Coming out at work
One Club Soda member shares her story of going from office party girl to coming out as a non-drinker at work.
I went to a work function dinner on Tuesday and like many of these occasions they centre around wine choice, often that being the only choice of drink apart from tap water. In my drinking life I would have always taken advantage of these opportunities to guzzle as much free booze and would always be the drunken idiot at the table. My behaviour was normalised by my colleagues as they all got drunk too; the drunken madness was almost worn as a badge of pride. The industry I work in is meant to be liberal and with that comes excessive drinking, drunken debates, meetings in the pub, all seen as a treat for hard work; alcohol runs through everything.
When I started working in my current role one of the bosses used to pour wine into a teapot and at the end of the day he would come round and ask us all if we wanted a ‘cuppa’, we all thought it was funny and joined in. We would always go to the pub at lunch time for a few glasses of wine, or champagne on a Tuesday night, just because. Incidents of colleagues breaking bones from drunken falls, vomiting into handbags, being chucked out of local pubs for being too raucous were standard. I once fell into a Christmas tree in a restaurant and everyone thought it was hilarious; my bosses would bring it up as a legendary moment in my career…
Hangovers and issues
Our hangovers were tolerated and coming in late was often okay. I used to use the stationery cupboard as a place to sleep when I was hungover. I would lock it from the inside and just lay down on the cold floor and sleep. Everyone knew and named it my bedroom.
This was all seen as a harmless joke but on a serious side I’d say that out of ten people in my office, at least three of them have alcohol issues, in terms of dependency. We all stuck together though and made each others’ excess seem normal.
When I decided to change my life in December 2014 I knew that the drinking in work situation would be my hardest challenge, simply because my reputation was ingrained as the ‘fun party girl to drink with’. I was scared about this life change due to the amount of times I had tried to give up and then failed at the first moment I went to the pub with work. I was nervous to even announce I was giving up so the first few occasions I used excuses like I was on antibiotics, or having a sober month, health kick. People would still even say to me ‘oh you can drink on antibiotics, don’t worry about it’. The pressure to drink sometimes was enormous, especially as I used to be part of the drinking circle, always up for drink no matter what day, or what I had to do the next day.
After a few months of not drinking, I started to feel my self-esteem come back. Drinking for years and doing shameful things when drunk had eroded my self-esteem and I also think held me back at work. How could I ever be taken seriously if all I was known for was being a ‘funny drunk party girl’?