Drinking Culture and trauma




In September, it’ll be my work’s annual company day, usually a day away with an overnight stay. I missed one year, the only year I attended was tame due to cost saving, so they didn’t go away and there was no overnight stay. It was an enjoyable respite from work with lots of yoga, talks, etc and no drinking.

This is not what happens most years.

Most years they get banned from places they go. People party in someone’s room, they bring/ buy / smuggle in extra booze. People cry, people vomit…

This event is 5 months away and I’m shaking with anxiety each time I think about it. I’m a fairly senior manager so expected to attend. We have a great Mental Health First Aid team at work but many are the hard drinkers, one is teetotal due to drinking too much in their past. We have a diverse culture, too. Yet somehow the drinking is all anyone can talk about for this event. I do drink, a tiny bit. But I can’t stand being near drunk people. I don’t even know how to raise this but I think I should say something as it affects me so profoundly but I don’t want to be the part pooper. And I do not want to share a room with a drinker or within earshot of any drinkers. I’m asking a bit much really, aren’t I? I want them all to change to make me feel comfortable!

  • here2help

    I went through a similar scenario last week and it was uncomfortable so you have my empathy. I also tried to avoid going but was guilted into making the effort. I went early for just two hours, ate the buffet and drank orange juice. Circulated and said hello so I’d be seen and then I went to my hotel room to hide out. My team at work also talks about drinking all the time. I’ve made it clear I don’t drink because of medications I take / health conditions, I haven’t listed the other reasons I have for this choice. It’s unfair that you should feel you have to attend in these situations, we never know the many reasons why people may not feel comfortable in bars or at parties. But as a more senior person at work myself, I do understand the pressure involved.

    Is it possible you could try similar to what I did, maybe upgrade to a private room with your own money if they expect you to share a room (tell them you snore or have trouble sleeping maybe?), go early and wander around and have some food, maybe mocktails or club soda so it looks like a cocktail then say you have a migraine or upset stomach and disappear for the rest of the night to your room? It’s a shame you don’t feel you can open up to the mental health first aiders in your workplace or be honest that attending the event is causing you anxiety. I’m sorry you’re going through this, but you aren’t alone. Take good care of yourself.

    • onthemerrygoroundagain

      Thank you. I'm glad I'm not the only one feeling like that at events.
      I think I will try to get a separate room, I'd honestly just prefer to stay in a different hotel but I don't think I can't get away with that 😅.

    • henryvipart2

      I know exactly what you mean about this social expectation to be surrounded by alcohol and what that’s like as someone who’s life has been significantly harmed by the effects of alcohol.

      Usually, I’m not someone who feels strongly about stopping people doing what they want to do. I’m quite pro freedom of choice I guess in that way. But with alcohol I do feel like we do cross a line quite often in this country where it’s not about choice it’s kind of about force.

      I feel it in big Tesco when I arrive I’m confronted with a 10 foot wide display for Baileys. Then you’re in a queue for self-serve checkout, and you’re inching past POS’s of gin and whiskey. It’s like they just don’t care that for some people this is a highly addictive substance and kills people and harms families. What other product would we allow that kind of flaunting?!

      Sounds like a similar thing is happening with your work where no one will say it but you are *expected* to play along with the group dynamic which to an extent isn't your choice as someone who works there. I've definitely felt like that at times in my professional life.

      Is there someone e who you can talk about it ahead of time so you don’t feel isolated? Sounds like it might be a good time to just get through it and protect yourself from the worst. But explaining to someone how you feel, no matter what their rank or whatever, might help dispel some of that anxiety.

      In bigger picture, I know Nacoa do offer professionals training which is all about understanding the impacts of alcohol on families and how it affects people. It’s inexpensive and highly enlightening for a corporate environment—I’ve done it. But yeah, that’s not your responsibility really, but don't know if there is someone in HR or staff wellbeing it could be mentioned to, could potentially help.

      Anyway, hope it goes as well as can be!

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