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Boozy Business – Traveling for Work When You’re Sober

Boozy Business – Traveling for Work When You’re Sober

Boozy Business – Traveling for Work When You’re Sober

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.

 

 

How come you’re not drinking?

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Comments (9)

  1. Avatar
    Rosalind
    Aug 4, 2016

    How come you're not drinking?
    Because I no longer work in a booze fest.
    Marilyn, brilliant post! This brought back so many memories of my first job. Straight outta college and thrown to the wolves of public accountancy. Everyone drank, and heavily, from the partners to the clients to us newbies. We drank to celebrate big accounts, the start of a job, the conclusion of a job, birthdays, marriages, divorces (and there were quite a few of those). My “job” on the Fridays I was in town was to leave work early (before 8 pm was considered early so 6 was a real treat) and “get a table” at that watering hole on the Southbank that was so popular in the early 80’s. I think I practically had to lay across it to keep it unoccupied until my bosses arrived. We once took a client out for dinner and drinks in south FL and he was so enamored by the free booze that he got hammered and racked a DUI on his way home. I left public accounting after a few short years not because of the long hours, rampant discrimination or shitty pay. I left because I knew I would die if I continued to work in that environment.
    What you are doing by talking about work place booze is so important, and not only to those in recovery but also for those who hope they never end up there. Keep up the good work at Sanford House and so glad you haven’t left the blog behind!

    • Marilyn
      Marilyn
      Aug 4, 2016

      And I actually know that public accountancy is a hot bed of booze and sex. My ex was a partner at Deloitte and their Christmas parties… It is a real issue and hand in hand with too much alcohol is harassment and embarrassment – I refer to the incident where I woke wearing the coat of a colleague (who of course spent hours looking for it in the pile of coats at the office party…). Great to hear from you!
      XXXOOO
      M

  2. Avatar
    Summer
    Aug 4, 2016

    How come you're not drinking?
    Because I am trying to forge a new career and a new business and need to devote myself to that rather than booze.
    Great post.

    • Marilyn
      Marilyn
      Aug 4, 2016

      Thanks and starting new careers are a perfect time to gat/stay sober. Sobriety puts you ahead of the pack!
      XXXOOO
      M

  3. Avatar
    Jeanette
    Aug 4, 2016

    How come you're not drinking?
    I am enjoying not being a slave to my addiction/alcoholism & learning that I can function in what is truly an alcoholic world............
    Awesome post!!!!!!! Being new yet again in recovery I do remember “those days” & I totally agree although it is a sad state of affairs, that alcohol is part of the successful business world. However, I have been re-thinking that term & realize that perhaps it wasn’t as successful as I remember. Afterall, here I am back to “square one” & working on staying sober & still hoping to seek gainful employment without the aid or alcohol.

  4. Avatar
    Tim S
    Aug 4, 2016

    I traveled a LOT AFTER I got sober. (Past tense; I’m retired, but the previous statement covers almost 20 years.). Here’s my belief: MOST PEOPLE DONT EVEN NOTICE! AND IF THEY DO NOTICE, THEY DONT GIVE A SHIT. Indeed, if they notice anything, it’s that you’re no longer well on your way by 1:00 pm like you (I) used to be. I’m not quite saying it’s all in your head, but I am saying our choice to be sober is a much bigger deal to us than it is to them.

    If you’re in AA and your conference has more than 3-400 people, chances are very high there’s others there too. Put a note on the message board, “Friends of Bill W, meet me in breakout room A at 6:30.”

    The above applies not only at a conference of treatment professionals but even one of liquor industry professionals (for example). If all else fails and you’re alone and in a slippery place (aka “triggers”), call me; five-oh-three-five-45-8535.

  5. Avatar
    KB
    Aug 4, 2016

    How come you're not drinking?
    I don't have to do that anymore to be part of the "in" crowd.
    How this post brings back memories. My entire career was spent selling very complex computer software to very smart, (though a bit autistic at times), engineers. I mention this as you would think that this would be a very studious hardworking nose-to-the-grindstone kind of environment. Hardly. We worked hard and played hard as they were so fond of saying. My boss went on vacation once for 2 weeks. When we went to our “regular” after work spot when he returned the cocktail waitress that always waited on us remarked, “Gee Harry, (not his real name), we have had a surplus of Jack Daniels since you’ve been gone.” Harry’s favorite expression was ..” To be successful in this business you have to hoot with the owls and soar with the Eagles.” Translation : You have to drink until the bar closes but you better be at work early ready to go. I can’t tell you how many bottles of Visine I used just so I could open my eyes in the morning. Harry dropped dead of a heart attack at age 45 on his birthday. He was the best salesman I ever knew and he enabled me to make a very good living. I love him and miss him and was grateful for everything I learned from him. The bad news was if you didn’t drink like Harry you weren’t part of the “in” crowd. I still remember the outsiders trying to get in while us insiders reaped all the benefits. All because of alcohol. It was the driving force for everything Harry did. Had I not been part of the “in” group I doubt my career would have been as successful as it turned out to be.
    There was no shortage of “Harry’s” in that business. I sure hope it has changed. I am really grateful I don’t have to do that anymore.

  6. Avatar
    Jeanette
    Aug 4, 2016

    How come you're not drinking?
    I luv remember what I did or didn't do the night before....................
    I luv your post as this is sadly too true……

  7. Avatar
    Luther Cauthon
    Aug 25, 2016

    Is the institution of lunch suffering just because of the credit crunch? “Not entirely,” says Backman. “In Britain, the expense-account lunch has been a declining phenomenon for a long while. The corporate belt-tightening is more intense now, but it predates the recession.” My mistakes? Drinking at lunch time, and spending two hours at table when I should have been at the coalface of journalistic productivity. I nod off on the tube back to the office as though I am a hack from the previous millennium. Happy – albeit probably doomed – days.

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