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George Michael is opening up about coming out as gay back in 1998, saying it didn’t make his life any easier. In fact, it made it more difficult. He also revealed he’s been sober for 18 months, deciding to change his life entirely after arrests, rehab and a life-threatening case of pneumonia in 2011.
In a revealing interview with BBC News following the release of his first album in a decade, Symphonica, Michael said after his arrest for lewd behavior in Beverly Hills in 1998, which outed him as a gay man, the press was hard on him.
"For some strange reason, my gay life didn't get easier when I came out. Quite the opposite happened, really," he explained. "The press seemed to take some delight that I previously had a 'straight audience,' and set about trying to destroy that. And I think some men were frustrated that their girlfriends wouldn't let go of the idea that George Michael just hadn't found the 'right girl' [yet]. Which is still what a lot of my extended family still think!"
With public arrests in 2006 and 2008 and a jail stint in 2010 after crashing his car under the influence of marijuana, he realized all of them were drug-related and had to mean something.
"I realized it had to be something to do with me. It shook me out of my denial," he said, People reports. "After that crash happened, I started drug counseling and was two weeks in detox, none of which I made public. It feels so completely behind me now. It really does."
"I decided to change my life and I haven't touched it,” he also said.
His new album isn’t original material but does feature some of his live performances in recent years. He said music has helped him stay sober and admitted singing with an orchestra was “inspirational” enough to “feed” him.