Sept. 27, 2022

Paul J Williams unpacks layers of reasons behind secret substance addiction

Paul J Williams tells a story about how he tried alcohol, pot, cocaine, and ecstasy.  Each was not his thing and he walked away.  But, a perfect storm presented itself the first time he used crystal meth, while engaging is sex.  In that moment it calmed his shame of being gay, gay sex, being sexually abused, and his fear of being inadequate.  This went on for years until the final play of the perfect storm was an attempted suicide.  Clean and sober since 2015, Paul's story of what his life is like now is interesting and inspiring.  I suspect many will relate to some aspects of his journey.

Paul's Profile
Paul's Website
Paul's YouTube Channel
Book: The Velvet Rage

Be a Guest
Follow on Facebook
Maddox's Links
Mailing List Signup
Rate & Review


Coach Maddox  0:03  
Hello, Paul J Williams, and welcome to The Authentic Gay Man Podcast. I'm excited to have this time with you and to hear your story.

Paul J Williams  0:11  
Thanks very much. I'm glad to be here. 

Coach Maddox  0:14  
Well, so to let the audience know how Paul and I know each other, we met in 1991. Soon to be 32 years ago, I had just moved to Dallas from Austin. And I auditioned and got into the Turtle Creek Chorale. And if you've never heard of that, or don't know, that is a globally recognized men's Gay Men's Chorus that has been around since the baby Jesus. And what is it? Probably 35 years now maybe?

Paul J Williams  0:43  
It started in 1980, or 81. So it's been over fourty years. 

Coach Maddox  0:51  
And it's been 40 years now. Yeah, I was only in for three years. But it was a magical experience. And I got to sing on five of the CDs and the stage at Carnegie Hall, my 15 minutes of Andy Warhol fame.

Paul J Williams  1:07  
And you got to do it in New York City.

Coach Maddox  1:09  
Did what a magical trip that was I still talk about that every once in a while. It was great. So Paul, tell me, how would you define what it means to be an authentic gay man.

Paul J Williams  1:23  
I love this word authentic. And I believe I've said to you privately before, it automatically brings to mind the book, The Velvet rage, which was given to me many years ago, and that I've highly recommended to other people. And the whole book breaks down the three levels of authenticity in a gay man's life, you know, the first level of just being so completely in the closet and afraid and you know, and then the second level being out, but not being comfortable with who you are. And so you're having to hide behind money and things and, and whatever. And then the third level is being fully comfortable in who you are, and not feeling like you have to put on a facade. So I believe there that authentic, can fall all along that spectrum. You are as authentic as you can be at that point in your life. But I think the ultimate goal is to be completely you without fear of who you are, or anything about yourself. 

Coach Maddox  2:39  
I love that, that's beautiful. And I read that book some years ago, but I don't recall that with the clarity that you do. And I love those three levels, it's going to actually make me dig the book out. Go back through some of that, because authenticity is what my platform is completely centered around. And you know, the way you you talked about number two being out but not fully being comfortable with who you are. And I I realized when you said that, that that can mean that you're not comfortable with the straight world about who you are. But it can also mean that you're not comfortable with other gay people. That was my story.

Paul J Williams  3:21  
Yeah. Or you're not, you're not comfortable with your station in life. And so in order to feel more accepted, you overcompensate in some way or another, you overcompensate with your how you look and you're working out, you overcompensate with things you overcompensate with money, you know, trying to grab the attention of others for something that you may or may not truly have, ie you may or may not truly be authentic. Getting to that third level is, you know, this is me. I make X amount of money this every year and and I drive a Toyota, you know, whatever you're you're authentically being yourself and not having to put on something to impress people. Well,

Coach Maddox  4:21  
a net putting something on to impress people is something our community really, really suffers from in a big way. I think that's that's pretty prominent out there. In my experience.

Paul J Williams  4:34  
Well, you know, of course, some of us really do have stuff to impress others and we don't have to make it up.

Coach Maddox  4:41  
I love it. I love it. Okay, love your definition. Thank you for that. It's been so interesting hearing all the different ways that men express that and they're all right, you know, every single one of them have been spot on and yet they've been quite different. Well, they're all they're authentic. Exactly. So on to our big question of the hour. Paul, what is the biggest challenge that you have had to go through in this lifetime or are still continuing to go through?

Paul J Williams  5:15  
I, you know, it's got several layers to it, which we can get into. But I think when I look back over my life, that the turning point, for me was getting clean and sober. My awareness of having a substance abuse issue came to me very late in life. And getting through that, and getting to know myself better. And getting honest with myself, has completely changed who I am for the better. So while I'd love to be able to say, you know, addiction in general, it is so much more than that, that I defined as a big turning point in my life. It's getting from that place of darkness to the place of light where I am now. Well, and you the way

Coach Maddox  6:19  
you worded, you know, not really being aware that you had a substance issue until late in life. I'd love to unpack that and and understand what you what you mean by that, like,

Paul J Williams  6:37  

Coach Maddox  6:38  
I guess that's typical of a lot of addiction. People have a problem and they don't know they have a problem.

Paul J Williams  6:46  
Well, it really was it. When I was in high school, you know, I had that best little boy in the world syndrome. And I grew up in the Southern Baptist Church in San Antonio. And I had a very great nuclear family, and I wanted to be perfect. And in the 70s, when so many people I knew were smoking pot, I was RF FIDE, how dare you do something so vile, you know, I didn't have my first alcoholic beverage until I was 18. I never drank in high school.

Coach Maddox  7:24  
I didn't either. I was in college when I had my first alcoholic

Paul J Williams  7:27  
knowledge too. And, you know, I've heard people who have battled alcoholism, talk about the fact that from the moment they had their first drink, they began chasing that feeling of an altered state. And that wasn't my story. I drank because it was there. I drank because my friends did. I usually only drank when someone else was paying for it because I was cheap. And there were times in my life when Yes, I got a lot of drunk. But it wasn't a goal. And quite frankly, I didn't like that feeling. The next day, I always felt like I had to apologize for something. What did I say, you know? So then you move on to my early 20s. And a friend of mine said, you really should try parked. And I'm like, oh, oh, oh, no, you know?

Coach Maddox  8:33  
Not me. Oh,

Paul J Williams  8:35  
yeah. But I had could not get my hands off my curls. What I did, and I remember getting really giggly and hungry. And that was it. And I walked away going well, I don't need to do that anymore. You know, at a girlfriend's 25th birthday party. I was offered cocaine. And I was like, whatever. So I did it. Couldn't tell much difference. Didn't you know I was like, Okay, done that. New Year's Eve of 85 and 86. This was they the big ecstasy days in Dallas. And I was oh, I was upset that my friends were doing ecstasy. I don't care if it's legal or not. You're playing with your health. But I did. I took ecstasy. had a fun time. My friends referred to me as more Tisha all night, because I was taking these little baby steps all over the bar that night and chomping gum. Hi, i Hi. Where are you? Hi. Hi, you know, so that the next day my muscles hurt so bad from all of that, you know, baby steps. I was like, Well, I'm never doing that again. In, and I didn't. So see I've got this this history of saying, Well, okay, if I'm going to be against something, I better try it just so I can, you know, not be a hypocrite. And I live my life that way. And it wasn't until I was 41 years old, that a substance was offered to me that I wasn't able to walk away from. And that was crystal meth. I was living in New York City, frustrated with the way my acting career was going, realizing that I was doing more for the lawyers I was working for, than I was for my own career. And you actually the first time it was offered to me, I couldn't tell a difference. story my life. But then I decided to try it again. And it clicked. And in retrospect, now, I can say that the reason that it clicked, I believe, is because this was the only drug that I tried in conjunction with sex. And I've always had crazy issues around sex. And the drug took that way. I didn't have the shame. I didn't, I felt invincible. I didn't feel I didn't have the low self esteem. And so it became a problem. But because of my track history, with all the other substances. Even when I started having physical consequences, I still didn't think I had a problem. Because I'll, oh, I'll be able to walk away from this. Right. So it took me 13 years of often on usage to get to the point where I was like, I got a problem. So that was a long answer to a short question.

Coach Maddox  12:16  
So by the time you realize you had a problem, you were I'm thinking 53? Maybe? Yeah, yeah. Do the math. Right.

Paul J Williams  12:27  
I think that's about right. Yeah. In fact, right. I was, I was in my 50. Well, let's put it this way. I turned 54 in rehab. So yeah. Well, that's

Coach Maddox  12:44  
interesting. I've never heard anybody talk about that, the way you're talking about that, to try so many things, and once and then just got Atlanta that had my thing that did my thing.

Paul J Williams  12:56  
So I had it ingrained in my head, that I don't have an addictive personality. You know, there was no addiction in my immediate family. You know, why me? You know, and then of course, because at that point in my life, I had developed a career as a comedian and an actor and, and had lived in New York and had a modicum of success. I thought, I can't go to one of those 12 step meetings. Don't they know who I am? You know, I don't want to be recognized. You know, and I don't want to appear to have a problem. Because I gotta make sure everyone thinks my shit don't stink. Yeah, we go through that.

Coach Maddox  13:46  
Don't we find time in their place? Yeah. You know, I think that what you're describing Paul is a perfect storm. I think that when you when you stumbled across the math, and figured out almost immediately that it could quell the shame. That was the perfect storm. Sure. It was like, for the first time in your life, you had relief from something that had plagued you your whole existence? And it makes sense that it would be like a will be me. Give me more of that.

Paul J Williams  14:27  
Exactly. Exactly. You know, I mentioned that I've always had issues around sex, dare I say maybe even the sex addiction. But, and that comes from so many different places. I mean, growing up in a good Christian home as it were. I knew that being gay was different, but I did didn't get a lot of the hellfire and brimstone that I could have gotten elsewhere. But I still wanted to keep my parents happy. So I put women on such a pedestal, because I had been told, you know, no sex before marriage. What that did was it skewed my feelings about anything physical with women. Now I can make all the excuses I want. But it all boils down to the fact that I didn't have a gut attraction, physical attraction to women, like most guys my age did. I was afraid to even kiss girls, because that would knock them off their pedestal and defile them. When it came to sex, I have sexual trauma from my childhood, that I prefer to keep pretty private. But I will say that I have been in therapy for a long time to deal with it, and how that issue has colored my ability to deal with sexes and adult and or relationships, intimate relationships. All of that has created another perfect storm, that the crystal meth cold.

Coach Maddox  16:34  
Well, and you started off saying this is in layers. And yes, it is in layers, because it mean, we have the normal amount of shame that comes along with gay sex. And then you've got childhood sexual abuse of some sort that's layered on on top of that, and adds another whole layer of not only trauma, but additional shame, because I've never known a survivor of sexual abuse that didn't carry a lot of shame around that. Paul, would you say that?

Paul J Williams  17:08  
It was all

Coach Maddox  17:12  
about shame. was the driving force it was that that calming of the shame? or were there other emotional aspects to the the use of the substances that it also calmed? And if so, what were those?

Paul J Williams  17:30  
Oh, absolutely. And the first thing that comes to mind is self esteem, self image, I, for all of my fearlessness onstage and to be able to speak in front of crowds and perform in front of crowds, and do it without fear. When it comes to how I see myself, physically, I, my self esteem is in the basement. And again, that probably has lots of layers to it, of how it has developed to that point.

Coach Maddox  18:16  
So your professional persona and your personal persona were two completely different, like actually on opposite ends of the continuum.

Paul J Williams  18:26  
Right, right. And honestly, the more I learn with actors and performers, that is usually the norm. But it really tied into what I saw when I looked in a mirror what I thought of when I thought of myself as a sexual being the tape in my head was just vitriolic. You know, you are pitiful you are hideous. You are nobody would want you. And so crystal meth Oh, I feel pretty. I feel pretty, you know, and I'm with other people who are in an altered state. And I don't know what demons they're battling. But the demon of the drug overtook every other demon well

Coach Maddox  19:28  
and you're describing something that's rather subtle but it's worth calling out when you were on the math and you were in that I feel pretty state your energy shifted. And as a result your reality shifted in that moment because you even if it was artificially created if you felt pretty you acted from that place, your actions your energy was from that place. And you know, the world saw you differently. In those moments were the moments when you probably were treated the prettiest by others if I had to guess. Would you say that's accurate?

Paul J Williams  20:10  
Yes. The other word that comes to mind in the midst of this altered state is the complete absence of inhibitions. They go out the window. And so that is another layer of how I feel about myself. I'm not inhibited by my past, by my upbringing. By the lies I've told myself about who I am, well, you know,

Coach Maddox  20:44  
there's many different ways to use reasons to use alcohol or drugs. I've never been into drugs. I've smoked pot a couple of times, but I never really liked that much. But in my day, I drank my share. I was a party drinker. And for me, it was social lubricant. It wasn't numbing myself. It wasn't hiding. It wasn't escaping. It was liquid fucking courage. It was what gave me enough hutzpah to talk to that hot guy leaning against the bar over there.

Paul J Williams  21:18  
And that is, that is such a common story of humans. Not gay men, not straight men. You know, the human? What's the human condition?

Coach Maddox  21:34  
Yes, yes, we call it. liquid courage. I also have referred to it as social lubricant. Yeah,

Paul J Williams  21:42  
absolutely. Get the wheels rolling. Exactly.

Coach Maddox  21:46  
So another question popped into my mind. Let's see if I can. can recall it. I'm not sure I'm gonna be able to recall it. You know, sometimes it just it's gone.

Paul J Williams  22:00  
We're all here.

Coach Maddox  22:02  
Yeah, I'm not sure. Maybe it'll come back in a minute. So try to come up with a good question now.

Paul J Williams  22:17  
How did you figure this all out?

Coach Maddox  22:24  
What was what was the point when you realized, okay, I have what? What was the thing that brought you to this moment of knowing

Paul J Williams  22:33  
Fuck, I got a problem. Okay, yeah, great question. Let's, let's go back a little. The first time I used math was in November of 2002. By April 1 of 2003, I had my first hospitalization relating to the drug. And at the time, I thought it was a heart problem. It wasn't until years later that I requisitioned my records from that hospital and went through them and saw that I would I had been put in the psych ward and medicated because I was in psychosis. Nonetheless, when I got out, I didn't stop using, but I thought I need to get out of New York. Or I'm gonna die. And I guess I'll go back to Dallas, even though it's going to be with my tail between my legs, because everyone expected to be a be expected me to be a big success in New York. And here I am moving back. You know? And I thought, well, there's not as many drugs in Dallas as there are in New York. Oh, that was a big, big lie. Yeah. So when I got back and realized, Okay, I've still got a problem here.

Coach Maddox  24:13  
I have a question before I forget. Yep. Everybody was expecting you to really make it big in New York. Now, it's nearly 20 years later, and you look back on all that. And do you think that was true? Do you think everybody was expecting you to make it vague or do you think it was you that was expecting to make it big?

Paul J Williams  24:39  
I don't know the answer to that. I know that when I moved to New York, I was sent off with this huge celebration at the Anatole that people organized for me and it was a send off It didn't planted in my head that the expectation was for me to be a success. The majority of it, I'm sure was in my head. And as I now these 20 years later and look back, my career is so much better here than it was in Dallas.

Coach Maddox  25:24  
Well, the universe has an pretty uncanny way of putting us where we need to be sometimes.

Paul J Williams  25:31  
Yeah, and I listen, I loved living in New York, I made incredible contexts, hung out with some incredibly successful people had a blast.

Coach Maddox  25:44  
Well, it's an exciting place. There's no two ways about it. It's an energy that you can't duplicate anywhere

Paul J Williams  25:51  
else. But keep my head above water here.

Coach Maddox  25:55  
Well, yes. When you came back? How did your Dallas community that sent you off? How did they receive you when you came back?

Paul J Williams  26:09  
Good, I felt like a lot of the community that sent me off. I didn't actually step back into you know, I had been Mr. Turtle Creek chorale all the way through 1997. And when I came back in 2003, I stayed away. I didn't rejoin, I began getting more involved in theater than I had before I moved to New York. So I walked into a different community. But that was probably the best thing for me, too, is a form of reinvention. Well, you know,

Coach Maddox  26:53  
please say that, again, this is one of those sentences that the listeners need to

Paul J Williams  26:57  
hear. When I came back, I created a new community, I did not fall back into the same cocoon I had been in before. It was a somewhat of a form of reinvention, that I find new ways to pursue success. And it was extraordinarily successful,

Coach Maddox  27:28  
you were a different person. You weren't the same person that had left.

Paul J Williams  27:34  
Right, and I'm certainly not the person I am now. Because, I mean, the very first theatre show I did when I got back in 2003, I was high as fuck, during most of the performances. Nobody knew. Because my other actors and I have talked about it since that since then. But I can tell you,

Coach Maddox  28:00  
I was high. So that was what enabled you to really perform.

Paul J Williams  28:06  
Know it, because here's the truth. I hate being in an altered state when I'm trying to perform it, I just don't feel any control over my talents. That was just a fact. That

Coach Maddox  28:27  
makes complete sense, you know.

Paul J Williams  28:31  
But up over the ensuing years, I was able to dial back my usage to the point where I would use every six weeks, or every three months or, you know, I was a binge user I'd use on the weekends, and then spend the next week trying to come down. And as is true of most people in addiction, the more you use, the less it works. And you're chasing that original high. So you've got to up the dosage pingo and with crystal meth them with methamphetamine I read this somewhere and it's a perfect description. When you come down, you lose the ability to experience joy. Because you have been flooding your brain with serotonin and an artificial manner. Your brain decides Oh, I don't need to make serotonin you you're pumping it in. Well, then you stop using and the brain is up there going. Oh, we don't need to make any serotonin. Well, you're depleted and now you have no serotonin. And it is the worst kind of depression Calm down, that I have ever experienced. It So that's when I started realizing I had a problem. I had a major hospitalization in 2011, where I went into atrial fibrillation, and my heart rate was over 200 beats a minute, because I've done too much math. You're fortunate to be alive. I am fortunate to be alive. Now, that was in 2011, and my sobriety dates 2015. But I began pursuing sobriety at that point, checking it out. But I just that idea of, I've been able to kick everything else I should be able to kick this did not allow me to surrender myself to a program of recovery. Until Memorial Day weekend of 2015. I had been extraordinarily involved in a sobriety Conference, which had been going on in Dallas. I was in hosting a lot of the stuff, doing voiceover work, doing a comedy for it. And I got it into my head, that the only thing good about me was my ability to make people laugh. But I had absolutely no sexual appeal to anyone. And that sent me down a rabbit hole. And so I left this beautiful weekend of sobriety, and proceeded to hook up with someone and get high on meth. And this time, the come down was the worst it had ever been. And within five days of stopping using, I attempted suicide. And that's not something I would do. But I realized, in retrospect, I didn't want to die. At that moment. I wanted this horrible lack of serotonin to stop. And that's the only way I knew how to make it stop. Unfortunately, I was not successful. But I called a friend who took me to Presby. You use that S word, and you get put in the psych ward. And I spent four days in lockdown at Presbyterian Hospital. And I thought, you know, my 50th birthday party a few years ago was at the Meyerson Symphony center, with 125 of my nearest and dearest, what the hell am I doing in a psych ward? And it's where I had that moment of I give up, I give up. And I had listened I'd given up on the whole thing i'd religion I'd been raised with to, I got tired of people telling me that God didn't love me, because I was gay. So I went, Okay, fine. So there, why bother with God. And it was in that moment that I just cried out to the ceiling. I can't do this. I need help.

And the next day, about four things fell into place. I got into the rehab I wanted to go to I found that I was going to get FMLA from my job. My insurance was going to pay 100% of my rehab. And I was able to reschedule an appearance that I was supposed to have in a couple of weeks with absolutely no problem. And that's when I said okay, something or somebody hurt me. Let's get to work.

Coach Maddox  33:59  
No shit, Sherlock. Man, there's no, that's not any. I don't believe in coincidences.

Paul J Williams  34:05  
I don't either. And spending 45 days in rehab. I had nothing else to do, but focus on my recovery. And I got into the 12 step work. And it changed my life. And during that process, I realized that I have so much fear in my life, that I am scared of everything. And trying to allay those fears was inhuman and impossible to do. So I turned to Crystal Meth to quiet those fears.

Coach Maddox  34:50  
There's another layer now. You know, it was it was about shame. And now you've got

Paul J Williams  34:55  
the fear and it's funny I've I've We talked about this and one of my biggest fears when I was facing all of that, and rehab. And it sounds so trivial, but I was afraid that whatever I did, you were going to roll your eyes at me. Oh, Paul, please. Oh, Paul, don't you know you're not attractive? You tried. You think you're cute? Oh, no, I got that kept me from being myself. How do you

Coach Maddox  35:44  
recall a time maybe at a young time in your life where somebody rolled their eyes at you like that, because you're describing being triggered? You're describing a fear of something that's not happening in the moment. But it's, it's something that's happened in the past and you're thinking it's going to reoccur, recreate itself. I've been doing this long enough to know that's how that works. Do you have a conscious memory of a time early in your life when somebody rolled their eyes like that? And because that just that is one of the most invalidating things that a person can do to another human being is roll their eyes, if it's a joke, that's one thing if it's your friend, and they're joking with you, that's one thing. But

Paul J Williams  36:30  
it there's two sides to this answer. I love the phrase that says that which annoys us most and others is often that which annoys us most in ourselves. And I, over my entire life, have rolled my eyes at so many people places and things. It's something I do without realizing it. Therefore, I can project that, that everyone else is going to do that, to me

Coach Maddox  37:03  
took the words right out of my mouth that created projection.

Paul J Williams  37:07  
Now, on the other side of that coin, there are two specific instances that are burned in my mind, both of which were related to a sexual hookup. One was, and they were both in the 90s. early to mid 90s. Well, the first one's not important. This the second one, I was in another city. And a lot of times I had you know, I felt like I needed to leave town to get laid because everyone in this town knew me. It was like, oh, oh, I can't have sex with you. I know you. Okay, whatever, you know. So I'm out of town. And I'm hooked. I've hooked up with some buddy. And we are in we are in this person's house. And he invites two other people over, I'm thinking fine, you know, party. And this was long before drugs, I had not even thought about doing drugs. And I'm sitting there, and I'm not wearing anything. And these two guys walk in the door. One of them took one look at me and went and they turned around and walked out. And that is branded on my memory. Such that I believe that that's how I'm seen by everybody else.

Coach Maddox  38:52  
And then in turn it becomes a self fulfilling prophecy.

Paul J Williams  38:56  
Then go Oh, Paul, I'm I'm

Coach Maddox  39:00  
I'm deeply sorry that you had to experience that or that you did experience that that is

Paul J Williams  39:10  
that there's, you know,

Coach Maddox  39:12  
so uncalled for there's there's no excuse for that.

Paul J Williams  39:14  
And I know now that that wasn't my issue, that was that person's issue. But all of these years I've been taking that on, and it has, it has created a bunch of bricks made of fear. And so I have surrounded myself in a brick tower and every brick is a different fear that I have. And I'm trapped. And I had a therapist one time say to me, Paul, this is you when it comes to relationships. You're like, come closer. Oops, come closer. But don't I'll be God damn. If any One is going to hurt me because I've been hurt. And I will have the upper hand, but it's kept me trapped in that brick tower.

Coach Maddox  40:13  
Yeah, mines, mines, a fortress mines, not a brick tower mindset fortress. And I've spent quite a few years and that. Well, most of my gay life, it's only been in the last couple of years that I have been able to dismantle that fortress and allow. I was always able to be

Paul J Williams  40:34  

Coach Maddox  40:35  
with my straight friends. But I couldn't be that way with gay man. It's only been in the last two or two and a half years that I have been able to dismantle that fortress, and now be myself with other gay men. Not all you know, it's just still discernment, you pick and choose who you feel are safe enough to lower your guard and let them see what I call the softer side of Sears.

Paul J Williams  41:07  
Well, and here's the other thing. And that, I don't know if this is unique to me or not, but I can be emotionally intimate at the drop of a hat. My three closest friends are my family of choice. All four of us are single. We share intimately with each other. On an emotional level, we do not have physical intimacy.

Coach Maddox  41:39  
I think I'm pretty sure I know who to those are,

Paul J Williams  41:42  
probably. But that I have no problem opening up. I told you this before we decided to do this podcast, I'm an open book. And I can share intimately with you. And I can receive your intimate sharing. But physical intimacy, we've got the we've got the problem of how I view myself. We've got the problem of the fear of what you're going to say or roll your eyes at me about. And then we've got the problem of childhood sexual trauma, where I have a fucked up attitude about sex in general. And that is if I have sex with someone I know it's not right. Because that's how this gets started in the first place.

Coach Maddox  42:45  
Oh, you got some wiring there? Yeah, I haven't been able to earn wire yet. Yep. I get it. So. So this begs a question can be emotionally intimate?

Paul J Williams  42:57  
Can't be physically intimate. You talked about

Coach Maddox  43:02  
your three closest friends, which are platonic relationships, right? Are you able to be emotionally available and intimate? With a non platonic maybe there's maybe the sexes over here. But if there was a love interest, somebody that was showing interest? Can you do the emotional intimacy as well as you can with the platonic friends?

Paul J Williams  43:29  
Not ever having had that opportunity? It's all hypothetical at this point. I had one relationship when I was 25. But we were each other's first. And it was very much a learning experience. So I wouldn't call it a functional relationship. But we were boyfriends and we, you know, we're monogamous. If I if there if there were someone that I had physical intimacy with, with which I was comfortable, then I feel like yes, I could do the full circle emotional and physical intimacy. But that has never presented itself. I often get answered, No African I often get asked the age old question. Have you ever been in love? And I don't know how to answer that. Because I don't know if I have. Now I love my three closest friends. But it's not a full circle.

Coach Maddox  44:43  
Yeah, that's, that's different than in love. And I think that's a tough question for anybody. Because how do you define love? It's the one it is the one thing in the universe that nobody's been able to sufficiently define So how can we say yes, I've been in love. I mean, I've been in a marriage to a woman and four serious relationships with men in my life. And I'm not sure I've had experienced what I would consider true. Love. It's been some facsimile there have on some level, or that's my perception. I'm like, you know, my thing is, am I going to get to experience real love before I die? That's my question. I'm wondering if I'm going to get to experience what I think is, is the the real, healthy, integrated love that's not two halves, making a whole or it's not for all the wrong reasons, I can't stand to be alone. So I'm going to just pick the first person that comes by, there's so many reasons that we get in relationships that are not really real. There. And for all the wrong reasons.

Paul J Williams  45:56  
From where I sit listening to you what you just said, I am in all that you had for long term relationships. What does my brain says is? How did you get to that point?

Coach Maddox  46:13  
Okay, let's let's before we will, it's all relative, when you say long term, it's, you know, in straight years, it was not long term at all. And gay years, it was one relationship was two years long. One was five years long. One was three years long. And another one was two years long.

Paul J Williams  46:31  
It was more than a weekend. It was and the problem I have run into, I cannot tell you how many times I got to know somebody, and I truly thought it was developing into a relationship. And I finally was the one who said, you know, where's this going? Oh, oh, this is just a friendship. Oh, okay. So I've never been in that situation, where you go, this is how it's supposed to feel. Because people that I was interested in, never returned it. And if there were people that were interested in me, either I didn't see it. Or the chemistry was not there. For me. Yeah. So to hear people out, especially friends of mine who go from one relationship to the next. I'm like, What did you use for bait? You know, because,

Coach Maddox  47:45  
well, I can kind of speak to that. I think that it's not so much bait, it's that they're willing to just accept anybody that walks by. They're there. So not okay. Being alone, not okay, being single or out with out a relationship that they settle. They just grab the first thing that walks by, it's like you're a warm body, you'll do.

Paul J Williams  48:11  
I guess that's true, because, as I said, I can think of maybe three places where there was someone interested in me. And I didn't feel like it was the right one. And so I put the brakes on.

Coach Maddox  48:32  
Well, I think that was you being true to you. As hard as that may have been. We all know what happens when we go ahead. And we don't pay attention to the red flags or the signs or the the intuition and we go ahead and get into it. It almost always ends badly.

Paul J Williams  48:51  
Well, and one of the things I learned in recovery, too, that I practice, daily. If something doesn't work out, let it go. God, man's rejection is God's protection. Oh, I think I have the retrospective to look back and see how that was true. In numerous occasions.

Coach Maddox  49:15  
I have never heard that man's rejection is God's protection. You know, I always say when somebody rejects you, they are doing you a favor. You just dodged a bullet. Hey, just dodged a bullet embrace rejection because it is the universe taking care of us.

Paul J Williams  49:35  
Right? Because something out there whether it's the universe or whatever you want to call it God is looking out and going. No.

Coach Maddox  49:48  
When when we get out of the way I really believe the universe, whatever higher power you believe in, I call it universe a lot of the times if we'll get out of the way, it will take care of us I believe You've dealt with all my being, I get in the way sometimes.

Paul J Williams  50:02  
And I'm fervently believe at this point in my life. I may be single to the day I die. And that's okay. Because my life at two up here to four has been unbelievably amazing. So why should I complain? Well, you

Coach Maddox  50:27  
didn't define your life by whether or not you had a relationship. And that's something we see a lot of my life is nothing if I don't have a relationship, people think that it's going to be the all end all be all a man's gonna come into my life and suddenly everything's going to be rainbows and unicorns. It doesn't work that way for about 15 minutes. Sure, it may look that way for about 15 minutes, and then in and then the proverbial shit hits the fan.

Paul J Williams  50:55  
Well, my friend Jill, who was a fellow comedian, did this line that I thought was the most brilliant joke. She said, You know, when you get into a relationship, and it's going really well, and you move in together, and you're in bed, looking at him and watching him sleep, and you think to yourself, you're never going home, are you? And I swear to you, that would be I feel like that would be my story. I got a boyfriend. Yeah. When you're going home? Yep. Yep,

Coach Maddox  51:30  
I get it completely. Well, let's circle back for a minute. I love where we just went with that. That was a fun rabbit hole to go down. Let's circle back, I would love to hear about the last seven years. And we're you know, we're kind of getting close to our hour. So I don't think we want to make a really long story. But I would love to know, clean and sober seven years now. How's life different? And in what ways is life better?

Paul J Williams  52:04  
Well, as I said, doing the step work. And for people who aren't in recovery. The 12 steps are an inventory you take of your life, basically, and actions that you take to clean up your past and move forward in a clean way. Part of that is, is looking back over your life, and everything and everyone you've ever resented. And figure out why. And what your part in it was, and most importantly, what the fear is behind it.

Coach Maddox  52:43  
Taking responsibility. Sure.

Paul J Williams  52:47  
And then in cases where you can, going back and trying to clean that up, and going to those people and making things right, as best you can.

Coach Maddox  53:01  
You know, I always say that it's it's a given as human beings that we're going to make messes. It's absolutely a given. But what the real question is not are you going to make a mess? Yes, you're absolutely going to make a mess? Are you going to be a big enough human being to clean your mess up? Are you going to take responsibility and be a big enough human to clean your mess up? That's the real question.

Paul J Williams  53:26  
And I think for me, doing that thorough look at my life was every bit as helpful. As the years and years of therapy I've been in. It was a great addition to the therapy. But what I learned in that time of introspection, I've been able to let go of a lot of fears, not all of them. Obviously, I still am afraid of what you're gonna think of me. And I'm still afraid to put myself out there. Although I have more often since I got sober than I ever did before. I just feel like I know how to handle things better. You know, there's a saying and in recovery that says we will intuitively know how to handle things that used to baffle us. And I have lived that truth in the last seven years.

Coach Maddox  54:30  
I think there's a legitimate concrete reason behind that I'm a while I've not dealt with substance abuse in my own life to speak of. I had my days of drinking but it was never a problem like it was it was only when there was a party. There wasn't a party. I didn't have any interest in alcohol. But I know that when we start using substances on a regular basis and we we get really in that our emotional maturity is stunted, it stops, we don't grow emotionally, we don't emotionally mature when we're in substance abuse. And when we finally get clean and stop this the substance abuse, we pick up with our emotional maturity wherever we left it back there. So if you started doing heavy drugs at 15, and now you're 40, you got 25 years of catching up to do to get to the, but what you're describing is us, when you stepped out of that, then your emotional maturity commenced. And what you just said completely validates that you're capable, you've got the expanded emotional maturity, to handle situations that you weren't able to handle prior to getting sober. I love that.

Paul J Williams  55:54  
When I was a kid, my mother always said, when I had a difficulty with something or things aren't going the way I want them to blah, blah, blah, you know, her her pat answer was bless it and release it. And I never understood that until after I did work on myself, and became aware that I am completely powerless over other people, I can only have power over how I respond. I didn't cause the sun to rise, I have no power over that. What other people think of me is out of my power. If something happens, I can't go back and make it unhappen. And so you've learned to accept and go, I can't do anything about this. How do we move forward?

Coach Maddox  56:48  
You know, one of my favorite sayings about that are the people that matter don't care. And the people that care don't matter.

Paul J Williams  56:57  
That's right. And

Coach Maddox  57:00  
the ones that we're always most worried about are the ones that don't matter, when you really step back and look at it. Because if they truly loved us and accepted us,

Paul J Williams  57:12  
they wouldn't, they wouldn't care. Right? They wouldn't care. And, and another place that I'm able to put in that, you know, bless it and release it. Thought Process is, before I finally got sober. During a 21 month period of sobriety. I became HIV positive. And as someone who came of age at the beginning of the AIDS crisis, I had always said that if this happens to me, I'm going to check out because I will not be able to deal with the shame. And I was raised to believe it was a death sentence. And so I made a mistake that resulted in a life changing health, something or other as it were. And since I got sober, I'm able to accept the things the way they are. I can't go back and change it. I am in great health. I have a doctor who cares for me. And I have friends who are in the same boat who are a support to me. So don't get freaked out, Paul. Move forward.

Coach Maddox  58:39  
Well, and you know, based on what you're telling me, Paul, you've really come a long way. I mean, I hear you say that you're afraid of what people are going to think. But you've you've just shared about childhood sexual abuse you've shared about drug addiction you shared about HIV, and this is on a podcast that's going out for the entire world to hear now. Not all the world will listen to it. Oh, is it? But it's out there. It's out there for the whole world to hear. And I just want to acknowledge you and reflect back to you. The courage that I see in Paul J to be able to do what you're doing in this conversation right now.

Paul J Williams  59:26  
Thank you.

Coach Maddox  59:27  
I want to reflect back the courage that I know it takes to do what you're doing right now. Specially since you have a fear of what people are going to think and how they're going to judge you.

Paul J Williams  59:39  
I love that. That saying that's been attributed to Marilyn Monroe, which is if you can't accept me at my worst, you don't deserve me at my best. I think that's beautiful. And I don't really want to self sabotage. But

I like to lay it out there. You know, that won't run away. If you find out something.

Coach Maddox  1:00:03  
If you're going to run away, and let's find out, you're going to run away right now, not now really invested? Yes. Exactly. lay it all out on the table and get get get that out of the way. Right up front. You know, I'm ready. I'm going to recount a story. This has nothing to do with what we're talking about. But I just can't not tell this. I'll never forget, I don't know whether you were on stage or you may have been or whether it was in one of our Turtle Creek chorale rehearsals. But you talked about, you know, sometime in your teenage years that

Paul J Williams  1:00:44  
you pinned a poster

Coach Maddox  1:00:47  
of Farrah Fawcett on the ceiling of your bedroom. And your your mom and dad were kind of like, oh, you know, maybe he's not that we thought he was, you know, they were kind of excited. And then you said and then I would lay in bed at night with the moonlight coming through the window and look up at that at that poster of Farrah Fawcett and think to myself, I wonder if I could make my hairdo that.

Paul J Williams  1:01:13  
I have never forgotten that I thought that was hysterical. Oh, it was so true. And actually it was all three Charlie's Angels. And I I always wanted Kate Jackson's hair cut. And when I was a sophomore in high school, and I have the pictures to prove it. I got a Kate Jackson haircut.

Coach Maddox  1:01:35  
Oh my such as Seafarer was my favorite that fair hair? Oh my gosh. Oh, but I wasn't blonde. So I couldn't pull that off. Well, I was never blonde either. But it was still the haircut itself was fabulous. She made herself famous with that. I mean, we still talk about the Pharaoh feathers. It's still a thing. And it's come back twice I think since since the 70s when she made it popular. Okay, well, one one more question. Well, no, there's actually more but one more question about this. And that is in a in a maybe a brief sentence or two? What wisdom bomb? Would you drop on the listeners based on all the experiences that you've shared over the last hour? What's the one wisdom bomb that you'd like to bestow? Here's what I've been through. And here's what I've learned.

Paul J Williams  1:02:32  
Don't worry about it so much. Don't let fear get in your way. Because here's the secret. Everybody else is just as scared as you are.

Coach Maddox  1:02:50  
Amen. Amen. Some of us just hide it better than others.

Paul J Williams  1:02:55  
And that tell you that that was a big truth for me. I fervently believed that I was a mess. And everybody else in the world had their shit together. And when I found out that was not the truth, and I found out by going to 12 step meetings and hear other people share their fears. And I'm like, you too.

Coach Maddox  1:03:17  
Well, that's mainly what this podcast is about. Paul, allowing men to say that whatever they've got going on, that they're not alone, that Yeah, somewhere in there, there's going to be a story told on this podcast that they're going to be able to relate to and realize I'm not alone.

Paul J Williams  1:03:35  
And even the people that that we may think are classically beautiful, and have all of the trappings of the world. I guarantee you, that person is scared of something

Coach Maddox  1:03:53  
that comes with a whole set of problems. All on its own. Yeah, whole set of problems.

Paul J Williams  1:04:03  
Well, that was an

Coach Maddox  1:04:05  
amazing story. Thank you so much for sharing, and I love that wisdom bomb that you just dropped. I hope that the listeners really took that in and really got it because it was spot on, in my opinion. Thank you. So let's move into our rapid fire questions. Now one of them you answer it already, but I think I'm going to ask it anyway, I'm going to ask you just a little bit differently. The question the first question is, what are you most afraid of? And you talked about what you've been afraid of in the past? I guess I'm gonna re reference the question or rephrase the question now. Now in seven years of sobriety and letting go of a lot of those old fears that you had drug around for a long time. Is there something new or what would be maybe the one thing that you're most afraid of now present tense that you'd like to transform the way you've transformed some of these older fears?

Paul J Williams  1:05:00  
I am afraid of getting to the point in my life where I cannot. I don't have an outlet for my creativity. You know, I don't want to become physically unable to do things, you know. I just, I don't want to be a boring legal secretary. And that's it. I still want to have places to be onstage. Nothing brings me greater joy than to make people laugh. And I've given that gift.

Coach Maddox  1:05:38  
Paul, I'm going to ask you a question that somebody asked me one time that really changed the way I saw things. Is it anywhere in your nature to be a boring, boring legal secretary?

Paul J Williams  1:05:53  
Well, I'm good at it. Let's put it that way.

Coach Maddox  1:05:56  
Yes, but that's not what I asked.

Paul J Williams  1:06:02  
You know, but that is a fear. What if we become that person?

Coach Maddox  1:06:10  
I don't know. You know, can your humor never be taken away from you? And if what point it's taken away from you, will you care beyond beyond that?

Paul J Williams  1:06:18  
Yeah, good point.

Coach Maddox  1:06:20  
You know, humor is something that we can have right up to our last breath, unless we can't speak. And even then you sometimes just the way we move our eyes can be humorous if we're around people that know what that means.

Paul J Williams  1:06:33  
Yeah. I think that

Coach Maddox  1:06:37  
it is in your nature to be a funny person. And I don't think that there's any way you can not be that funny person, regardless of what you're doing. On an on on the on the side hustle or the the day job or whatever. However you refer to that, you know, you're a comedian at heart. You have been your entire life. It's that's your nature.

Paul J Williams  1:07:03  
It's on my license plates. funny one. Yes. You ever see that license plate? You know, it's me? Well, that's it's your places of ill repute.

Coach Maddox  1:07:14  
It's your

Paul J Williams  1:07:16  
email addresses. Well, then you have your email address, have my email address. One? Yes.

Coach Maddox  1:07:24  
Okay. Second question. If you could go back in time and say anything to the younger Paul, what would you tell him? Anytime in his life, your choice? Oh.

Paul J Williams  1:07:41  
Oh, oh, there's so many places your dad doesn't know as much as you think he does. So don't let him get to you. Perfect.

Coach Maddox  1:07:59  
I love it. Because I know there's men out here that are hearing that right now that need to hear that.

Paul J Williams  1:08:06  
My father way too much power. He's not God. He's not. He's nice.

Coach Maddox  1:08:13  
He's human. His shit stinks. Just like everybody. Yeah. And final question. Many years from now, many years from now. You're a ghost at your own funeral. And in those first two or three pews? Are all of your bestie gay men friends. What do you hope that they're saying about you in the midst

Paul J Williams  1:08:38  
of your funeral that there will never be another person like Paul. And we will always have the laughter. And or, I'm so lucky that I got to know inside of who he is. I love that. That's beautiful. Paul,

Coach Maddox  1:09:11  
I got little cold chills running up and down me right now. That's beautiful.

Paul J Williams  1:09:17  
Wow. Well,

Coach Maddox  1:09:18  
this has been amazing. I just want to say thank you so much for opening your heart and sharing your story and being so forthright and so transparent, and especially after describing, you know the fears of what people are going to think and how they might judge. Just once again, just just want to acknowledge you this is this is huge.

Paul J Williams  1:09:43  
Well, and thank you for doing this because, you know, this way don't know how our story may be able to help another and you facilitate that. And that's a blessing.

Coach Maddox  1:09:55  
We don't often get to see the ripples the ripple effect of our story. But I can tell you that it does ripple because I get comments every day from a listener that says, Wow, that story impacted me so much. Thank you so much for, you know, being the being the vessel for this. Sure. So, Paul, it's been an honor and a pleasure.

Paul J Williams  1:10:23  
Likewise Thanks, Ron.

Transcribed by

Paul J WilliamsProfile Photo

Paul J Williams


Paul J. Williams is a gifted comedian, actor and singer based in Dallas. As a comedian, he has appeared ‎on countless cruises, multiple comedy clubs across the U.S. and on the MTV/LOGO Network comedy ‎special, ONE NIGHT STAND UP. But, he is most well-known for his “altar ego”, Sister Helen Holy. As a ‎classically trained tenor, Paul J. has performed with the New York Choral Artists, Orpheus Chamber ‎Singers and Turtle Creek Chorale. As a hobby, Paul is a classic car buff and currently owns a 1970 Buick ‎Riviera which has won multiple awards.‎