At my eight-year-old daughter’s voice recital a few weeks ago, her teacher had a Diet Pepsi. In a bottle. Except the color of the liquid inside was too light to be Diet Pepsi. I should know. I’ve been addicted to Diet Pepsi for years. It goes great with Milk Duds on road trips. Or with those Dove chocolate covered cherries on stressful afternoons when you’d really love a beer to help get over the hump.
There was something else in that bottle. I should know. I’m an alcoholic. And there was a time I used every trick to hide the true identity of my addiction and my beverage, especially when I shouldn’t have been drinking (which was, really, any time I was drinking).
“That’s not Diet Pepsi,” I texted my husband who was standing right next to me. He read the message and gave me a puzzled look. “Too light,” I said.
The teacher hosted a lovely recital and was her usual cheery, energetic, musical self. Our daughter sang beautifully and we were so proud. So, so proud. I tried not to think about the Diet Pepsi. Maybe it was iced tea.
Friday afternoon, the teacher arrived at our home for my daughter’s weekly lesson. She walked in with a generic can of diet root beer. She’d never brought in a drink before. I usually offer her water, coffee, tea. Immediately, I wondered what was really in the can.
“Stop it,” I told myself. “You’re being ridiculous. It’s just a soda.”
The lesson went very well. My daughter belted out One Direction’s “What Makes You Beautiful” and sounded great – she’s been working very hard on her new song and looking forward to her lesson every week. After trying and firing three different music teachers over the past three years, we’ve finally found someone my daughter loves. And she’s come such a long way with this teacher.
I wrote the teacher her check, she gave my daughter some cool new stickers, and we said our good-byes. I locked the door behind her and turned to walk to the kitchen. Something caught my eye across the living room on the piano. The diet root beer can. She left it.
“Perfect,” I thought. “I can prove myself wrong and be done with this crazy thinking.” I walked over, picked it up, and took a sniff.
“Gag! What is that,” I asked, choking on the stench. I took the can into the kitchen and smelled it again. And again. It definitely wasn’t soda. It was alcohol. But I have no idea what kind. I was always a wine and beer gal myself, with a little vodka here and there. This was none of those.
No sooner had I decided to put aside the can so my husband could have a whiff when he got home from work, then there was a knock at the front door. It was the teacher. Back for her soda. I retrieved it for her and we wished each other a good weekend. And off she drove with her beverage.
Wait. Crap! Oh my god! What had I just done?! Where was my brain? Why didn’t I tell her I’d already poured it out? Say I was sorry and leave it at that. I let her drive off with a drink in her hand. I’m such an idiot!
Maybe I was wrong. Maybe it was just some horrible smelling drink. No. I was right. Why would she come back for a less than half full soda? Damn. This sucks. Now what do I do?
I never thought I would meet someone like me. Does she feel guilty about bringing the drink? I know I would have. I’d have been beating myself up and drinking more to make the feeling go away.
I drank at work. But I always masked the alcohol when I left the house – chewing mint gum constantly and replacing it the moment the flavor started to disappear. I never took a drink into a client’s office for a meeting, but I built a business from the ground up and excelled at my job at the height of my active addiction. I was so functional it was mind boggling. In my head, I imagine the music teacher is engaged in a very similar situation.
I understand this disease and what it’s like to battle it. I don’t want to lose this music teacher. But I don’t know if I can keep her.
Because I’m an alcoholic, I can’t just make up some story about our schedule getting too busy for lessons and brush her off. Because I’m an alcoholic, I have to confront her. I feel like I have an obligation to call her out and, maybe, try to help her. Don’t I?
I can’t call this woman a friend, but I can say I truly adore her and I love what my daughter is accomplishing as her student. I don’t know what would have happened to me if my drinking ever became something I couldn’t hide from my clients. Would there have been any sympathy? A second chance?
It takes one to know one and my heart is telling me to just tell her truth. Here’s what keeps coming to mind:
“I’m an alcoholic in recovery. I’ve suspected you might struggle with drinking as well. And, I believe the can you brought into my home was filled with something other than diet root beer. We really like you and we think you’re a fabulous teacher and we want to keep working with you. But, you cannot bring alcohol into my home and you need to be sober for my daughter’s lessons. If you can agree to this, we’d be delighted to continue. If not, we understand and wish you the best.”
But what if I’m wrong?
I myself am a recovering addict/alcoholic, and I agree 100%, it takes one to know one. When I was only a couple years into my active addiction and would go places with “non users” I could always point out the “people on drugs,” and a lot of times whoever was with me would ask, “how do you know or how can you tell?” I would always respond with “a druggie knows a druggie,” and so far it’s always proven to be right. I always thought of myself as a functioning addict because I took care of my responsibilities such as work, school, and my children. Garnet now that I look back on it, I probably didn’t do the great job I thought I was doing then, but I still maintained. I have tried numerous times to get clean, but always seemed to relapse. My last relapse I had been clean for almost 3 years, and in a matter of minutes I was headed back down a long dark road alone and scared, AGAIN!!! Luckily I only stayed out for about 6 months this last time, but in that 6 months I did a whole lot of damage to a whole lot of people. By the end of my “last run,” I was begging people to please just take my children from me. Not because I didn’t love or want them, but because I knew they didn’t need to be exposed to the things they were being exposed to. Luckily, my kids were never taken from me, even though they probably should have been, but this time I really hit rock bottom, and made the choice to get and stay clean and do any and everything I have to do to stay that way. NO MATTER WHAT!!! Professionals, family, friends, everyone (especially my sweet mother) always told me you HAVE to change your play mates and play grounds if your going to be successful and stay clean and sober. I always heard them but never really listened to any of them, until this last time. This time I told myself I was just going to try it for a few days and see how things went and if I didn’t like it, I knew I could always go right back to my old ways, no effort really needed. The first couple days were easy but by day 3 I was starting to get pretty lonely and bored, SO I phoned an old drug buddy, but because I didnt have any drugs or money they didn’t have time for me. WHAT?!? REALLY?? You mean your not my friend because I’m a nice, kind, caring person, your my “friend” only because of the drugs and/or money? Well I went a few more days without talking to or seeing my “friends,” and by now I’m ready to throw in the towel and say forget it because I THOUGHT I was lonely, when in all reality I was just bored and wanting a fix. Instead of giving into my weakness, I just kept telling myself “I’m better off without them.” By now one month had passed, and by the grace of God I had managed to stay clean, and was starting to see things a little more clearly and understand why something’s happen the way they do. Do you know in that month, only ONE of my “friends” tried to contact me, and when they found out I was in recovery, to this day I haven’t heard another word from them. Yes, to this day it still sometimes hurts or just down right sucks to not have “friends” but I’ve come to realize a couple things. One, they were never really my friends anyway or they would still be around to love and encourage me. Two, remember what I said earlier about “changing your playmates and playgrounds” if you want to be successful? Wait for it……….. …….. …….IT REALLY IS TRUE!!!! In all of my attempts to maintain and stay in recovery in the past that is the one rule that I never followed, much less believed. Boy was I wrong!!! I honestly feel like if I were still talking to and hanging out with people still in active addiction, I wouldn’t still be in recovery today. I would most likely be dead!!! So, the next time your around your daughters music teacher or anyone else you “think” may be drinking or using, remind yourself that “it takes one to know one,” and you could be in a very vulnerable state at the time, and may not even realize it. Do you really want to risk your sobriety, and everything you’ve worked so hard for, and where your at now versus where you were in active addiction? I know that life happens and we can’t always avoid being around someone whos using and/or drinking, but if its a time when we can avoid it, why would you not? I understand wanting to be there for and help someone but you also have to remember unless they’re ready for help, nothing you say or do is going to change anything. They’re going to have to want it for themselves before you can even begin to help them. With all of that being said, if it were me in your position I would use my best means of communication (meaning I can express my thoughts and feelings a lot better on paper than I can verbally, where others can express themselves better thru talking than writing,) and start by sharing a little bit of my history, then go on to tell how I decided to make that change for myself, maybe even include some of the reasons why you made the choice you made, then I would go on to explain that because of my decision there is certain measures and cautions you have to follow to maintain your decision including not subjecting yourself to people who are actively using. I may even go on to say that I’ve tried to still “live my old life just without using,” but have always failed because I allowed the temptation to hang around, and while yes at times I was able to stay clean for a bit, the temptation always seemed to show up when I was most vulnerable, and it always ends the same, with me using. Then i would make sure they know that your not judging them because of their choices because remember you were once in the shoes they’re in now. Make sure they know that you care about them and are concerned about and for them, but to maintain your sobroity you can not be a part of their active using. It may sound mean or rude but sometimes we have to put ourselves first even if it’s just for a moment, to be able to continue and maintain a healthy way of living. Just make sure they know you are always there when they’re ready for help but until then you must keep distance.
Wow, sorry I know that was super long but this is something I feel very strongly about. One thing you may to consider and really think about, with you allowing her to be your daughters music teacher, aren’t you in a way enabling her drinking? I mean it cost money to drink, and you pay her for her services, right? And by not saying something to her, it may also give her the impression that what she’s doing is ok and something acceptable to be doing, when in reality that’s not the case at all.
Wow, Heather. Thank you so much for reading my blog and for sharing your story! I know what I need to do and hope to post a follow up when all is said and done.