Today marks one year since my big TV ‘outing’ as an alcoholic in recovery. It was a huge scary deal and I’ve just published a post about the entire process over on my Mrs D Is Going Without blog – here.
Before filming began on the programme the producer asked me if I had a blog reader willing to be interviewed. I thought immediately of my friend @suek. We had met through my blog and slowly over time had become firm ‘real-life’ friends.
Here is her story of how she responded to the producer’s request….
@suek: Have you ever been sitting in your client’s open plan office, working away, when you get a phone call asking if you’d mind going on national TV and admitting to being a booze hag… well, a reformed booze hag? No, me neither. It’s not the sort of thing that usually happens. Until it does.
My phone buzzed. Missed call from Lotta. It buzzed again. Text from Lotta: Can you call me!!!!!! My first thought was that she was in some kind of trouble, like maybe even about to start drinking again, so I called her right away.
“What’s up Lotta? You OK?”
“Yeah, I’m good. I just needed to talk to you… well, I need to ask you a favour. A big favour.”
“You know how TV One is doing a Sunday show on me and my blog and the online sober community? Well they want to interview one of my sober blog followers. You’d be PERFECT!!!!!!!!!!!!!! (She talked with more exclamation points than that.) They just want to interview someone who got sober through the online community. No Pressure!!!!!!!!!! I totally understand if you don’t want to. But you would be AMAZING. You don’t have to decide right away, but they want to line someone up fairly soon!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
While she was talking I got up from my desk and walked slowly over to a private meeting room so nobody in the office could hear anything.
Let me get this straight. Lotta wants me to go on TV and talk about getting sober with online support. Holy Shit. Does she have any idea how many people watch that programme? Does she have any idea that only about four people in the whole universe know I’ve even got a drinking problem?
I’m thrown into a tizzy (a very Zen tizzy). I say, “Let me think about it.”
“Great!!!!!!!!!!!! Call me BACK!!!!!!!!!!! As soon as you CAN. They’re waiting to hear from me.”
This story is really about what happened next. This is how instead of screaming the huge NO that was trying to burst out every pore of my being, I said YES. Yes, I will go on TV and admit to being a booze hag… well, a reformed booze hag.
But before I got to yes, I thought No Fucking Way. WTF? I can’t go on TV and talk about this. You see, in public, I wasn’t the kind of person who would ever have a drinking problem. I was a strong, together, sorted out woman. I had a professional business, I taught yoga, I had my shit together. Hardly anyone knew how miserable my drinking had become, and how desperate I was to quit. So of course hardly anyone knew how brilliant it was for me to be sober. I shared nothing with nobody about this, except online, commenting on sober blogs. I was sober anonymous through and through.
But then I calmed down and thought maybe I could do it if they don’t film my face. I want to be filmed in a deep leather armchair, with one of those moody spotlights shining on the side of my head like on the witness protection programmes. I could do that. I could talk about the tragedy of my boozing, the great triumph of sobriety and nobody would know it was me! That might help people, and I wouldn’t have to let Lotta down.
It only took five minutes for me to see that the witness protection gig was just a huge flag with SHAME printed in big flaming letters. I was ashamed. I was ashamed of having a drinking problem. I was too ashamed to show my face and say I’m sober, because that proved I had a drinking problem. This made me very sad. I might have cried a bit. I was 18 months sober at this point, I had worked so hard, and been so determined to kick the booze habit, and I had done it mostly alone, and I was still deeply ashamed of myself. I hid my sobriety, I hid my smallness and anxiety. I projected out there into the world: “I’m totally FINE!” But I was far from totally fine. I was a total fraud, actually, and I didn’t like it, but I didn’t know what to do about it. The glorious irony was that this invitation to be interviewed on TV was something incredibly powerful that I COULD do about it. It was extreme and radical. It scared me shitless.
I spent the afternoon digging through my shame. It was so old and exhausted. It went back way, way further than boozing. It was all about “What will people think?” “Don’t upset anyone.” “Don’t draw attention to yourself.” “Who do you think you are?” But mostly, what will people think? What if the people I work with see it? My aunties and uncles? The yoga students? Family, friends? The neighbours. What will they think?
It was huge and heavy.
But here was a way for me to heal it. Here was my chance to look the world in the eye and say, yes, I was locked in a private boozy hell, and now I’m sober, and I’m happy and proud of myself. Which I was, deep deep down. I decided that afternoon to be proud of being sober, not ashamed. I decided that going public was an awesome opportunity, a “no turning back” act of bravery and a personal step of courage I was ready to take.
It was also a great chance to get a message to people just like me who struggle with booze. We’re living normal looking lives, we drink way too much booze, nobody notices, we don’t crash our cars or lose our families or jobs, we don’t need detox or rehab, we wouldn’t go to AA… but booze has got us by the throats. I realised, if I can go on TV and tell the truth, how many other high-functioning drinkers might be inspired to get sober? How many of my relatives, colleagues, neighbours and friends might have a serious look at their own drinking habits?
So I did it. The interview and filming took ages, and they asked me a load of probing questions, which I answered bravely and honestly. I only got about 30 seconds of airtime!! But you know, doing the filming was totally cathartic. After that I felt empowered. And proud. I didn’t feel like an ex-boozer worm, I felt like a sober superheroine. I still do.
I emailed Lotta a few days ago, saying “is it really only just a year since the TV thing happened?” It feels like it happened years ago. I feel like a new person. I’m much more openly sober, not hiding away, anonymous, worried about what people think. I’ve had a shitload of change in my life in the past year, but the biggest thing that happened was outing myself on TV with Mrs D.
That was truly life changing.
You can watch the TV item here.