You made the decision to get sober. You’ve learned that the way to stay sober is to stay away from a drink or a drug one day at a time. In sobriety you’re able to be responsible and show up for work every day. But there’s one problem. Everyone else is still drinking. You’re finding that being at work or at social events with co-workers isn’t always a safe place to be when you’re trying not to drink.
There are a variety of different ways that your work culture might affect your sobriety. You may be expected to attend company events or parties where alcohol is served. Your boss or other co-workers may want you to go out for a drink or two after work. There are even some professions where drinking on the job is commonplace.
The Social Acceptability of Drinking
In our society, drinking is perfectly acceptable. Even though alcohol is a mind-altering substance, drinking is thought of as a rite of passage into adulthood. It’s considered a grown-up way to unwind after a long day at work or while dealing with the stress of a business trip or a stressful work-related project. Those who don’t participate are often thought of as uptight or odd.
This can make for some pretty uncomfortable situations for a recovering alcoholic trying to get through life surrounded by colleagues who habitually drink. More often than you would like, you may be not only encouraged to drink, but also expected to drink. How should you handle the expectations of others when it comes to social drinking? How can you protect yourself from relapse?
First Things First
In Step One of Alcoholics Anonymous, you admit that you are powerless over alcohol. This means that you are not only powerless over your own compulsion to pick up a drink, but you are equally powerless over the choices of other people. When co-workers or even your boss choose to drink to excess, there is absolutely nothing you can do about it.
The only thing you can do something about is your own recovery. You have to stay committed to staying sober even when others are drinking. Remember that you have to be willing to go to any lengths to attain sobriety. This means firmly saying no when others suggest you drink and being prepared to handle temptation if it happens.
Choosing to Be Anonymous
People may try to get you to drink even if they know you are sober, but some people may be a little more respectful of your choice not to drink if they know that you have had a problem. Should you tell people at work that you are an alcoholic? It’s a personal decision whether or not to share this part of you with your co-workers. While some people may be understanding and supportive, others will not.
One thing to keep in mind is that once you have shared this very personal detail about your life, there isn’t any going back. You may find that people are judgmental about your alcoholism and that they don’t really understand anything about the disease of alcoholism. They may start to act uptight around you or treat you differently.
Taking Care of Your Sobriety
When your work culture is drenched in alcohol, the most important thing you can do is stay focused on your own recovery. If this means you have to avoid certain company events in order to not trigger the urge to pick up a drink, that’s OK. If you have to interact with people who are drinking at company events, your sponsor or other sober friends should be only a text or phone call away. If you are at an event that is making you uncomfortable, you may need to make an excuse and leave early.
Learning tolerance of the behavior and choices of others is a big part of recovery. In a perfect world, you wouldn’t have to put up with alcohol-drenched events. Instead, you have to “live and let live.” Your job is to take care of your own sobriety and to stay committed to not picking up a drink no matter what happens.