Nobody had a clue that this Australian TV personality was hiding a dark secret for several years, until one click of the wrong button revealed to the world her lifelong struggle with alcohol addiction. Four years later, she opened up about her story of addiction and recovery, and we look at what this might mean for us in the workplace.
A different face of alcoholism
Talitha Cummins, a news presenter for Seven Network’s Weekend Sunrise, does not seem like the stereotypical alcoholic. When people see her on TV, they see an educated, professional woman– not at all like the hopeless derelict we imagine alcoholics to be.
Yet, four years ago, she inadvertently admitted to the public her struggles with alcoholism by posting a private blog on her public Facebook page. At the time, she was only four months sober. She dreaded the mistake, but after messages of support started pouring in, she felt relieved and used that support to remain sober.
Cummins recently talked about her life in ABC’s Australian Story, where she detailed how she battled alcohol addiction for several years. She had her first drink at 14 years old, before a school social. She recalled being very shy when she was young and said that alcohol helped her get over her self-consciousness.
The drinking continued until her 30s. She turned into a binge drinker and at the peak of her addiction, she could finish more than four bottles of wine in one sitting.
Cummins said she resorted to drinking as a form of stress release. She would binge at office functions, get horribly drunk and would need to be carried home. In the morning before heading to work in the newsroom, she would force her body to snap out of a hangover by exercising vigorously.
Her colleagues said she hid her drinking very well and was always professional on air. They assumed she was just enjoying her life and partying like young people do. Until that unintentional outing on Facebook, nobody had a clue.
Today, Talitha Cummins is four years sober, married and a recent mother to a baby boy. She admits that recovery is a lifelong process and is thankful to her husband, Ben Lucas, for his support (Ben gave up drinking soon after they started dating). While she may have been terrified at first for being known as a former alcoholic, she now gladly wears that title. She hopes that her story inspires others to come up with solutions to the growing yet hidden problem of alcohol addiction.
You can read the full story here.
A lesson to be learned
As evidenced by Talitha Cummins’ story, there is a huge stigma attached to alcoholics, which is one of the reasons people are afraid to seek help. They fear the judgment of others and the consequences they will face once they admit to having a problem. In the case of Cummins, she feared her alcoholism was going to wreck her professional life. She continued pretending everything was fine and no one was the wiser.
We now know that alcoholics can come in many types. Unlike other forms of addiction, alcoholism doesn’t always manifest itself physically or even behaviourally so a person can hide the problem and maintain the high-functioning façade. In spite of constantly being in front of the camera, Cummins successfully managed to hide her affliction from her circles and the public. Similarly, in the workplace, we may not be aware that there are people struggling in our midst.
Implementing responsible policies about alcohol consumption and offering counselling to employees are helpful measures companies can take. We must also become more sensitive to the unseen struggles of others and try to remove the harmful stigma associated with the addiction. Alcohol addiction can be destructive, but it is ultimately beatable as long as we take the fight out of the shadows.