Too smart, too young, and too pretty to be an alcoholic

Ok, my fellow bloggers, I am looking for your insight and advice about something that happened today.

April is Alcohol Awareness Month and I have been asked to speak about alcoholism at our school assembly later this month.  This will be my second year doing it.  The reason that I have been asked to do the presentation is because I am open about the fact that I am an alcoholic in recovery.  I had a very positive response to the talk that I gave last year.  Some students (and coworkers) felt comfortable enough afterward to come to my office and share how alcoholism affects their lives, to ask for help for a family member, or to talk about a problem that they were experiencing themselves.  I was able to recommend solutions in some cases, but mostly I was just someone to listen who they knew could relate.  I felt truly blessed to be able to offer my experience, strength, and hope to people that never would have approached me had they not known that I was an alcoholic.  It genuinely felt like I was doing 12th step work, and I loved it.

Cut to today.  My supervisor came to me to talk about my presentation (she is not the one that asked me to do it).  She is older, foreign born, and at times, kind of scary.  I have always managed to stay on her good side because I am a capable, reliable, and hard-working employee.  This morning she sat at my desk and after talking about work for a few minutes, proceeded to tell me that when I do my presentation she doesn’t want me to say that I am in recovery.  I said ok.  I think that if I say that I am in recovery, more people will listen and believe what I am telling them.  It gives me credibilty.  Otherwise, who cares if the registrar is blathering on about alcohol-related statistics.  Besides, my presentation in no way includes any part of my drunk-a-log, I don’t talk about any of my drunken behavior or negative consequences. But whatever, I agreed.  Then my supervisor went on to say that my alcoholism is something to be hidden.  Her exact words were, “Jami, you are too smart, too young, and too pretty to be an alcoholic.  This is something you need to hide.”  WTF???  That’s when I respectfully (it wasn’t easy) disagreed with her.  I told her that I didn’t think that alcoholism was something to hide and that it doesn’t discriminate;  it is not only hobos hopping trains that are alcoholics.  I went on to say that there are many alcoholics that are of above average intelligence, and that being smart in no way prevents a person from becoming an alcoholic.  We had a short, amiable discussion in which she stood her ground about alcoholism being shameful and deserving of being kept secret, and I stood my ground about the fact that people need more information and they need to see that there is hope in recovery.  I guess, without saying it, we have agreed to disagree.

Now I’m really put off though.  As I think about it more, I become more offended.  Her comments about hiding my disease were hurtful to me, making me feel like I should be ashamed of who I am.  That’s not cool.

So, what should I do?  In my mind (my alcoholic mind), I have three choices:  1) I can say “fuck it, find someone else to do the presentation”,  2) I can fail to bring the presentation up again and just say what I want when the time comes (I’m sure there would be consequences), or 3) I can do the presentation the way she wants me to and feel like I have given in.  I understand that right now I’m angry and hurt, and that my thinking is not completely rational.  That’s why I am looking for some advice.  What do you guys think?





43 thoughts on “Too smart, too young, and too pretty to be an alcoholic

  1. hmmm…dilemma….I think you should do the talk the way you want to, let her know that you will be saying those things ‘that should be kept hidden’ and if she doesnt want you to do it then, no worries 🙂
    You should be proud of your recovery and the journey that you are on. Its her issue….it doesnt have to be anyone elses.
    ps she is scary

    1. Thanks, Trinket. I am proud of my recovery. But more importantly, I want to share it because there are so many people out there that think it can’t be done. I remember the feeling of hopelessness I felt when I thought that I was going to be a drunk forever, that things would never get better. It was other people sharing their hope that gave me mine.

  2. I think you should most def bring up your being an alcoholic! WTF is the point of giving the presentation if you don’t? You believe differently than she does, and you’re giving the presentation. If she then says no to you giving the presentation, well, whatever, move on. But, I don’t think you should give it and hide what is something to be proud of: not only are you in recovery, but you had the courage to talk about your problem and to bring light to both addiction disorders which affect SO many people!

    1. Thank you DDG. I agree, there is no point in even doing the presentation if I don’t show the students what recovery can look like. I feel like to do it her way, I will be talking to deaf ears. Where would the hope be in that?

  3. One: she is of another generation that hid everything they deemed “shameful.” They didn’t talk about sex, either. After all, it was shameful to admit to liking it. More or less the same thing. She’s sees being an alcoholic a shameful thing that no one should speak about, and hates knowing that you are comfortable with being one, and one who’s willing to talk about it to others.
    Two: What would I do? I’d go see her, and I’d tell her that she is wrong in feeling shame about alcoholism, and that you will be either speaking of being an alcoholic so there is credibility in what you are taking about, and she doesn’t have to like it,or you don’t do the talk. You are right: no one is going to pay any attention to what you have to say unless they can IDENTIFY. Tell her that, too.
    Option two when discussed will not change her mind, perhaps, but there’s no point in giving the talk if you have to hide who you are.
    ❤ you

    1. Teddi, you’re right. I do think that her age has a lot to do with it. Also, as I think about it, she often wants to hide things that don’t look the way that she thinks they should look. I am not the first (or the last) employee to be told what should, or shouldn’t, be said publicly. I know that ignorance is part of it too. She sees alcoholism as a problem with morality, not a disease. I am hoping that at some point, I can change her perception, but I’m not holding my breath.

  4. Jami, you’re too young, too smart, and too pretty to ever allow someone’s ignorance make you feel ashamed of who you are and of what you have achieved. And that is what she said was, ignorance. A whole lot of it.

    Honestly, what she said reminds me of what my Mother said to me when I started al-anon and just telling people straight out that my husband was an alcoholic instead of making excuses for him. Hiding it isn’t helping anyone and hiding recovery? Absolutely not, you should be free to be very proud of that. And I can tell you, for myself, every person in recovery that speaks about it is what keeps me able to hope my husband can achieve the same. So I wonder if she grew up in it and learned what I unlearned?

    As far as the talk you are to give, I would hate to see you go up there and not speak from your heart. Yet I don’t see you saying “fuck it” and not doing something you enjoyed doing without feeling a little sad about it. I don’t see the point of discussing alcoholism with no reference to the disease or to recovery but, I have no advice on that one. I’m not sure how I’d handle it seeing as it is a work environment.

    1. Thank you! Your first sentence really hit home. I lived my life for so long worrying and feeling ashamed of what people thought of me! I’m just not going to do it anymore. I wrote a post a while back about how secretive my family was when I was growing up. Those secrets ate away at me for 40 years! That’s way too long to put on a mask and act like everything is “as it should be.” I won’t do the presentation unless I can be open and honest. Period.

  5. Hmmm. Tricky.
    Is the presentation directly related to your job, or is it extra- curricular?

    If it’s extra curric, then really your boss has no jurisdiction.

    If it’s work related and your boss specifically told you not to mention something, then you need to pick your battle. You could go to h/r and say you are being discriminated against; you could tell your boss how you feel. Those are tricky though, because you kinda want to have your boss in your corner for performance reviews and promotions etc.

    Pray on it and talk to your Sponsor and husband about it. To thine own self be true… If you cannot be true, then I agree with others to take a pass.

    Just comes down to what jurisdiction your boss has over you giving your presentation.

    Lots of young pretty alcoholics out there! Lynda Carter, Britney Spears, Drew Barrymore, Melissa Gilbert, Kristin Davis, Demi Lovato, Marcia from The Brady Bunch, Naomi Campbell, and tons more. Just like diabetes… No shame in the disease, only in the silence.

    1. I love that: No shame in the disease, only in the silence. That’s exactly the way I feel.
      The presentation is both work related and extra curricular. Often, the staff or faculty give presentations at assemblies. Usually, the presenter is picked based on their familiarity or personal experience with the topic. It’s not something that my job description includes though, so I have nothing to lose if I don’t do it (except that I will not be spreading the hope that I would like to!).
      My husband and my sponsor are in agreement with all of the comments I’ve gotten. They are both proud of me and my recovery, and they think that I should be able to share it with others. That’s the whole point of Step 12…to carry the message. I know that whatever I decide, I will be honest. I can’t go wrong doing that.

  6. The purpose of Alcoholism Awareness Month is to increase public awareness and understanding aimed at reducing the stigma associated with alcoholism that too often prevents individuals and families from seeking help. If you agree to be a speaker but hide that you’re in recovery, you’re not really supporting the cause. There would be no shame in backing out if you’re not allowed to speak about it with authenticity and integrity. Your supervisor may not understand what the cause is all about, or she’s so wrapped up in her own ego/shame issues that she doesn’t see that she’s just paying lip service to Alcoholism Awareness Month. If I was in your shoes, I would try to make the choice that doesn’t perpetuate the stigma or defeat the purpose of the cause.

    That being said, her comments outrage me even though I understand that she carries a lot of baggage that makes her feel the way she does. Her attitude is exactly what Alcoholism Awareness Month is trying to combat. I just read something that said, “God doesn’t call the qualified but rather qualifies the called.” This is a really tough call and I’m praying for you!

    1. Thank you, Karen. You hit the nail on the head! How am I to create awareness if I follow her instructions? Then I, too, would just be paying lip service to Alcohol Awareness Month. I won’t do that. I either have to speak honestly, with authenticity and integrity, or not at all. I really do hope that it works out in a way that benefits the students.
      Thank you for your prayers. I definitely need them. 🙂

  7. Un-F’ing-believeable!?!?! You are so poised, I don’t know what I would have done in your shoes. But – 1) I would speak to the person who asked you to do it, see what they say; 2) try speaking to her one last time about it being Awareness month and speaking from the heart is the best way to reach everyone, and 3) if she again says no, you can speak as though you are relating your mother’s/friends/grandmother’s story but actually tell your own ?? Not sure if these suggestions help. Sending you white light for a clear and positive solution {{hugs}}

    1. Thanks, Debbie. Yeah, I was incredulous too! And I know this woman. Still though, I didn’t expect those comments from her. The person that asked me to do it has retired since she asked me. Terrible timing!
      Thank you for your suggestions. I think that I have to speak about my experiences as my own though. Otherwise I will feel like I am not being completely honest. I’m feeling a lot more confident about pressing her to let me speak openly (thanks to the wonderful feedback I’ve gotten), even though I know that it could result in me not getting to do the presentation.

  8. Have you talked about it with your AA friends? Or at a meeting? I’m sure others have found themselves in similar situations… Definitely a dilemma!! Personally I would say I was an alcoholic… Good luck and let us know:-)

    1. Tracy, I’ve talked to my sponsor and my husband (he’s in the program), and they are in agreement with the comments here. I do think that I will bring it up at my home group meeting tomorrow. I think that I have to say that I am an alcoholic, or not do the presentation. It wouldn’t feel honest if I didn’t and I don’t really think that I would reach anyone. What’s the point in that?

  9. First of all, good for you for having the courage to express your views to your Supervisor and for being a role model as a person who is proud to be in recovery!!!! I applaud you!!! Have you seen the movie “Anonymous People” it is a documentary about the stigma of addiction and the movement towards ending it. If you have not seen it yet I highly recommend it. I think that this is a great oppurtunity for you to give a speech on the stigma of addiction and the movement towards education about the disease and about the hope of recovery. Obviously your supervisor needs this education, and today’s youth are a huge oppurtunity to turn the tide. This way, you can honor your supervisor’s request not to necessarily discuss your own recovery, while simultaneously educating her and the students about ending the stigma. There are many blogs and info on the web to support ending the stigma. Check out Many Faces One Voice, and Sober Nation to start. Many articles that may help you with stats etc. Good luck!

    1. Thank you so much. No, I haven’t seen Anonymous People, but I definitely will! Also, thanks for letting me know about Many Faces and Sober Nation, I will check them out.

  10. Okay–I’m going to weight in on the “wimp” side. If this a supervisor who can make your work life miserable, I would be tempted to “play it cool.” It sounds like she is pretty set in her ways. Maybe you could come up with a way to allude to being in recovery without coming right out and saying it? Or, ask people to come up and talk to you afterwards and disclose to those specific people. There is also the option of going out into the community (where you may reach some of the same people) and speaking–where you can disclose without fear of work repercussions. Just my two cents–that is a tough one.

    1. Yeah, there is definitely a part of me that is on the wimp side too. But that said, I feel pretty strongly about this and I think that I have to be able to approach it with honesty and authenticity. I also think that it’s important to let the students know that I am in recovery, otherwise, I don’t have credibility and they won’t hear me. It is a tough situation, and I generally don’t like to rock the boat. But I might just have to in this case.

  11. So, you are going to tell the group you are an alcoholic but NOT in recovery? It took me years and years to move from Problem Drinker to Alcoholic and having the honesty to admit powerlessness is the only thing that has started to make a difference. I can appreciate, perhaps, that your Boss might think that there is a detrimental affect to having an alcoholic working for her and your business. That is one battle you have to work out. But to tell you what you are and aren’t and to HIDE what you have learned about yourself would, to me, be a threat to my sobriety. There is only one answer to THAT situation.

    1. You’re right, there is only one answer: I have to do the presentation telling the students that I am an alcoholic, or not do the presentation. That’s all there is to it. I hope that I can get her buy-in somehow, because I really want to be able to share the hope I have found.
      Thanks for your advice!

  12. Refuse to give the presentation he it has to be under those rules. Then tell her you will not hide your alcoholism and are prepared to take that issue of discrimination above her he she continues. Well that is what I’d do.

    1. Thanks. I won’t hide my alcoholism, or my recovery. I have been very open about it and when the opportunity has presented itself in one-on-one situations with students, I have shared my story. I will keep doing that. I won’t do the presentation if I can’t be honest.

  13. I wanted to think for awhile before weighing in with my opinion, which of course was the trigger-happy, “find someone else to do the fuckin’ talk.” But you have received so many excellent responses here, I don’t know what I can add. Just remember that her dark-age viewpoint is HER problem;I agree with the writer who wrote if she is someone who can make your life miserable, then you have to take that into account; if you feel that doing the talk without acknowledging your alcoholism would at all make you feel bad,then definitely don’t do it; and I would take this opportunity(maybe in your talk?) to address the topic of those who still have negative, obsolete feelings toward alcoholics, which would indirectly be for her without directly mentioning your own alcoholism or her name.
    Good luck.

    1. Thank you. And I think you’re right, it is a good time to address the stigma associated with alcoholism. I hope that I am able to do the presentation, so I can include that. 🙂

  14. I like the ‘fuck it’ approach. If she fires you, you can file for unfair dismissal? I know it sucks but being made to feel ashamed of your alcoholism is not on. Stay true to yourself I reckon. Can you talk to the headmaster about your situation?

    1. Thank you,. I don’t think she could fire me for telling the truth about myself, but she could make my work life difficult. And yes, I can and will talk to her boss, the campus director. He is very supportive of my recovery and I think he will support me. I just wish that I could open my boss’ eyes.

  15. I had to think long and hard before I replied to this blog lest I threw myself into a verbal rant that I couldn’t take back. Your supervisor shows her lack of understanding of the disease with her words. I am sorry for her. To suggest the stereotype when she is well aware of your situation is nothing short of insensitive. The fact that she would rather choose to perpetuate the myth as opposed to open herself up to the reality is even more upsetting. Her comments remind me of the early 80s when people were fearful to be in the room with a person suffering from AIDS for fear of contracting the disease. With education, the fear diminished and those in the know make a mockery of the ignorance. However, with the education about alcoholism today, it can be exasperating to explain to those who choose to continue to ignore the facts.
    So, what would I do? I would consider if this speaking engagement would jeopardize my job if I chose to be true to myself. If so, I would decline the opportunity respectfully. Then, I would get my resume in order and do my best to secure a job where my boss loved me for my whole self and not the self she chose for me to share.
    I wish you peace with the situation; I pray for you but even more so for the woman with her head in the sand.

    1. Thank you, Linda. After all of the comments I have gotten, I think I know what I will do. I’m going to let my boss know that if I do the presentation, I have to be honest and talk about me being an alcoholic in recovery. That’s it. I have to do it that way.
      Thank you so much for your advice and prayers.

  16. Wow, that sounds super prejudicial. Honestly, I wonder how “legal” it is for your supervisor to say something like that to you.

    I cannot and will not give you advice, because I do not and will not have to live with the consequences, but what I will suggest is that you go with your gut…not the fear part, but rather the part that knows the truth and may silently beat you with a stick if you are not true to yourself in this situation. I’m sure that doesn’t help much, but seriously, I would research the legality of her comment. Good luck!! 😊

    1. I don’t really know if our human resources department would have anything to say about what she said. Probably not, as it has been my choice to make my recovery known, and she does have a right to her opinion. I guess if she was forcing me to do the presentation her way, I might have a leg to stand on. But I am pretty sure that before that happen she would just tell me not to do the presentation. At any rate, what she said was offensive and hurtful, and it definitely lowered my opinion of her.

  17. Ditto on what everyone else said! Great feedback. If I was being true to myself I don’t think I could talk about alcoholism and drinking without being honest about my own experience. Don’t do something you don’t feel right about. Keep us posted!

    1. Thank you! I will definitely post an update as anything new eventuates. Most likely, I will talk to my supervisor on Monday and see what happens. Wish me luck!

  18. I understand from helping develop diversity and multicultural training for large corporations, that there is an element going on here of what she is personally comfortable with. Just to bring it down to something basic, it’s probably no surprise that people across cultures have different ideas about what’s ok for things like handshaking, eye contact and physical contact. Think of that news story of George Bush stunning German Chancellor Angela Merkel by giving her a friendly squeeze on the shoulder at a dinner. Did not go over well at all. So if you understand that possibility, then what can you reasonably do? Do you have a person whose expertise includes diversity issues on staff or otherwise available who can help perhaps mediate this situation? These issues often become legal ones and organizations need someone to consult. I would try exhausting such avenues before taking a drastic measure. I’d want to take the risk, and make an honest and authentic presentation, but the consequences might be too costly. There is probably some creative way around your nemesis, so avoid her “identity” problems becoming yours unless you run into a wall or out of time. Bring it down to facts and everything will become more clear. – Hope that is of some help! SA

  19. Jami! There are laws in the US that protect us, as people in recovery and are pertaining to discrimination as related to Employment, Housing, Government services, Health care, and Education. You can find this information on the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA) website, or by downloading the Know your Rights brochure HERE.
    I hope this info helps a bit. Sending hugs and prayers.

  20. You definitely have to mention your recovery, and just be honest and let her know you will and you must. I suffered hugely when I was a teenage alcoholic because authority figures, including an ER doctor, claimed I was “too young”, and must be faking my problem. It didn’t make any sense — why would I do that? And how could I fake something I was too young to know anything about? There are children who have a drinking problem at age four, because they are told to bring their parents drinks, and they have one themselves not knowing any better, and children who are forced to drink by parents who use it as a way of controlling their sleep rhythms, and they are punished by society for talking about what has happened to their lives as a result. The “too young to be an alcoholic” myth needs to be addressed, and you’re in a position to address it. Alcoholism doesn’t depend on age, it’s a disease, not a lack of intelligence, and it isn’t always visible. People need to be aware of that.

  21. I think you need to teach your teacher a few things. First of all; alcoholism isn’t prevented when you’re ‘pretty’. The physical and emotional side are completely different, take Edie Sedgwick or Amy Winehouse; stunning girls but tempestuous souls. A storm comes in california, it doesn’t refrain due to the aesthethic of it?! Do not be ashamed, help is there, a lost soul can be found. Smile my girl, smile.

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