Dear [Insert Client’s Name]: I Am An Alcoholic

The following is a sneak peek at the letter I have drafted to tell my clients I am an alcoholic. Everyone who will receive this knew me in my most active phase of addiction. They are at the helm of the businesses and organizations that contracted with me for public relations services as I simultaneously grew my consulting business and threatened its existence with my drinking. I plan to send this letter in the very near future. And, I am prepared for any and all reactions.

I am not looking for an excuse to not send the letter. I am not soliciting edits. In my mind, this is a done deal. However, if anyone has done anything like this before, I would absolutely love to hear about your experience. Did you receive support? Did you lose clients? Did your business relationships change?

Thank you to everyone who has been reading my blog and sharing your own stories and thoughts with me. I am proud to be part of this incredibly strong and sober community. Here goes …

Dear [insert client’s name],

I am writing to you today to share a very personal situation, one which I need you to hear from me before you potentially find out another way.

Before my spinal fusion surgery in November 2014, I spent the better part of 13 years dealing with sporadic bouts of extreme and ultimately debilitating back pain. While I do not present this situation as an excuse, the bottom line is that I gradually became an alcoholic. I am extraordinarily proud to tell you that, aside from a slight setback about eight months ago, I have now been sober for 14 months.

Today, I am the strongest version of myself I have ever been. It has not been easy to get to this place, and I grow increasingly grateful every day for the love and support of family, friends, and clients who have remained by my side on this journey whether or not they knew I had embarked upon it.

For the past six months I have been blogging about my experience and sharing my story with the online world. Why? Because I suspected I was not alone. And, I have learned I was right. There are so many women like me out there, and we need each other. From the get go, I have been forthcoming about the fact that I was concealing my true identity by using a pen name, but I feel it is time to own up to my addiction in the most honest and transparent way possible – to let everyone know who I really am and enable myself to share my story even more publicly.

You may say you never knew or even suspected I had a problem. Most people didn’t – even some of my closest friends. I was very skilled at hiding my addiction. However, doing so sucked the life out of me, a little bit more every day. In March 2014, I nearly gave up.

I could ramble forever – I have become very good at sharing all the horrible truths of my story as well as proclaiming my victories. But, I am going to stop here.

One thing I can tell you with absolute certainty is that I have never been dishonest with you about the work I have done as your PR consultant. I am extremely proud of that work. I hope you will join me in celebrating my sobriety. However, I understand if this changes our relationship and causes you to doubt your ability and/or desire to trust me.

Thank you for your continued faith and confidence in me. I am blessed to consider you a friend as well as a client, and I look forward to many more successful years together.

All my best,

[My Real Name]

6 comments

  1. To be honest, I don’t know why you would send this letter, unless perhaps a competitor is threatening to ‘out’ you and you need to do some pre-emptive damage control. Otherwise I think it’s superfluous at best, and harmful at worst.

    I mean, if alcohol abuse is a disease, then this would be like sending your clients a letter saying you had herpes or bipolar disorder or something. And if it’s a behavioral choice, then this would be like telling your clients you used to be an adulterer.

    I know you’ve said it’s a done deal, but without knowing the details of all your circumstances, I’m concerned that it might do more harm than good. Just my two cents from a lurker.

    1. I totally appreciate your comment, SC! Thanks so much for lurking. Basically, I’d like to move beyond just blogging about my experiences and sharing them on social media. As we get closer to Alcohol Awareness Month next April, I am thinking about working with local media in my area on some stories that will raise awareness, reach others battling alcoholism who might feel alone, etc. Given the fact several of my clients are local, I thought the letter would be a nice head’s up before they see me on television or hear me on the radio. While I have no intention of doing anything that publicly links my business/professional brand to my Quit Wining persona (e.g., my biz website won’t refer to my QW site and vice versa, I won’t identify my business or clients when doing interviews for QW, and I won’t start calling myself the “sober PR chick”), I strongly feel I should be the one to tell my clients and my guess is that they’d prefer it that way, too. I’ve been wrong before – many times – but I have also learned to trust my gut instincts. I’m really hoping they’re right this time.

      1. That makes way more sense now!

        You know – not that you wanted edits – but your clarification was helpful enough that you may want to include something about that in your letter, like, “Dear clients, as you may or may not know, April is Alcohol Awareness Month. To raise awareness about alcohol use disorders, I will be appearing on X media to share my story about recovery from alcohol abuse, and hopefully decrease the stigma and shame surrounding this serious problem. As we have worked closely together for a number of years, I wanted to show you the respect of telling you in person, rather than having you find out from the media or a third party, yada yada yada.”

        That way, it’s more of a professional heads-up than a potentially awkward over-share.

  2. Hi Emily,
    It’s a big call. At the same time we are acknowledging the shame and stigma side of alcoholism and celebrating the enlightenment and personal development that comes with the our growth in sobriety. I have very publicly outed myself with releasing a couple of books and taking my blog and two side projects from anonymous to very personality driven.
    People look me in the eye and whisper that they never suspected anything – or that they knew something was going on all along – and I smile and wave and sigh that all that is behind me now. It’s a growth and development phase for me and if they can’t physically see the differences with my weight loss and joie de vivre, they can read about it in private. I am big on working through the shame by being vulnerable and, so far, I don’t regret a thing.
    Living courageously and “stepping out and knowing that the net will appear” as someone said is such an empowering and life-changing undertaking and you simply do not know how profoundly it will change your world.
    Out yourself, be brave, and above all, stay sober. There are dozens of people quietly wilting and your inspiration is all they need.
    Thanks
    Bren

    1. Bren, I have been remiss in replying to your comment and I am so sorry. It was our previous dialogue that really got me thinking and prompted this post. Thank you for being there and reading and sharing your thoughts and wisdom with me. I appreciate it more than I can express. I have all the bravery in the world EXCEPT when it comes to letting my clients know. Working on it. Getting closer all the time.

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