Alcohol Awareness Month

It’s April and that means it’s Alcohol Awareness Month. Every year the National Council on Alcoholism and Drug Dependence sponsors this month to increase public awareness, NCADD_Alcohol_Awareness_Month_Logoreduce stigma, and encourage people to focus on alcoholism and alcohol-related issues. And each year for the last three, I have spoken about alcoholism awareness at the college where I worked. Since I no longer work there, I thought I would blog about it instead.

This year’s theme is “Talk Early, Talk Often: Parents Can Make a Difference in Teen Alcohol Use.” The goal is to get parents talking to their kids about alcohol use and open the lines of communication about alcoholism and its consequences. The bigger picture is aimed at everyone – those of us who are alcoholics, anyone who has been affected by alcoholism, and even those who have not and who know nothing about it – so that we can reduce the stigma attached to alcoholism.

The only way to reduce stigma is to get the information out there, and for those of us who have one, to tell our story. It isn’t always easy, there are still those people out there who think that all alcoholics are deadbeats and losers who drink cheap liquor from a bottle in a brown paper sack. I wrote once about a time that one of my supervisors cautioned me to stay quiet about my addiction. I didn’t. I told my story and I had a wonderful, positive response. But, I can’t help but think that if I had let my boss have her way, that wouldn’t have happened, and I would’ve felt ashamed and less-than for being an alcoholic. It is through the telling of our stories that we are able to help others. The stories that I  hear from other alcoholics is what helps me, and I hope that I help others by sharing mine.

If you want more information about Alcohol Awareness Month you can get it here.

If you or a loved one suffers from alcoholism and you are looking for treatment facilities you can look at ConsumerAffairs’ Drug and Alcohol Rehab Guide.

If you would like to find a meeting of Alcoholics Anonymous in your area you can find one here.

 

 

 

 

The Show Went On

I posted recently about a presentation I was scheduled to do at the college where I work about Alcohol Awareness Month.  I met with some resistance from my supervisor about including the fact that I am in recovery from alcoholism myself, in the presentation.  You can read the whole story here and here.   Well, last Wednesday, I gave the presentation, and I wanted to give you all an update to the saga.

First of all, my talk hit the three main objectives of the National Council on Alcohol and Drug Dependence’s Alcohol Awareness Month:  raising awareness, decreasing stigma, and presenting information about treatment.  I have to admit, wrong or right, that while my presentation included all three, it mostly focused on decreasing stigma about alcoholism.  The reason that I did that, of course, was because of how I was treated a couple of weeks ago by my supervisor when she told me that I should keep my recovery hidden.  If I’m honest, part of me wanted to debate the point with my supervisor, because I really thought that she was wrong in what she said to me, and she clearly needed to be schooled in what to think. Yep, I’m still an alcoholic, with alcoholic thinking.  But there was also a part of me that was really hoping that as I talked about the negative stereotypes of alcoholics, asking the students to join me in listing them, that my supervisor would come to her own realization that maybe her perception of alcoholics (especially those in recovery) wasn’t quite accurate.  I stressed the fact that alcoholism does not discriminate, and that most of its victims look just like you and me.  I stated the fact that I am in recovery from alcoholism at the beginning of my talk, and that was the reason that I was presenting on the topic…because it’s something that I know intimately and that I am passionate about.

On assembly day, we do two presentations, one for the morning students and one for the night students.  My first presentation went off without a hitch.  It was great!  I was nervous, as speaking in front of large groups is, most definitely, not my thing.   I spent some time praying before I had to “go on,”  asking God to give me the confidence to make it through the presentation without sounding as nervous as I felt, and to let those that needed to hear it have open ears.  Fortunately, my supervisor had told me the day before that she wouldn’t be there for the morning assembly.  That gave me some peace, because I knew that if I said something she didn’t like in the morning, she could easily pull me from the second assembly.  My campus director spoke first and then introduced me.  As I walked up in front of everyone, I felt calm, confident, and knowledgeable.  The students paid attention, answered questions when I asked them, seemed thoughtful, and laughed when I hoped they would.  When I was finished and turned it back over to my campus director, he said some really nice things about both me and the information that I shared.  IT WAS AWESOME!  I had some amazing responses after the assembly, including one student that immediately followed me into my office to talk.  I had some other discussions later with both staff and students; that made my anxiety all worth it.

The second presentation went fairly well, but not as great as the first.  Night students are a different breed (I knew this going in), in that they are not as attentive, most of them work during the day so they are tired and distracted, and there aren’t as many that know me personally.  I did still get some participation though, and I was happy for that.  I was much more anxious for the second talk for two reasons:  my supervisor would be there, and my campus director, my supporter, would not.  As I started the part of my talk that covered the stigma attached to alcoholism, I did my very best to not make eye contact with my supervisor, even though she was right in the front row and I felt like I was talking directly to her.  I made it through the presentation though, and again I had some really good feedback, and some conversations that proved that there was a need for some to hear what I had to say.

At the end of the day Wednesday, I was glad that it was over and I was pleased with myself that I stuck to my guns and talked about my own recovery.  I would’ve called that a success if the positive responses had ended there.

But then Thursday morning came….

I was working in my office when I saw my boss coming toward my door.  Here it comes, I thought.  She’s going to be angry with me for ignoring her advice (warning? directive? whatever you want to call it) about not revealing my own recovery.  She had a piece of paper in her hand and an envelope.  I immediately thought that it was going to be some kind of disciplinary write-up and that I was in trouble.  She came in and closed the door…bad sign.  I was starting to get my arguments in order mentally, my adrenaline was beginning to flow, and then she said it:  “Jami, I want to thank you for your presentation yesterday.  It was very informative, I learned some things, and you presented it well.  You could easily be an instructor here, you did so well.”  Wait…what?  I was so surprised to hear what she was saying that it took me too long to mumble a thank you.  She stood up, came around to my side of the desk and hugged me and gave me a Starbucks gift card to thank me.  Holy cow, I was dumbfounded!  This is not the scenario that had been playing in my head for the past week.  I was ready with my defense, but where was the offense I had expected?  It took me a minute to regroup, and to thank her properly.  And then we went on to talk shop about the upcoming start of classes.

My boss’ reaction to the presentation was a real shocker.  A very pleasant surprise.  I think that it was as close to a retraction of her previous statements as I am going to get, and I am over the moon about it!  I don’t know what her motivation for thanking me was; maybe she was told by our campus director to do it, or maybe she was just doing what she thought was the right thing to do.  But maybe, and this is what I am choosing to believe, she listened to what I had to say, kept an open mind and had a change of heart.  I really hope that’s the case.

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

Last week I wrote about a situation that happened at work that had me questioning how to handle the ignorance of my supervisor about alcoholism and recovery.  I wanted to give you, my fellow bloggers and friends, an update about the situation and let you know what I have decided to do.  But first, I just want to thank everyone that weighed in on the situation.  This is actually the first time in almost a year of writing this blog, that I have specifically asked for help with an issue that I was having, and I am awed and grateful at the outpouring of feedback and support that I have received.  Thank you all for your words of advice and encouragement.

After being told that when I do a presentation about alcoholism for Alcohol Awareness Month, I should hide my own recovery, I didn’t know what to do.  As I read everyone’s comments in response to my post, I felt that my position – that not talking about my own recovery would invalidate the whole purpose of the talk – was the right one.  The purpose of Alcohol Awareness Month is to increase awareness (duh) and to decrease the stigma that is associated with the label of “alcoholic.”  If I don’t speak about my own recovery, I will be doing a disservice to those that are listening.  That said, I do not want to directly disobey what my supervisor says.  I do need a job.

What I have decided to do is this:  I am going to make the main point of my presentation the stigma that is associated with alcoholism.  I am going to speak directly to the stereotypes and prejudices that people have about alcoholics and people in recovery.  I will work in my own recovery in the presentation, but I will not say the words, “I am an alcoholic.”  Hopefully, that will be enough to satisfy my supervisor, and I will not suffer any negative consequences.  And hopefully, she will have open ears to hear what I am saying about the stigma related to the disease of addiction.

I am happy to say that I have he support of the campus director, who is my supervisor’s boss.  I had a discussion with him about my conversation with my supervisor and while he told me that he hopes that I do not take her comments personally, he completely supported me in what I want to get across in my presentation.  He understands alcoholism and recovery.  Thank God for that.

The presentation is next week, I will let you all know how it goes.  Thank you all again, for your advice and encouragement.

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?