“Courage is grace under pressure.”-Ernest Hemingway
Sam had a lucrative career as a salesman for a top-notch advertising agency. Part of his job duties included traveling to other countries and serving as a spokesman for his company’s product in hopes of obtaining future business deals and securing important networking contacts. Though Sam enjoyed his job, he struggled maintaining a professional composure when he traveled to certain areas of the globe, due to different cultural expectations that caused him a great deal of stress.
Sam was a recovering alcoholic who had been sober for over 20 years. He attended meetings, had sponsees, worked with inmates who were in jail due to alcohol and drug related convictions, and did everything else possible to maintain his sobriety. The only time he had a hard time maintaining his sobriety was at work related functions. It wasn’t because he wanted to drink; it was because in certain circumstances, he was expected to drink in order to score deals.
On one such work-related occasion, Sam traveled to a part of Asia for a very important business deal. His boss had explicitly told him that he needed to say or do whatever it took to get the deal. During dinner with his clients, things seemed to be going well. They were interested in his company and what kind of products they had to offer. It was then that the executives ordered a drink for everyone at the table.
Sam became nervous. He explained in polite terms that he could not drink alcohol. The executives stared at him with a horrified, disgusted look on his face. He realized that in this particular culture and circumstance, this was considered a great insult. He began to sweat, wondering what to do. He remembered his boss’s words: “Do whatever you have to say or do in order to get the deal.” After 20 years of sobriety, Sam lifted his glass, and drank along with the rest of the executives. The deal went through and Sam flew home.
Sam’s life and career soon took a nosedive. He began drinking again, first in moderation, and then compulsively. After 20 years of sobriety, that one drink at that simple dinner had put him over the edge. The deal had gone through, but Sam could barely hold down his job. He explained to his boss what happened. His boss seemed irritated and dismissive, even though he had known that Sam had a drinking problem before he went on the trip. He exclaimed, “Sam, drinking is a part of your job. If you can’t hold your liquor, then I don’t know what to tell you. You’re a great salesman, but opportunities are going to come up again like this. You’re going to have to make a decision on how to act and what kind of money you want to make.”
Later that year, Sam got fired for drinking too much at a company function and embarrassing himself and the company. He was accused of sexually harassing a female employee, of which he had no recollection of doing. His wife and children were on the verge of leaving him. The deal in Asia had gone through, but Sam’s life had fallen apart. So was it worth it? Was doing whatever it took to get the deal worth Sam losing his sobriety?
The answer is quite simply, never. No! Sam is one of many unfortunate sober alcoholics who has a job where drinking is part of the culture. In other cultures around the world, if someone does not drink, it is considered not only strange, but an insult. The concept of someone being an “alcoholic” who is “allergic to alcohol” is seen as a Western concept that has no bearing in other areas of the world. Of course, this is not true in all circumstances, but it has been true in far too many circumstances.
Had Sam turned the drink down, he may have lost the deal. He may have fought with his boss; perhaps he would have even lost his job. However, he probably could have found a lawyer who could have helped him retain the position because he was technically allergic to alcohol, and should not have been forced to drink. He could have stayed at the company, or started a new job. The next big deal would have come along. The next big check would have been there. And Sam could have received it, knowing that he kept his sobriety and dignity in tact, and wasn’t pressured to lose all of it for one, silly, inconsequential business deal.
In certain industries, drinking is expected. However, there is no reason for a recovering alcoholic to give up their sobriety or feel pressured to drink simply because of money or a boss who is putting the pressure on. Here are three tips on how to handle a situation like Sam’s:
1.Say you are allergic. This is not actually a lie. You are allergic to alcohol, both physically and mentally. However, if you say that you are allergic to alcohol, people will assume that it means you actually will have an adverse, physical reaction when drinking it. This should help your case tremendously. Would someone force you to eat peanuts if they knew you could die from it? Probably not.
2.Have a non-alcoholic drink on hand. According to Rethinking Drinking, the best way to avoid discussing your alcoholism or the fact that you can’t have a drink is to already have a drink on hand. Get a club soda with a straw and carry it around. Everyone will assume that you’re drinking a vodka tonic and won’t think twice. When someone asks if you need a drink, lift yours up and say, “Thanks! Already got one!”
3. If nothing else works, tell the truth. Regardless of the situation, or how well you may know someone personally, people tend to be sympathetic when a person is completely honest with another person about a personal problem. Tell the client or executive, “Sir (or Miss), I appreciate the offer and I am not trying to be rude by turning you down. However, I am a recovering alcoholic who has been sober for a long time and I cannot drink alcohol. It is nothing personal; it is simply that I am allergic to it and it does not sit well with me.” The chances are, the person will respect you, or feel so embarrassed for pressuring you, that you’ll never have to worry again about being put in that position.
Embarrassed about telling someone you’re an alcoholic? Would you be embarrassed if you had diabetes and someone offered you a piece of cake and you had to turn it down? Of course not! There’s no shame in being a recovering alcoholic. The only shame is in giving up your sobriety as a quick solution due to overbearing pressure from another colleague. Your sobriety should never be up for sale.
There is no price to pay for your sobriety. There is no deal lucrative enough, no job important enough, no relationship meaningful enough, to make you give up the most important thing in your life. If you put your sobriety first, the rest of those things will follow. They may change, and you may have to give up certain relationships or career paths. However, your dignity will be intact, and your future will be brighter as a result. Don’t fall prey to the pressures of shortsighted offers and temptations. You’re too worthwhile for that!
Is your career or a relationship causing you to drink too much? Or are you simply struggling with a drug or alcohol problem? Contact Linda Rose at Footprints Recovery Today. Call (949) 558-4723 and start your roadmap towards recovery. Don’t let alcohol and drugs control your life!