to go. I couldn't I couldn't figure it out. And I sat down on a bench in the lobby and just cried until he came out here to find out where I was. And through all this I gotta tell you, I was trying to get help I knew from for 10 years that something was wrong with me mentally that I had some kind of mental health problem. I didn't know what it was. And there was I remember day at the LA Department of Mental Health Officer Hollywood office. I was on my hands and knees begging And to take me in. And they were so overloaded, they said, we can't help you. And as I this was going on with after I met him, I was experienced the same thing. I. And finally, he and a minister friend of ours, took me to the hospital. And she said, I'm going to go because I think they'll get him in quicker if I seven, his minister, and they took me there and said, I was suicidal. And so I was taken to the mental health ward. And I waited for a long time a doctor came and talked to me for a while. And she came back, like hours later, and she said, I'm sending you home. Because I think you're okay, and you have a support system where I don't worry, I'm not concerned you you will hurt yourself. I said, I'm not leaving. And she stepped back. And she said, what I said to you can find me somebody that I can see, when I leave this hospital, I'm not leaving. And that's exactly what I did. I waited until she made a connection with the Health Department. And that was it was about 10 years ago that I was actually a little more than that. I was diagnosed with bipolar disorder, and I'm like, Oh, my God,
Coach Maddox 56:18
thank you. And things started to change, and
Brad Shreve 56:21
things started to change. And I'm still on disability right now. You know, writing doesn't, that very few people make money off of writing. And I, you know, I love being an author, but I have opportunities, I tried to go back to college, I couldn't do it, I tried to go back to work, I couldn't do it. I just anxiety and in that sort of thing. It's always gonna be there. But it's not to the point that it's, it controls who I am. I manage it. It'll always be there, but I can manage it now.
Coach Maddox 56:55
Well, that's, that's a pretty big thing to be able to say, you know, after after all that you've been through, to be able to say with, you know, clarity that you you now manage it, it's not ideal, and you have learned to live with it and to navigate it.
Brad Shreve 57:15
Exactly. And before I was diagnosed, I couldn't do it because I didn't even know what was wrong. Yeah.
Coach Maddox 57:21
My second partner was bipolar. And it was me that figured it out. I at one point, I said, I think you need to get some help. And, and I, I didn't make him or push him because I couldn't, but I encouraged him and he did and come to find out Yes, he was he was bipolar. And it helped a lot when when he got you know, what he needed some medication and some, some counseling. And so I want to circle back to something you know, we talked about the, the seeking, the searching, that you were searching, and you were searching for belonging, I have a theory about this. And I'd like to know how this lands for you. Because I think well, it'll make more sense when I when I to tell you. I think that we we come into the world. As babies we pop out of mom's womb, fully authentic, fully expressed, babies are fully authentic and expressed. And we are for a period of time and then we start to get all kinds of messages from our environment from our families from people around us. And I had literally I you know, this term has been used by someone else in another another description of another dynamic of human behavior but I liked the term so much that I have kind of borrowed it and use it use it for what I'm talking about. The term is soul murder, we commit soul murder. Now the person that I learned this from was talking about issues around masculinity. For me, I'm talking about it I think that we we soul murder ourselves from our own authenticity. Because we get so many messages that say it's not okay to be authentic. When we're just out there as a little kid and we're just being ourselves we get all that especially those of us that are gay little boys, we get all these messages that that's not okay and so we commit this soul murder. And I think that most of humanity on some shape, form or fashion commits some murder. We we sever ourselves from our authentic self, because of the all of the messages that we got. And then comes the seeking. And we spend for some of us our entire life seeking and never finding there are people that will live out their life and die without ever find They knew what they were seeking. And most of us don't know what we're seeking, you at least knew that you were seeking a sense of belonging. Now, what came up for me was, well, belonging and authenticity, go hand in hand, you can't really have a sense of belonging until you have moved into that authentic self. Because when we're operating from the social masks, and we're not authentic, we don't have true connection, we don't have true connection, we don't have a sense of belonging. So those two go hand in hand, to feel that sense of belonging, you have to go into a level of vulnerability and authenticity. And then you feel that sense of belonging. How is this landing for you?
Brad Shreve 1:00:50
Well, first of all, when you first said that were born authentic, I was, I stopped, I thought, is that really true? And, and something really clicked immediately that I never have given much thought to. And I know my mom said to me, at least twice. She said, You were the happiest baby I've ever seen. In my life. You were the happiest baby. I don't know what happened. Well,
Coach Maddox 1:01:15
babies don't monitor their actions. They don't stop and think, oh, I shouldn't do that. That won't be acceptable. When they're happy, they cry when they're, when they're when they're happy. They laugh when they're sad. They cry when they're angry. They have tantrums. They don't temperate or are dumb it down. Or it's unfiltered. And that is, how could it get more authentic than that? Exactly. Yeah. And hence why your mom told you you were the happiest baby she'd ever seen. Until soul murder took place.
Brad Shreve 1:01:48
Yep. The it, you really need to hit the nail on the head there. Absolutely. And I want to speak on one thing that you said about people searching their whole lives and never finding what they're searching for. When I lived in North Carolina, I had a friend who was the ex wife of the president of one of the big three TV networks. And so she had a lot of friends that were celebrities, big celebrities. Even in here she was living in North Carolina had married into a traditional because she loved the the guy with the network and lived in a traditional middle class home with an ad and but she still stayed in contact with all the celebrities. And I asked her one day I said, Why do you think so many celebrities burn out and die or kill themselves? And she said, that's easy. Because they get to where they think is the top. And they think is this all there is this is as good as it gets. Because they haven't really filled. They have stuff and they have status, and they have money. But they don't have what they need inside. And you know, whatever that may be.
Coach Maddox 1:03:07
It's interesting that you say that Brad I experienced that exact thing except for it didn't have anything to do with celebrity. i It was what midlife crisis looked like for me. I can remember clearly one day somewhere in my 40s all of my life, I had really believed right around the next corner, life was going to be fabulous. All of my dreams and all of my desires were right around the next corner and I had waited around and you know, and waited and just was patient and believe that it was right around the next corner and finally some at some point in my 40s I realized there is no corner there is nothing around the corner. There is nothing coming. It was this. And it was the exact words that you said, Is this all there is. I mean, like is this yet? Is this all there is? And I remember taking just a nosedive just going, Oh my God. You know, it was devastating to think that what I clung to all of my life was going to be so great right around that next corner and realizing that next technic great thing around the corner never was going to come. Yeah. And it was devastating.
Brad Shreve 1:04:28
But the beautiful thing about
Coach Maddox 1:04:29
it was as soon as I got through the devastation, I realized, well if this is all there is then maybe I need to like pay attention to what is maybe maybe if life is not going to be fabulous around the corner that I need to figure out how to make life fabulous right here where it is. It was this phoenix from the rising there was this death this death of this dream you know Know that there was going to be something great around the next corner. But then there was this birth of you've been in it all along, and you missed it because you were expecting it to be around the next corner. Yeah, yep. And so I think what you're saying is spot on, I think that there are so many of us that have sought. And, and the seeking looks like if we get the right relationship, if we get the right title with the right bank role, the, if we get the big house or the fancy car, it can look a lot of different ways when we've written that great big novel, or when we were seeking all this stuff, and it's a hole that can't be filled externally. It has to be filled internally. And what we're seeking is to reconnect with our most authentic self that we severed ourselves from as children. Yes, yeah. I firmly believe that
Brad Shreve 1:06:02
the the joy and the happiness I feel today, being a published author, and having a podcast that I'd love to do, and having the most incredible marriage that people would kill, to have the relationship my husband and I have, I'm not happy because of those things. I have those things because I finally learned to stop looking outside myself.
Coach Maddox 1:06:27
Yes. And when you did that you step more fully into your authentic self. Absolutely. And it was that authenticity that you stepped into, that suddenly allowed you to connect with others on a manner that made you feel a sense of belonging.
Brad Shreve 1:06:44
Coach Maddox 1:06:45
I mean, it's not rocket science. It's just things that we don't talk about that we need to talk about. Exactly.
Brad Shreve 1:06:55
It's, it's amazing for me to go out to dinner with friends. And I don't even realize till later that I didn't feel isolated from the restroom. I was connected, I was a part of it, I was, I was an active participant in what we were doing.
Coach Maddox 1:07:13
Well, and the key word there is active participant, because I can look back in the times when I was on the outside looking in. I didn't feel a sense of belonging. I wasn't actively participating. I was doing things that was literally that was generating the problem, I was responsible, I was the source of it, of my own lack of belonging. And when I could take responsibility for that, then I had the power to change it. But when we're living from a place of victimhood, like life is keeping us on the outside looking in life is not allowing us to be part of the belonging. We don't have any, any control
Brad Shreve 1:07:58
at all. Exactly, exactly. It is prospective. And it's it, I wish I could say you just need to change your perspective, because it's not that easy. It's a it's it's work takes a lot of work.
Coach Maddox 1:08:12
It is work. But you're right, we do need to see things from a different vantage point. That's one of the first things it is work, but it has to happen. Inside. There's no fixing things in the external world. That's that's band aids, that was what we call band aids are treating the symptom. And you have to treat the cause. And the cause is always going to be in the internal world.
Brad Shreve 1:08:37
You know, I started, when we very first started this show, I said, you know, a lot of people would look at my life and say, well, his life really sucked. And it did in many ways. But it would be really easy for me to wallow in that. But instead, I look back at my life because there were so many ups and downs and I think I remember sitting on the front of a sailboat, drinking mimosas and eating muffins off of St. John. And I also remember sleeping on the park bench at the end of the Santa Monica Pier. How many people can say they experienced that one lifetime? Both of those. And I'm pretty cool with that. Because it's all a part of who I am.
Coach Maddox 1:09:21
That's powerful. Brad That's very powerful. So Brad, what in all of this life experience you know from the from the sailboat to the park bench. What would you like to share with the listener? What are your words of wisdom in all that you have experienced that you'd like to briefly and concisely sum it up for the listener? What would you like to leave them with?
Brad Shreve 1:09:51
Oh my god. How can I say this succinctly I I think you need to search for what is going to fill that hole in you. But don't search for it in things. Because that's not where you'll find it. Don't search for it and status. Maybe it's the same for all of us. Maybe it's different. But but you're I don't know whether it's for me, I started going to church, it's a Unitarian Church. I don't know if you're familiar with it extremely liberal church. I'm not i Yes, I'm an atheist, and I still go to church. If that doesn't make sense to you out there, look it up. But that was part of my introspection to learn to, to look within myself and part of being Unitarians to the continuous search for meaning in life. And
Coach Maddox 1:10:54
well, in use, you said the words look within, I kind of want to keep driving that home, you know, if anybody out there, there's a Star Trek fan, you know, it was to boldly go where no man has gone before the final frontier space? Well, in my world, my belief system, the final frontier is not outside of us, the final frontier is inside of us. That is to boldly go where few men have gone is deep within.
Brad Shreve 1:11:25
And the interesting thing about Star Trek is I don't know if this was the intent. But if you watch Star Trek, that really is each episode, you can see that really is what it was about.
Coach Maddox 1:11:36
Yes. That, you know, good, good science fiction is about addressing our core social issues.
Brad Shreve 1:11:48
So that's, that's my answer, just stop. I don't know if it means going to church or going to therapy or going. There's so many ways. In the 70s, everybody was reading self help books, and I don't think that helped anybody, but at least they were looking within to find something other than out there.
Coach Maddox 1:12:10
I would say that what I just heard without you necessarily saying it was go with and that's where you're going to find where whatever it is you're looking for. Yes, well, it's going to be found within however you want to label it, you know, whether it was belonging or authenticity or whatever, however you want to label it. It's going to be found inside of you. Beautiful, beautiful, Brad, I really appreciate that. So and I know that the listeners do too. What a great message. Let's wrap it up and let's move into our because we need to we need to be conscious of time here. We've gone a little bit longer than I normally do. Let's do our rapid fire questions. Are you ready for the rapid fire question?
Brad Shreve 1:12:53
I guess I am.
Coach Maddox 1:12:55
And there's no right or wrong answer. Just it's there's your answer. First one, when is the last time that you apologize to someone? Yesterday beautiful. What is your superpower?
Brad Shreve 1:13:19
Oh my to be able to laugh at myself. Oh,
Coach Maddox 1:13:27
I love that. And final question. What matters most to you and why?
Brad Shreve 1:13:41
What matters most to me is I guess the golden rule that no matter how I may be treated. I treat the other person with respect and dignity up to the point that you can and
be authentic to who I am and not let them drag me down. And I The why is I think that's important to this part of being authentic is staying who you are. And because once you once you realize who you are you still have to fight to to remember that. It has never gone away.
Coach Maddox 1:14:23
Yes. Beautiful. Love it. Absolutely love it.
Brad Shreve 1:14:27
And and Can I say one thing? Absolutely. Okay. I brought that Carrie Fisher show is called Wishful Drinking. Wishful Drinking. Yes. And you can usually find it on Netflix or what? Amazon Prime whatever. Watch it. She's wonderful.
Coach Maddox 1:14:45
Yeah. Thank you for that. Brad, it has been absolutely a delight to have you on the show. Thank you so much for sharing your heartfelt story.
Brad Shreve 1:14:55
Well, thank you. It was very cathartic. I was like I said I started I was in there. Listen and it feels good
Coach Maddox 1:15:01
thank you I'm glad thank you thank you
Mystery Author & Host of Queer Writers of Crime Podcast
Brad Shreve is the author of the Mitch O'Reilly Mystery series, and the producer and host of Queer Writers of Crime podcast, which features interviews with LGBTQ authors of mystery, suspense, and thriller novels.
Brad pulled away from his life of alcohol, drug abuse, and domestic violence and has been sober since 2003. He didn't understand why his life continued to get worse while his other sober friend's lives improved. Ten years later he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder which he considers one of the best days of his life. It was the first time he looked back on his life, and it all made sense.
He now lives in the California High Desert with Maurice, his husband of 14 years.