I had to speak at an event for work this past weekend in front of 100 people. Normally, I would have pounded a drink (or several) beforehand to calm my nerves—a little liquid courage if you will. Now, almost 3 1/2 years into my sobriety, I had to do this without my usual crutch. Was I nervous? Yes. Very. But somehow when I got up to the podium, I managed to stay calm and actually speak coherently. It certainly helped to have so many friendly faces in the crowd – a sincere thank you to my friends who were able to make it. I truly appreciate the support.
I started a new job about 2 months ago. I’m working as the Executive Director of the National Breast Center Foundation. It was started by a local doctor a little over a year ago to ensure that low-income and uninsured women have access to screenings, mammograms and treatment for breast cancer. Turns out that the DC area, where I live, has the highest incidence and mortality rate from breast cancer in the country. It also has one of the highest rates of late stage breast cancer in the nation. It is truly a privilege to work for someone who is actually trying to make a difference and address this crisis.
It’s been over ten years since I hung up my hat as a lobbyist for the telecommunications industry. I left when my middle child turned one to stay home and be a mom. Best decision I ever made. But there were definitely days when I missed the interaction with other adults and putting on real clothes to go somewhere other than my laundry room. I truly enjoyed my work but something had to give. I felt as though I was doing everything half-assed and nothing well. There are heated debates about both sides of the concept of being able to have it all as a woman—career and family —but that is a blog post for another day. Back to liquid courage.
My former job as a lobbyist involved a great deal of drinking and socializing. Lots of receptions, dinners, fundraisers, etc. And I drank through all of them. I downed my liquid courage before I had to walk into a social situation where I didn’t know anyone. A drink at a business lunch helped facilitate the conversation, or so I thought. Drinks with colleagues after work were a common occurrence. Drinks on the golf course too. But now, 10 years since I worked and 3 1/2 years sober, there is none of that. I’m on my own without the crutch of liquid courage.
I was very open and honest about my alcoholism when I applied for the job. It’s pretty easy to find my blog and connect me to it. That’s intentional. I explained when I interviewed that I am very forthcoming about being an alcoholic and about my blog. I do it so that others in similar situations will know they are not alone and to shed a little light on a subject that still isn’t talked about enough in our society. One of the board members who interviewed me asked me flat out if I thought my alcoholism would affect my job. I said it would. It would make me better at it. I know who I am and I am getting more comfortable in my own skin. I am finding my own voice and am able to use it without needing liquid courage to do so. Better to be open about being a recovering alcoholic than to have an employee who comes in trying to hide a miserable hangover. Or worse.
So here’s to pouring that liquid courage down the drain. Cheers.
“I learned that courage was not the absence of fear but the triumph over it. The brave man is not he who does not feel afraid, but he who conquers that fear. “ Nelson Mandela