Sanford House sent me to the IOCDF Annual Conference last weekend. It was in Chicago, and due to the co-occurrence of Lollapalooza on the city’s streets, I have recast my impression of Chicago from “that toddling town” to “that noisy-ass town”. There were crowd shrieks, sirens and ambulances whoop whooping all night long. As it turns out, Kim was there representing affiliate OCD Jacksonville, and neither of us got any sleep while we were there. I almost wish I could say it was because we were partying…
I attended many excellent lectures on OCD and addiction. This was the first year the OCD conference has included a curriculum on substance use disorders (SUDs). The general consensus is that addiction, an additional complication for 25% of those with OCD, is a topic that needs more open discussion in the OCD community. New treatment models for OCD incorporate SUD treatment, with exciting breakthroughs like the use of Visual Reality and exposure therapy. These are topics for future blogs.
Business Without the Booze
Today I want to talk about traveling for business when you’re in recovery. This is the first time I have been on a genuine business trip since I have been sober. I’m lucky – I work for an addiction treatment center. It’s not as if the culture is boozy, but I had forgotten how much business and drinking go together. It’s like the game of golf – if you don’t play (or drink) you lose the comradery of those who do.
I bunked with Kim at this conference and the hotel we stayed in had a bar in the lobby. I mean the entire lobby was a huge bar. It was impossible to avoid. The other, functioning kiosks in the lobby, such as check-in and valet, were shoved into the periphery in a narrow walkway around the grand circumference of the cocktail lounge.
As I passed through on my way to lunch and lectures, I noticed the business action in the bar. Large groups were drinking Bloody Marys, twosomes sipped white wines and people powwowed over beers and dirty martinis. There is an intimacy to sharing a business drink, an awkwardness to ordering tonic when everyone else is having scotch neat. Something suspicious, as if the teetotaler is taking notes or (God forbid) remembering every false promise and inappropriate action of their colleagues.
The Business World Runs on Ethanol…
It should be a boon to an employee to say they don’t ever drink. The cost of alcoholism to the business world is in the billions. Alcohol-related problems generate avoidable health care costs and reduce workforce productivity. But the business world still runs on ethanol.
I took this topic to Reddit, and this is my favorite response from Greg:
It’s sad to say but I feel like not drinking is an actual impediment to my career. I really feel as though something should be done; I’m not normally one to push my problems onto others (no, really!) but in that case I honestly feel somewhat discriminated against because I can’t drink.
Every conference I’ve gone to recently has had a ‘free drink’ voucher and a reception that is just a cash bar. It sucks. And though ‘networking’ is overrated I got into my organization’s ‘speaking gig’ loop just by my capacity to be a barfly.
Sorry for the rant but your post struck a nerve. Good on you — any kind of out of town travel for work is a HUGE trigger for me.
The Best Thing You Can Do
The best thing you can do if you are sober on a business trip (and you don’t work for a treatment center), is order tonic or club soda from the bar. Walk back to the table, adopt a non-judgmental attitude about everyone else’s drinking and learn to keep a poker face when your potential client tells the same story three times. If the situation becomes a trigger, you will have to leave and learn.
And if you start feeling resentful, just remember the time you woke in your hotel room in Houston wearing someone else’s coat, with the M&Ms you were eating when you passed out glued to all your pulse points… It is always better to be clear headed in a business setting…
Today I’m not drinking because I am working.